Voice over IP is undoubtedly a very affordable way to improve business communications. There are many practical uses, but there are also a number of things to consider when assessing whether it’s the right platform for you. Firstly, it’s important to understand what VoIP is and the potential benefits on offer.
Essentially, it’s a protocol that allows you to make calls over the internet, converting analogue voice signals into digital data, delivered via broadband or hosted in the Cloud.
What are the advantages?
There are a number of benefits to using VoIP for business, since it’s inherently more versatile and cost effective than traditional telephony. Call costs are much lower and it enables flexible working - a concept that companies of all sizes are increasingly buying into.
VoIP can give flexible staff - spread over multiple locations and working varying hours - the same functionality as those who are office-based, as they can take their contact number with them, wherever they are. This is also good for workers travelling overseas, as it avoids costly calls and poor quality connections.
For businesses with international locations, VoIP allows offices to use extensions across the entire company, making internal communications much more efficient. Using VoIP in this way again avoids the cost of international calls, as each phone call is treated as if it were local. Calls between sites are also often free of charge.
Most VoIP systems come with feature-rich handsets, but the network can also be accessed via applications on tablets and smartphones, meaning staff can work on-the-go using their preferred device. For laptop users or desktop computers, most VoIP systems have a Soft console which allows calls to be controlled through your computer with no need for a handset at all - great for hot-deskers and those on the move. This is also great for ensuring customer satisfaction, as you can remain contactable throughout the working day, wherever it may take you. Upgrades are also easy to manage, much in the same way as upgrading an app on on a smartphone.
What are the options?
Finding the right VoIP service for your company can be confusing, as there are multiple factors to consider. SIP Trunking (Session Initiation Protocol - take a look at this video to see it explained in detail) is a straightforward, cost-effective replacement for traditional phone lines, connecting your business to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) via broadband or Ethernet. You can choose your numbers and, aside from the cheaper rental and call costs, it works just like a traditional phone line.
SIP Trunks are compatible with many leading VoIP telephone systems that might already be on site, such as Avaya and Mitel, and are ideal for companies looking to scale up rapidly, as new trunks can be added instantly, meaning your teams can size up and down as and when required. SIP is often promoted as a viable alternative to ISDN services, which will be phased out in the UK in 2025.
The second option, Hosted Telephony, is where your phone system is, as the name would suggest, hosted in the Cloud. This is ideal for companies looking to move onto a new phone system who do not want to invest in costly, onsite hardware and who also wish to scale up and be as flexible as possible. You pay for a Hosted system on an individual subscription basis, as and when new licences are needed. The most talked about Hosted product in the UK marketplace at the moment is Horizon, which comes supported by a robust network and a world leading call controller platform.
It’s important to get a rounded view of the options available, with many companies offering a variety of solutions. Generally, VoIP will save your business money and make your communications much more flexible, which is good news for any growing business.
Patrick Lincoln is the Director of Bristol-based Solution IP, specialising in Unified Communications, Professional Services and all things Data, Network and Telephony. You can connect with Patrick on LinkedIn and follow @SolutionIP on Twitter.