Welcome to the world of VoIP (voice over IP) – A place where you can take an important business call on your laptop, receive an urgent voicemail in your e-mail inbox, and have a business with a New York area code, even though your office is in another country. The term encompasses a mixture of technologies, from things as simple as Skype and Viber to more business type offerings like Lync and IP desk phones. “The cloud” has already become passé and so very 2012 –so the next hot item in the tech world is without a doubt unified communications, or simply UC. Chances are your organization either has UC operations ongoing or are in the works to use some form of it.
With VoIP service, your phone calls travel over the internet as data, just as e-mail does. This type of service can dramatically lower your telecommunications costs while increasing your productivity as well as providing useful features and capabilities that conventional phone technology can’t offer. Though VoIP has gained immense popularity, some small businesses are still on the sidelines with concerns that VoIP audio quality is substandard, the technology is difficult or costly to implement, or that their phone service will be interrupted if their electricity or internet goes out. The cord-cutting movement isn’t limited to consumer cable and Netflix. As Voice over Internet Protocol communication matures at the same time as high-speed Internet becomes cheaper and ubiquitous, an increasing number of businesses are ditching conventional landlines and jumping to VoIP.
But, is VoIP really all it’s cracked up to be? Are the potential pitfalls worth the potential monetary payoffs? Let’s take a look at VoIP services and see what VoIP is all about!
How Does VoIP Work?
Many of the top VoIP providers do all the hard work offsite, delivering calls to your phones and clients with little hassle, especially if you use phones that are plug-and-play certified. In contrast, maintaining a self-hosted, on-site VoIP system requires a bit more work. You need an IP-based private branch exchange, a VoIP-friendly version of the PBX phone systems that a typical office for landline would use, to route your calls to the appropriate phones on your network, as well as a device called a PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) gateway. The PSTN gateway sits between the IP-PBX software and the analog signals of the Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) network by converting calls to and from digital signals.
VoIP service has come a long way
Early VoIP products required both parties in a conversation to be at a computer (peer to peer). Sound quality was often poor and was more of a novelty since services were extremely limiting. Today’s VoIP services have evolved that allows you to make and receive calls using standard phones or, better, feature-packed IP phones. Sound quality has vastly improved, too. In fact, many businesses today have abandoned traditional phone systems in favour of VoIP. Many of these businesses have the ability to leverage their own data network to carry phone calls originating and terminating within their office with additional savings and benefits.
Reducing Costs with VoIP
Operating costs for VoIP service providers are significantly lower than traditional phone companies, which must contend with the existing, expensive phone infrastructure and costly industry regulations. With lower expenses, VoIP providers can charge much less than their competitors and no longer have to maintain separate networks for phones and data, another significant money saver. Gone also are the days where costs associated with employee moves, adds, and changes, which would cost $100 or more per occurrence, are virtually eliminated. All you have to do is move your IP phone (or traditional phone with a VoIP adapter) to a different broadband network jack and plug it in.
VoIP service makes your phone system highly flexible. VoIP systems allow you to do things that are simply not possible with traditional phone technology. For example:
Take your phone system with you. If you have access to a broadband connection, you can use your VoIP system anywhere. Customers and employees can stay in touch just by calling your regular business phone number without tying up your cell phone.
Talk on your laptop. Many VoIP systems include software that enables you to send and receive calls using a headphone/microphone unit connected to your computer. Missing calls from important clients are now a thing of the past even when you’re hanging out at an internet café.
Voice mail and faxes with your e-mail. Some of the great features with VoIP services allow you to have voice mail and faxes automatically forwarded to your regular e-mail inbox. You get all your messages in one place, and your voice mail and faxes can be easily archived or forwarded to others.
Virtual phone numbers. Your phone number can employ any available area code, not just the one assigned to your region. For example, a business based in Texas could have a phone number with a New York area code, a great advantage if your business has (or is targeting) customers in New York.
Increase productivity. Many VoIP phone numbers can be configured to simultaneously ring on multiple devices, such as your cell and landline phones, before going to voice mail, thus eliminating “phone tag.” In a recent survey conducted by Sage Research, the increased productivity allowed by internet telephony such as VoIP added up to 3.9 hours per week, per employee.
VoIP Integration Strategies
So what strategies should a business formulate to increase earnings potential and productivity? Consider the following strategies for integrating VoIP application services while improving operations and enhancing the performance of products and services:
- Use VoIP Application Services to Increase Your Business’ Mobility. VoIP mobility refers to the concept of convergence, or as we spoke earlier of UC, meaning the combination of different technologies and devices into a single network. Eliminate separate PBX phone systems with the UC calling capabilities such as Skype for Business Server 2015 which was recently integrated into Office 365.
- Use VoIP Application Services to employ all in one functionality. Streamlining UC to allow a single platform of delivery for voicemail, e-mail, video conferencing, IP television, fax, texting, interactive whiteboards, SMS, and other applications.
- Integrate customizable features. Enable music on hold, call forwarding, and “find-me-anywhere” features as well as host of other features that are easily supported by cloud computing, without slowing down system performance on the net.
- Allow multi-device integration for collaborative efforts. Tablets, personal computers, laptops, smartphones, servers, and more can provide access to the same cloud-based information and data.
- Implement the “Pay as You Go” Option. Pay only for the VoIP features and services you use, instead of spending on a flat-rate basis on the outdated POTS for services and usage you do not require.
- Reduce costs by alleviating the need for additional hardware, personnel training (because of hosted VoIP provider services), and multiple types of software-management applications.
No matter the size of your business, VoIP is a very flexible, affordable technology that offers the same, sophisticated communication tools without all the costs and infrastructure. Let the experts over at NST provide you with your VoIP services support.