Voice Over Internet Protocol, also known as VoIP, is an alternative system of placing and receiving calls. Businesses are increasingly replacing their traditional landlines with this new technology. This is particularly true as the technology continues to improve and prove itself. Reliability is crucial when it comes to a business and its ability to connect with employees and other businesses. Before investing in and switching to this type of technology, companies should fully understand what it is and how it can benefit their business.
VoIP phone systems are basically Internet telephone systems. They allow users to bypass the telephone company by placing and receiving calls using the Internet. When a person places a business phone call using this system, his or her voice is converted into digital data because analog signals cannot travel over the Internet. This digital data is broken up into small packets that are sent to the recipient via computer networks. The data is then turned back into data that the telephone on the other end can understand so that the conversation sounds can be heard.
Businesses implementing the system may use a VoIP provider that delivers the calls that are placed or an on-site "private branch exchange," also known as a PBX. A VoIP provider is often the least expensive option, as the off-site provider manages the system; however, although more expensive, on-site PBXs are typically better for larger businesses seeking more more granular control and customization of their systems.
Businesses turning to VoIP will also require a broadband Internet connection and telephones that can work with the system. A company's broadband connection should have enough bandwidth to accommodate the number of users who will be using the system simultaneously. Typically, this is not a problem for many businesses; however, smaller businesses and home-based businesses should verify that they have enough bandwidth with their Internet provider. Also, the telephones themselves will need to have the ability to communicate using VoIP. Businesses may choose to purchase phones that are enabled to do this or use traditional phones that they can connect to an analog adapter.
VoIP phone systems are suitable for any type of business that has access to the Internet. Many universities, for example, have switched to VoIP systems. Businesses that frequently place calls to clients and other businesses, across the country or around the world, may use these systems due to the cost savings that are associated with them. In fact, the reduction in overall cost is one of the main benefits of using VoIP over traditional phones. In addition to no or low long-distance costs (some may even offer unlimited calling nationwide), VoIP systems offer lower monthly and yearly rates.
Businesses can also often enjoy additional features from these types of systems. In addition to conference calling, voice mail, caller ID, and other common features, businesses may also have access to virtual receptionists, the ability to forward email and/or voice mail to a mobile phone, or customizable call screening and forwarding functions.
Despite the many positives, a company should also take into account that VoIP systems do have some shortcomings. The largest concern that should be taken into consideration is that if the power goes out, so does the system. If your VoIP solution includes mobile apps that you can use to access your business phone and collaboration features, however, the interruption may be minimal. You'll also want to verify if the VoIP system you're considering is connected to emergency services. When VoIP first came onto the scene, this was a major shortcoming. However, emergency service connection is much more common among VoIP phone systems today.
Overall, switching to VoIP telephone systems is a wise choice for many companies. With advanced technology and lower costs, many businesses are seeing the benefit of switching their phone systems. However, not all VoIP solutions will work for all companies. Careful research and finding the most suitable VoIP system are the best ways for companies to take advantage of this new technology.
The following links provide more information about VoIP systems:
VoIP FCC Consumer Facts (PDF)