The Incredible Versatility of VoIP
Voice over IP telephony (or VoIP) has been around for over two decades now, ever since the internet was first harnessed by businesses for commercial use.
Because VoIP uses the internet for phone calls it has inherent advantages which can make it cheaper to operate and easier to manage.
This means businesses that already have an internet (broadband) connection for data (i.e. email, web browsing etc.) can use the same broadband connection for phone calls by making a few changes in IP handsets and VoIP technology.
So, while VoIP is universally known for its cost benefits, the burning question for many business owners and IT managers is about the financial viability of switching to a VoIP system if:
- They have already invested in a ‘conventional’ PBX or telephone system; and
- They don’t understand how their business can benefit from the features offered by VoIP.
In this article, we’ll explain why the cost benefits of VoIP alone often stack up to a compelling business case for organisations of all sizes.
What is VoIP?
The core appeal of VoIP is that it can run over an existing broadband connection. Many of today’s business broadband providers are able to deliver 20 Mb/s bandwidth and above, easily sufficient to support the needs of most VoIP systems.
Because most businesses already have a broadband connection for data (i.e. email, web browsing etc.), they can use this same broadband to make calls using dedicated VoIP telephone handsets that simply plug into the existing network.
The most widely recognised benefit of this is the significant cost savings that can be made compared to ‘conventional’ telephony, but modern VoIP systems offer a range of other very attractive business benefits as well.
Let’s have a look at some of these.
The main benefits of VoIP
Reduced Telecoms Costs
The number one benefit of VoIP is the reduction in cost through:
- No need for a dedicated phone line for phone calls only
- No expensive telecom-provider PBX
- Lower cost support and maintenance
- “Free” calls between IP phones within the organization, even in distributed branch offices and home offices of remote workers
- Low cost addition of new extensions
At the core of the VoIP system is the PBX – the “Private Branch Exchange” telephone switching system that switches and routes IP calls between users.
The PBX provides a range of capabilities and options for managing phone calls e.g. transferring calls, setting up ring groups, forwarding, conferencing etc. as well as enabling a range of other special functions (see below).
The VoIP PBX can be hosted in the cloud by a specialist VoIP provider, or hosted in-house on a dedicated or virtualized server. If you are unsure which of these is appropriate, your IT Support partner is the best first stop to discuss which option is best for your needs.
Employees that work from home or who spend their time on the road and work at different offices can use their IP phones to take their personal phone number wherever they go.
This means that employees only need to use their ‘business’ phone number for business – and no longer need to give out their mobile number as calls made to their VoIP line can be routed to their mobile phone while they are out and about.
Users can set their status within their smartphone client, which can be set up, supported and managed remotely.
The VoIP system therefore works on desktop and mobile phones via a single number, so long as the user has access to 3G/4G or WiFi – all of which are very widely available.
Additional call features for evolving requirements
VoIP system features that are initially not required, but which, for example, due to business changes become important, can be added and enabled quickly and easily.
For example as the business grows, the need for conference calling or personal voicemail may become a “must-have” feature. Most VoIP systems come with in-built conferencing facilities, so it’s just a case of switching this feature on.
Other features include the ability to scale up to an almost unlimited number of extensions.
Finally further features can often be ‘enabled’ – as opposed to incurring additional cost in a ‘standard’ telephony scenario.
VoIP lines can be set to display regional or other telephone numbers for outgoing calls. Equally, publicly listed numbers can reflect regional STD codes for the purposes of displaying geographical business coverage.
The benefit of this is that distributed teams can appear localized in a single location or be set to represent offices in different locations, providing a ‘comfort’ factor for the customer.
Similarly, organisations can set up a central, virtual receptionist using inbound calls to a line on the PBX, but where the receptionist is physically in a remote location. Calls can then be directed manually to team members across the VoIP network by seamlessly transferring the call.
With the better quality VoIP systems, normally disparate communications channels such as email, voicemail, faxes, conferencing, chat and instant messaging can be unified on the same platform.
Similarly, voicemail can be forwarded to email inboxes instead of remaining on or being available only via the VoIP handset
While such features are available on some standalone applications such as Skype, the key benefit of VoIP-based unified communications is that there is only one system to learn and maintain.
Further UC capabilities include availability of a VoIP system user interface or ‘client’ (on desktops, laptops, tablets and Smartphones) which displays the status of colleagues for those who are logged into the system.
This means that distributed teams can be aware of individual virtual team member presence, providing a boost to efficiency e.g. transferring calls to colleagues that are actually at their desk, instead of wasting time directing calls to team members who aren’t around.
As a further extension of unified communications, many VoIP systems incorporate a Windows and/or MAC clients so that users can manage their phone calls on a desktop or laptop computer equipped with a headset.
This is particularly useful for making larger volumes of calls from a CRM system such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM or Salesforce or from applications with a contacts utility such as Office 365 or Google Contacts.
Video conferencing and web meetings
Some VoIP systems support video conferencing – at a considerable saving compared to dedicated video conferencing systems. Similarly, web meeting capability gives sales teams the ability to deliver online demonstrations to prospects to boost revenues, without the attendant costs of dedicated and expensive web demo platforms.
Video conferencing for sales presentations or 1:1 meetings can typically be enabled via a standard web browser.
The rich set of call handling features and collaboration tools (such as web meeting capabilities), available from today’s sophisticated VoIP systems means that businesses of all sizes can save money and become more efficient.
VoIP is a great example of where IT can help to improve employee and wider business productivity very cost-effectively, with relatively low capital investment and for highly competitive ongoing subscription based cost.
Alliance Solutions is a 3CX certified partner – a world class VoIP PBX developer. 3CX VoIP phone systems are designed to replace traditional office telephone systems without the need for additional phone cabling.
With a wealth of features and an easy-to-use web-based management console, 3CX is easy to configure and support.
For further information about the benefits of VoIP and to discuss its suitability for your specific organisational needs, contact Alliance Solutions. Call us on 0800 292 2100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.