Here at Capstone IT, we really love our phones - both mobile and in the office. We know that in this era of email and instant messaging, it is by using the phone that we really make a personal connection with our clients. The phone is also faster when we are placing orders, chatting to out-of-office staff, and dealing with emergencies. It's the same for our clients here in Rochester, Buffalo and beyond. When they have a crisis like a snow storm, they connect with people by grabbing their phones rather than their keyboards.
But thanks to the Internet and cloud computing, desk telephones running off the Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTN) are looking like museum pieces. An increasing number of local businesses are now switching over to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which uses the Internet rather than landlines to carry phone signals and data. When you talk on a VoIP phone, sound is converted into digital packages and are then transferred online. And instead of plugging into a traditional phone jack, the phone line goes into the VoIP adapter which plugs into your computer.
So if you're a SMB owner here in Rochester and Buffalo, you may be asking yourself if it's worth making the switch to VoIP phones, and whether it will save you money down the line. Well, let's take a look at the facts.
Different types of VoIP
First of all, it's worth knowing that there are several types of VoIP and it's well worth bringing in some experts, like the team at Capstone IT, to help determine which is the best solution for you. You may want a premise-based solution where your hardware is kept on-site, or an offsite hosted system where all equipment is kept in an off-site data center.
Hosted Private Branch Exchange (PBX) technology allows small and medium-sized businesses to enjoy a sophisticated VoIP telephone system without having to make a big investment in new tech. The whole system is operated, hosted and maintained by an external provider. A hosted PBX solution works with your existing phone service, or can replace it, and be used with landlines or mobile phones, or as part of a standard VoIP service. This solution also allows your staff to work from home or on the move via their mobile phones, while still being connected to the office phone system.
This is similar to Hosted PBX, but the business owner buys the hardware and runs it from their own premises. For this, you need a server and interface cards to connect the company with IP phones. Premise-based VoIP can also make use of your standard phone lines, which are connected through the Internet and require a second broadband connection (one for data and one for voice). Calls are generally charged per line.
So what are the advantages of VoIP solutions over traditional phones?
SMBs owners like you know the importance of saving money where you can, in order to improve your bottom line. So businesses which make a high volume of calls will appreciate how VoIP slashes their monthly phone bill. Some VoIP providers can offer packages that include free calls in certain areas, or lower rates with extra upgrades and support when you sign a longer contract. Many VoIP services allow you to consolidate your voice and data into a single network, so the total cost of ownership becomes much lower.
Enjoy more functions
VoIP phones don't just have the edge over landline analog phones in terms of value for money; they also offer a range of functions that can streamline your office communications and bring more convenience to your customers. Standard applications include call forwarding, call waiting, voicemail, and three-way calling, but you can also take advantage of video conferencing and multi-line calls. VoIP can also be integrated into commonly used software such as CRM systems.
VoIP brings more flexibility
If you're a small business, you rely on a regular customer base to keep operations running. So even if you're changing phone systems, you need to retain your advertised phone numbers so as not to lose old clients. With VoIP, you can retain or "port" your old numbers so that business keeps flowing. What's more, these numbers apply wherever you are in the world - all you need is an Internet connection.
Enjoy great mobility
These days, many people are working while on the road or from home. But business-hosted VoIP allows them to be connected to your office phone system wherever they are. All you need is an Internet-enabled phone or laptop, and a headset.
Modern VoIP packages give you the ability to streamline and integrate your communication, and handle a large number of callers. This enables SMBs to compete with larger competitors. But you can start small if your business needs to budget. The scalability of VoIP allows you add features as you grow your business or employ new staff. It is also very easy to add or delete users as needed, without having to call in tech support.
Problems are easily solved
When your phones stop working, it could cost you money and customers. But with VoIP, problems are easy to fix, and many solutions are web-based and can be fixed by technicians remotely. So you don't have to wait for engineers to turn up and get your phones up and running again. And because all the tech is new, rather than relying on age-old phone lines, there are generally fewer problems to start with.
The drawbacks of VoIP
But don't throw out your old phones right away. There are some drawbacks to VoIP telephony. One complaint is that the sound quality isn't consistent. Some users experience distortion and echoing during calls. Of course, quality depends on a variety of factors, such as your broadband connection and hardware. As voice data has to be compressed and transmitted, then decompressed and delivered - all in a matter of milliseconds - there is often a problem with echoing and buffering.
Another issue with VoIP is that it can take up a lot of the bandwidth you're also using for online chat, email, server connectivity, and general Internet use. So if lots of your staff are using your VoIP phones, other applications may suffer. It's also worth noting that, unlike landlines, your voice phones will stop working in the event of a power outage, and many VoIP services don't allow you to make emergency calls.