By Chuck Steffel, Senior Account Executive
If your office is still relying on POTS (plain old telephone service) lines, you’re missing out on a wide array of services, conveniences and cost-saving measures that you could easily tap into simply by routing your phone system through the Internet. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is the solution that most modern businesses have already implemented, and if you haven’t joined them yet, it’s time to do so.
If you’ve avoided VOIP in the past because you were worried about restrictive contracts with large service providers or you couldn’t find a large provider who offered the right VOIP solution for a business of your size, never fear. Numerous VOIP service providers have emerged, and most work with a variety of phone systems which gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of your equipment and service options. The key with VOIP is to maximize your phone system’s capabilities while minimizing costs - and that includes maintenance costs.
Why are so many businesses turning to VOIP today? VOIP solutions are essentially streaming media services that employ Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking to give your phone system simultaneous access to multiple phone lines over the Internet with voice, video or messaging delivered as packets - just like data. SIP provides the basis for most unified communications systems today, and it allows you to merge voice, video and messaging applications into one cohesive solution. And it does it cost effectively.
VOIP provides a virtual connection to the public-switched telephone network (PSTN) over the Internet connections you already have in your organization. The key to success is in how the VOIP solution is installed, the bandwidth of your Internet, and the configuration of the solution to prioritize quality of service (QoS) for voice connections over data delivery - all areas in which a managed service provider becomes an invaluable ally.
Three Reasons to Switch to VOIP
Because it is Internet connected, a properly installed VOIP solution allows you to do so much more than POTS, including talking directly through your PC, routing calls through an app to your cell phone for single number reach, instant messaging, conference calling, video conferencing, simplifying adds and changes, and reducing your overall costs. While there are many reasons VOIP makes sense for businesses of every size today, here are three of the top considerations:
- Single Number Reach: With VOIP, you can install an app that allows you to route your business calls to your cell phone. This means you no longer have to give your cell phone number to your business contacts - you now have single number reach, a significant benefit particularly to salespeople who don’t want to miss important client calls, but also don’t want to be caught off guard when answering a call on their time off. With this handy feature, your business calls can be routed to your cell phone when you are out of the office, and the app will tell you which number the call is coming from, so you know whether it’s business or personal before you answer the call.
- Mobility: This is an incredibly adaptable feature that allows you to work from different areas within your office seamlessly. You can literally unplug your desk phone and move it to anywhere else in your office - as long as all the data jacks are on the same virtual local area network (VLAN) - and it will look and function the same as if you were sitting at your desk in your office. This is particularly useful for people who spend days at a time in different branch offices, or who need to spend any significant amount of time working in different departments in the same office. It allows your desk phone to travel with you, bringing all its features and functionality along for the ride.
- Serviceability: Today’s VOIP systems have made massive improvements in serviceability over the ones of just a few years ago. Where VOIP users once were bound by very costly service contracts with their phone system providers, today’s VOIP-ready systems are much easier to manage. The functionality is largely software driven, and most phones are non-proprietary, so you can use virtually any hardware on any server or desktop. Backing up your configuration is easy, so if something goes wrong, it’s simply a matter of reinstalling the software to have it back up and running in no time.
If you’re looking for a new phone system, and if you haven’t previously considered VOIP, there’s no time like the present. A managed service provider experienced with VOIP can be an important asset in helping you choose the right solution for your business, and in getting it set up correctly. The solution provider will need to assist you with the system’s installation because a VOIP solution touches all aspects of your network infrastructure, so the solution provider will need to ensure proper routing, VLAN connections, tagging and QoS. Ensuring QoS may be the most important thing a managed service provider will do for you, especially if you need to connect two remote sites together, giving priority to the voice traffic to avoid latency. Once you’re set up, you’re ready to enjoy all the new capabilities now available to you, as well as the cost savings VOIP can provide.