Is it time to modernize your phone systems?
VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, uses your internet connection for phone services. Rather than transmitting a voice signal over separate analog telephone lines, a VoIP user takes advantage of your computer network and the internet already in place to make a voice or video call. You may have heard of your network having an IP address. That’s the same Internet Protocol being used here.
While VoIP has existed for years, previous iterations proved expensive and unreliable, requiring a large investment for an often poor quality service. Businesses hesitate to invest in technology that had a rocky start. So what draws businesses to VoIP today?
In the era of high-speed internet, VoIP is cost-effective, high quality, and enables advantageous features like the continuity of using the same work number while out of the office on your mobile phone. Voicemail transcription to text, mobile apps, enhanced security, and the overhead savings involved in making the switch to VoIP now convince most businesses to drop traditional phone plans.
Is VoIP The Right Solution for My Business?
The answer to this question depends on the needs of, and willingness to change within, your individual business. While VoIP is an efficient solution for most small businesses, it doesn’t meet everyone’s needs.
Signs VoIP Might Not Be Right For Your Business
Jeremy Richardson, an account executive from VoIP provider Vonage, explains, “Some businesses must have direct paging between phones, or actual ‘line’ numbers on the phones. Some of these are not available on VoIP.” If this service is integral to your business operation, there could be problems switching to VoIP.
Another reason you might not want to switch to VoIP is if the traditional system is working just fine. If the existing system is cost effective and functional, there’s very little reason to change. For example, Richardson says, “certain businesses (schools, hotels, retail stores) require a lot of phones that are rarely used.” These businesses can rely on only a few lines without business disruption. Switching to VoIP would be cost-prohibitive in these cases “because in a traditional VoIP set-up, each phone requires its own line.”
However, for a business in which the traditional model isn’t working or is too expensive, VoIP could be the answer.
What Can VoIP Offer My Business?
Investment in VoIP can establish portability, convenience, and professionalism a modest upfront investment.
Richardson, who Anderson Technologies has worked with on past VoIP installations, says one of the biggest factors preventing businesses from making the switch is overthinking the setup and maintenance of a VoIP system and believing onsite support is necessary: “Many people associate using VoIP technology with having to be very tech savvy.” However, this is not necessarily the case.
VoIP phones often come pre-programmed or are easy to program on-site. “Once plugged into Ethernet,” Richardson says, “the phones and features can be easily adjusted and controlled from a user-friendly online dashboard.” After the initial set-up, the learning curve for these phone systems is far from steep. This is doable for any business, and with a managed services team, this process becomes a breeze.
Flexibility, Portability, Convenience
Using a VoIP app, your cell phone can become a switchboard for any incoming calls to your work lines. In the event of power or internet outage, VoIP keeps your business online. VoIP providers offer “business call continuity and mobile apps to combat this issue,” Richardson says. Depending on your provider, you also have the options of three-way calls, call forwarding, video, and call waiting.
A fully-integrated VoIP system allows the flexibility of communicating any time and any place that has an internet connection—ensuring your customers and employees will always be able to get in touch with you. Some VoIP options include voicemail transcriptions to email or text for when phone calls aren’t convenient. When a caller dials your office number, you’re reachable from that number even if you’re travelling. If you have multiple base camps, like offices in multiple locations, your VoIP phone system can be configured to ring all office lines simultaneously.
Lower Up-Front Cost
In the past, companies purchasing phone systems used to pay $10-25k up front for 20+ users for a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) system, then pay separately for line service. VoIP operates on a different model, eliminating the need to acquire a PBX and instead uses resources in the cloud. VoIP lines may only cost about $20 each, and the price tag usually includes long distance at a better rate than most competitors. Per-line cost often includes each headset, so there are no big, up-front investments for equipment.
Price isn’t the only quality that’s improved over time. VoIP used to be known for dropped or poor quality calls, but as the internet becomes faster and more stable, with better network configurations, VoIP is proving itself with clearer calls than even landlines.
Quality of phone calls hinge on internet bandwidth, and setting up your network for Quality of Service (QOS), so it is important to partner with an IT services provider that can ensure your business has the optimal bandwidth for a VoIP network.
While security should be a concern, especially for work on the go, VoIP shouldn’t be considered a significant risk. “Knowing that there’s risk involved with both landlines and VoIP is important,” says Luke Bragg, Senior Systems Administrator at Anderson Technologies. “Neither is ever going to be completely secure, but there isn’t any more risk with VoIP than a landline.” When choosing a VoIP provider on your own or with the help of a managed services partner, look for encryption, redundant network infrastructure, and HITRUST security compliance. These tools allow technicians to quickly identify and resolve issues if any attempted security threats arise.
That’s something every business wants to hear.
But as Mark Anderson of Anderson Technologies says, “To fully utilize the promise of your network, it’s important to invest in the proper tools.”
Does Your Business Have the Proper Tools?
Internet network speed and setup is vital to the success of a VoIP system. Richardson often asks, “Do they have enough speed to support their phones and computers? Is the internet hardwired to the building?” Richardson notes that hot spots, satellite, and microwave internet have proven too unreliable for VoIP, and asks, “Does the business have hard-lined Ethernet to each phone?” While VoIP can potentially work on a WiFi network, this is not a configuration we would recommend.
For instance, if your network isn’t configured correctly, your VoIP call quality will suffer dramatically. You’ll probably need to add bandwidth to support the extra traffic, and VoIP traffic must be prioritized. Cost for this bandwidth shouldn’t be a prohibiting factor, either. Most VoIP systems can function using-100 kbps (kilobits per second) per user, however Anderson recommends 500 kpbs to 1 Mbps (Megabits per second) per user for optimal performance. Internet bandwidth has to be sufficient for not only the phone system, but email, web usage, and streaming. A managed services team can make these adjustments to ensure that VoIP is successful for your business.
Upgrading your internet is vital for quality of service. Your firewall must be set to prioritize phone traffic to ensure that phone conversations aren’t broken up or disconnected when another user begins a major data transfer. VoIP of ten or five years ago often had a reputation for broken or disconnected calls, but with the right bandwidth and configuration, that doesn’t have to be the story for you today!
The best setup, says Anderson, involves establishing a separate subnet from the main network so the phone traffic is isolated and not interspersed with other traffic. The solution for this is a Virtual Local Area Network.
With an upgraded network, VoIP is quickly changing the standards for call quality, flexibility, mobility, and organization.
Would you like to fully utilize the potential of your network? Anderson Technologies can help ensure that you have the proper tools to not only get a VoIP system up and running, but keep it running smoothly and efficiently. Contact us today on our website or by phone at 314.394.3001!