Q&A

Q&A
What is VoIP?
VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. In a nutshell it sends and receives calls over your customers existing broadband. You can sell a phone system that will handle many concurrent calls without buying costly phone lines and equipment. VIP VoIP provides a hosted VoIP service. This means we take care of all technical stuff and all you need to do is put phones on your customers desks. Hosted VoIP services allow you to create advanced phone systems for your customers. Due to the hosted nature of our services up front costs are minimal and you can have a new phone system up and running for your customers in minutes. Avoid buying costly hardware that becomes obsolete and enjoy a low commitment scalable solution.
How does the service work?

For each customer we set up a virtual switchboard which is hosted on our server platform in a managed data centre.  Each customer is supplied with a set VoIP telephones which are configured to connect to the virtual switchboard.   Each telephone is assigned an extension number and a unique authentication password.

 

The virtual switchboard provides a fully comprehensive set of call handling features which will match or exceed the capabilities of any traditional PBX system.   If a customer has special requirements which cannot be satisfied by the standard switchboard software then we will develop the additional features to solve the problem. 

 

The virtual switchboard must be configured, using a web-based control panel, to control the way that incoming calls are handled in the way that the customer requires.

 

We either take over your customers’ existing phone numbers from their current telephone service provider or we can allocate new numbers for them.  We route incoming calls on each number to the virtual switchboard which then makes the VoIP phones ring. 

What are your service level guarantees?

Our sales partners and their customer are entitled to expect certain minimum levels of service from us.  

 

Our specific service level expectations are summarised in the table below.   These are not hard and fast guarantees.  

 

Customers should also be made aware that we cannot guarantee the audio quality of calls.  The quality of audio dependent on the performance and bandwidth utilisation of customers’ internet connections.

 

Service Measure

Target

Hosted switchboard availability

99.9% availability – no more than one hour of downtime in 1,000 hours of operation.

Restoration of normal switchboard service in the event of a catastrophic server failure.

No more than four hours to restore service to a backup server.

Restoration of service using a hot-standby server which has been specially commissioned for a customer.

No more than ten minutes.

Response time to a fault report by phone or email.  

Less than 30 minutes.   We define “Response Time” as the time it takes one of our support team members to contact you or the customer to advise you that we have begun the process of problem diagnosis

Preparation of a VoIP server for a new customer.

No later than the next working day.

Porting a number on a single analogue line.

7 working days – except during the Christmas and New Year holiday period where no number ports can be processed.

Porting a number on multi-channel ISDN service.

14 working days – with the same proviso as above.



What is involved in system provisioning?

There are five main steps in the process.   Usually you would do all this work yourselves - but if you prefer - we will do some or all of the work on your behalf for a fee.

 

  1. Create a virtual switchboard server for each customer.  This is our responsibility. Normally you would request a new server on behalf of the customers using our management portal.   We will create the server within two working hours.   Then we will tell you the URL of the server and provide you with administrator login details.
  2. Procure telephones for the customer and configure them to connect to the virtual switchboard.  It is your responsibility to buy the phones and configure them.  We encourage you to buy phones from us you can take advantage of our bulk-buy discounts and use our smart auto-provisioning service.   You are also free to buy phones from your own preferred suppliers.
  3. Configure the virtual switchboard to satisfy the customer’s specific call handling requirements.  This is to set up the routing pathways for each telephone number.  This might include hunting sequences, call groups, call queues, auto-responders, voicemail boxes etc.  This is done via a web-based control panel.  
  4. Install telephones at the customer’s sites.  In most cases this just means unpacking the phones, doing some basic assembly (such as attaching stands or connecting curly wires) and connecting the phones to the internet.  They will normally start working immediately.   Some customers are content to do this installation work themselves.  Other customers prefer to have the work done by an engineer and they might want some training.  

Take over the customer’s telephone numbers from their existing suppliers. This process is call “porting”.  The customer must sign a letter of authority to give us permission to take over their numbers.   When we receive the letter (usually in electronic format) we will manage the complete porting process.  Number porting is always the slowest part of the project.  At minimum it will take 5 working days.   Depending on how many numbers there are and what kind of lines they are operated on it can take 2 – 3 weeks.    

How long does it take to set up service for a customer?

We will create the customer’s virtual switchboard within two hours of your request.  Telephones can be usually be delivered next working day.  It usually takes 7 – 14 working days to import existing phone numbers from another supplier.

What kind of internet connectivity is needed?

This depends on the customer’s situation.   A VoIP conversation needs about 80KB/s of bandwidth (up and down).   We also have to consider what other internet-based services the customer is using.    The limiting factor is usually the upload bandwidth of the available internet connection.   Regular ADSL and FTTC services operate at higher download speeds than upload speeds. 

 

The table below gives you a guide to the recommend internet solution in some typical scenarios.

 

Situation

Minimum Internet Connectivity

Small office phone system (5 phones or less) with basic email and web-browsing internet activity.  

Single shared ADSL connection with 600+ KB/s of upload bandwidth or

Two separate lower speed ADSL connections – one for data traffic and one dedicated for VoIP.

Phone system with up to 30 users at the same site

Customer using cloud-based IT solutions such as CRM, accounting and file sharing

Single FTTC connection with 80/10 MBS/s profile or

Two separate lower speed FTTC connections – one for data traffic and one dedicated for VoIP.

Phone system with up to 60 users at the same site

Customer using cloud-based IT solutions such as CRM, accounting and file sharing

Two separate FTTC connections with 80/20 MB/s profile.

Or a leased line with 30/30 MB/s capacity

Large phone system with more than 60 users at the same site.

Leased line

How does billing work?

We send you a wholesale invoice by email on the first working day of each month for all the services which all of your customers have used in the previous month.  The invoice contains a line item for each main service component with quantities, unit prices and aggregate costs.   You are responsible for generating invoices to your customers at whatever retail prices you have agreed with them.

 

We give you access to our management portal which allows you to see the wholesale cost of all services for each individual customer each month.  We also calculate the cost of each customer’s calls at both wholesale rates (what you pay us) and at retail rates (what the customer should pay you).   This gives you all the information which you need to create invoices for your customers.   We also provide a downloadable itemised call list for each customer which shows the retail cost of each call made by the customer in the month.

 

If you do not already have an automated invoicing system then you can subscribe to our Cloud-Manage invoicing system.  This is tightly integrated with our wholesale billing system and it enables you to generate monthly invoices to your customers for all of your routine services as well as telephone calls with very little manual intervention.  You should be able to generate invoices for all your customers in less two hours each month.  Invoices are emailed to your customers automatically as PDF documents with your own branding.

Do you offer fixed-price call bundles?

We give you the option to pay a fixed wholesale price per month per user for unlimited UK calls.  You can choose this option selectively for different customers.

Do you offer telephone rental?

We can supply telephones and accessories to you at wholesale price on rent-to-buy deals.   This means you can pay for phones over 24 or 36 months.   You can then offer rental bundles for your customers to reduce their upfront costs.

Can I use my own branding?

We can apply your branding and your logo to all the customer-facing parts of our system.   

Can we try your system before we commit?

We offer a free four-week trial to all potential new resellers

How do we deal with breakdowns and faults?

The only items which can break down at a customer’s site are the telephones.  If a phone develops a fault or is damaged then either we or you can post a replacement to the customer.   The most common reason for a customer’s phones to stop working is internet failure or some fault in the local network.   Usually a reboot of the router or a phone will cure the problem.

 

We normally expect you to provide first-line support to your customers but we will support your customers on your behalf on a white label basis if you do not have the skills or resources in your organisation.

 

Our help desk is staffed 24 hours a day every day. 

What happens if the customer’s internet service goes down?

Business-grade internet services are generally reliable but they will stop working occasionally for short periods.   When that happens we can redirect the customer’s incoming calls automatically to an alternative landline number or mobile number (or to several numbers at the same time) which we set up in advance.  When the internet connection starts working again then the system returns to normal operation automatically.

 

Another contingency option is to use internet router which can support mobile internet connection as well as a fixed line service

 

What happens if the switchboard server fails?

Our hosted switchboard software runs on a cluster of inter-linked physical servers which share processors, memory and hard drives.   The platform is highly fault-tolerant.   

 

A further level of resilience is that the entire system is duplicated in a separate data centre.  If a major incident disrupted service at our primary data centre then we could re-route calls through our secondary data centre within a few hours.

What is the minimum contract period?

We do not impose a minimum period of contract on you or your customers unless the customer chooses a rental package for their telephones.  These arrangements require a 24 month minimum period of commitment.

 

We prefer to keep customers’ loyalty by serving them properly.  We rarely lose customers unless their own circumstances change.

What happens if a customer wants to leave?

We comply with Ofcom’s rules about the portability of telephone numbers.  Customers are always free to transfer their numbers to another service provider at any time.   The new service provider will make a transfer request to us and we will co-operate.

What happens to our customers’ service if VIP VoIP go out of business?

There is very little risk of VIP VoIP Ltd going out of business unexpectedly.   It would take a highly unusual combination of catastrophic events to cause such a situation.  

 

Most of the situations which could lead to us to cease trading are foreseeable. It would become clear to us quickly if our income stream began to fail and we always keep enough funds in reserve to continue operations for at least two months even if all our resellers stopped paying us. 

 

If we believed that our business was seriously at risk then we would plan an orderly wind-down and we would communicate with you so that you could make alternative arrangements for your customers.

 

There is no precedent for a customer losing their telephone numbers because a telephone services supplier went out of business.

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