Introduction to VoIP
Landlines may seem like ancient relics, but that doesn’t mean businesses have to switch their office phone systems entirely over to cell phones. Instead, businesses can use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a type of technology that uses the internet to make and connect calls, often for free or for a very low cost.
VoIP systems can provide much of the same functionality and reliability as landline telecoms solutions do, including business features like the ability to make internal calls and conference calls. At the same time, VoIP allows for much of the same flexibility that cell phones provide, such as the ability to make calls remotely, rather than needing to be at your office.
In this introduction to VoIP, we’ll dive into what businesses need to know about this technology so that you can determine whether a VoIP solution would be the right phone system for your business. We’ll also explore what to look for when procuring a VoIP system
While VoIP may seem complex, think of it as simply a digital way of making and receiving phone calls, as opposed to the analogue version of landlines. And instead of companies needing their own physical infrastructure, such as a private branch exchange (PBX) to handle their business telecoms needs, VoIP systems can provide their own cloud-hosted PBXs.
That means functionality like being able to make internal calls within an office can be more within reach for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as they don’t have to take on the expense and complexity of managing their own PBX. Plus, the nature of internet-enabled calls gives businesses far more flexibility to implement a telecoms solution that meets their needs.
Depending on factors like company size and budget, businesses can choose among the following categories of VoIP:
Basic VoIP solutions
Small businesses, even solopreneurs, can easily set up a basic VoIP solution that creates a desktop phone terminal or a so-called softphone. With this setup, VoIP software creates a virtual phone that can make and receive calls, without any noticeable difference to those on the other side of the call. The VoIP user simply makes or takes the call via their computer, smartphone or other device where the softphone is set up.
While softphones may be the most basic form of VoIP, they can come with access to more advanced features such as voicemail and call waiting, as well as integrated functionality such as instant messaging.
Mid-range VoIP solutions
Businesses that want additional telecoms functionality, such as companies of around 10 or more employees, can use mid-range VoIP solutions that provide more than just virtual phones. These other VoIP solutions can also provide physical phones, (i.e., hardphones), that look like office landlines but still connect to the internet. Employees may appreciate still being able to use a physical phone at their desks, while businesses can gain some of the cost savings, scalability and other benefits that VoIP systems provide.
A mid-range VoIP solution can also include a PBX to allow for internal calls and features like Interactive Voice Response (IVR), which is good for businesses that want a welcome menu to play when someone calls the office (e.g., Press 1 for Sales, Press 2 for Customer Service). As mentioned, VoIP solutions enable businesses to leverage cloud-hosted PBXs, which can be more flexible and easier to manage than on-premise PBXs.
High-end VoIP solutions
For larger businesses, such as those with over 100 employees, especially when spread over multiple offices internationally, more comprehensive VoIP infrastructure might be necessary. A high-end VoIP solution might include both VoIP-enabled physical phones along with softphones, as well as functionality such as call forwarding, call waiting, recording, conference lines, IVR and more.
Unlike with mid-range VoIP solutions, however, businesses at the higher end of the scale might choose to go with their own PBX infrastructure, whether that’s because they already had it in place or they want to be more in control of their infrastructure, such as for security purposes. In that case, a VoIP technology known as SIP trunking is used to connect an on-premise PBX to the internet to allow for digital calls, while also being able to transmit other forms of communication, such as text and video.
VoIP can reduce telecoms expenses, because the cost of making and receiving the calls is often part of your regular internet bill, so you don’t have to have a separate phone plan. Even if VoIP providers do charge for calls, the cost to transmit these over the internet is often less than it would be with landlines.
In particular, international calls are often less. A call to another internet-connected phone is often free, much like there’s no international cost for email. And if you call a landline or cell phone internationally, the cost is still often less, because the call is primarily routed via the internet and then the end connection is made as if it were a local call.
VoIP can increase productivity in several ways. For one, not being tied to a landline desk phone means employees can make and take calls while working remotely or on the road. VoIP solutions also often make it easy to quickly set up conference calls, including international ones, while also adding features like call forwarding, IVR and recording that might otherwise be out of reach for SMEs. So, these businesses can communicate more efficiently and effectively to get more work done.
Another great advantage of VoIP is that businesses can gain more flexibility with these systems than with traditional landlines or even cell phone plans. With VoIP, it’s typically easy to scale up or down the amount of softphones or VoIP-enabled handsets, as well as customise the actual phone numbers in use. Tying into productivity, VoIP also gives employees the flexibility to work from anywhere. Businesses also gain the flexibility to adapt features to their current needs, including adding other forms of communication like instant messaging and video calling to their business phone system.
Plus, many VoIP companies allow for pay-as-you-go pricing or other flexible models that could be a welcome contrast from some of the more rigid telecoms contracts you may have been used to in the past.
Explore the benefits of VoIP
Getting started with VoIP and managing these solutions can be easier than you might think, and it requires little technical expertise. Most VoIP providers follow a simple installation process and offer thorough technical support. And unlike traditional telecoms systems, you can do everything digitally if you don’t want to get tangled up in cables and wires, literally and figuratively.
If you’re ready to explore your options to switch to a VoIP system, Software Advisory Service can help. We're a technology consultancy using procurement best practice and data insights to save companies time and money. Our goal is to make business technology procurement simple, transparent, and cost-effective. Click the button below to book a consultation at your convenience. We won’t charge you anything, and we won’t share any of your project details without your explicit approval.
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