10 Small Business VoIP Mistakes to Avoid

November 17, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Over the last few weeks we have talked quite a bit about the best practices in selecting the right small business VoIP phone system. Together we have taken a look at a small business VoIP requirements list, 7 answers you need before buying a phone system, 5 VoIP phone systems under $5,000 and even learned about selecting the proper IP phones to go along with your new system. While we have spent a good amount of time focusing on the “right” things to do, we haven’t talked about the mistakes people often make when buying and deploying a VoIP phone system. In other words, here is a quick list of what not to do when exploring a small business VoIP phone system:

10 Small Business VoIP Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

  • You fail to fully understand the technology – You don’t have to go nuts and read every book ever written about VoIP, but a thorough understanding of the underlying principles that govern the technology will help you better understand the potential pit-falls of it.
  • You assume you know what you are doing – If I wasn’t on an education kick this morning, this would be number one on my list. Too many people assume they know what they are doing when it comes to VoIP and they simply assume too much. You know what happens when you ASSUME right?
  • You don’t ask your users what they need (and want) – You might be the only one making the decisions, but you aren’t the only one who will be using the system. Make sure you listen to what users want and need from a VoIP phone system and the IP Phone they will be using. VoIP can increase productivity, but only if you understand the technology and how your users can use it to do more.
  • You buy the first thing you see – You have a million other things to do that are probably much more important to you then buying a VoIP phone system, so why not just buy the first thing you see and call it a day? Well, regardless of how important this switch is to you, your businesses communications is important and should be handled as such. Make sure you explore a few different options, then make sure you compare them to ensure you are getting the right system at the right price.
  • You forget to test your network – If you have been following along with me here, you know that I spend a lot of time harping on your network and making sure that it is suitable for VoIP traffic, but the truth is, until more small businesses start doing this, I will continue to do so. Network infrastructure is cheap and chances are it should be upgraded anyways. Make sure your network can handle VoIP.
  • You never calculate the amount of bandwidth needed for VoIP calls – You are probably excited about the cost savings benefit of making the switch to VoIP. You have good reason. The average small business is seeing monthly cost decreases in the neighborhood of 40 -60% of their normal telecommunications costs. However, because VoIP uses your Internet connection to transport calls, it puts greater demands on your Internet connection, often doubling or tripling the amount of traffic you generate. Without adequate bandwidth, you won’t be happy with the quality or your calls – and neither will your customers.
  • You never ask about licensing – You might be thinking that expensive licensing was a thing of the past, but it’s not. Many VoIP phone system vendors still use a seat licensing model to “lock you into” their solution. Wary of push back, many have become very “creative” in how these licenses are bundled into their offering and often they are not very transparent. Licenses can turn a great deal into a bad one.
  • You don’t properly plan out your deployment – If you expect to “simply do it tomorrow morning” then you are bound to fail (at least most of the time). Whether you are deploying 3 seats or 300, make sure that you properly plan your cut-over to VoIP. This means coordinating your bandwidth needs, VoIP service, VoIP phone system purchase and the actual work implementation of the system. The last thing you want to do on Thursday morning is start plugging things in and realize that you don’t even have a VoIP service provider yet (believe me, it has happened).
  • You don’t have a plan B – Yes, we are asking a lot of you to just deploy a VoIP phone system – who wants to think about what happens “if” something goes wrong with your system. Disaster recovery and redundancy are issues even for today’s smallest business. Don’t be left in silence when that horrible ice storm takes down your network – build in backup plans for your system.
  • You put “Ralph” in charge of your VoIP phone system – My apologies to anyone named Ralph that actually knows VoIP, but as easy as it may seem, you can’t just put anyone in charge of your VoIP phone system. On-going maintenance and support of your system takes real knowledge and experience, so putting just anyone in charge of it is a recipe for disaster. Many vendors offer low-cost maintenance programs and certification programs for in-house staff. Don’t skimp here, when something goes wrong or you need something fixed, you want it done right. The first time.

These are only 10 of the more “popular” mis-calculations that I see small businesses make. Have one not listed? Please leave it in the comments below.


  • Perfect 🙂
    I just hope that all our customer read this, as it will save both us and them a lot of time

  • Another mistake – not working out the full cost of the system. This is related to the point on licenses but isn’t strictly limited to it – there are plenty of ways that a vendor can bump up the cost of a system after offering a low headline price.

    Another common mistake is failing to plan for the future. Let’s think positive and imagine that your workforce could scale up. Does the system allow more users to be added – either cost effectively or at all? Is it difficult to add a new user to the system, and to configure the call behaviour?

    Good list, Garrett.

  • How can I calculate the bandwith needed to place voip calls?

  • nice information sharing…..good for those who are trying to hire a voip provider….keep up the good work going…looking forward to more posts like those…Cebod Telecom

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