More businesses are adopting Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions than ever before. From streamlined platforms to centralized communications, VoIP is a truly cost-effective and flexible alternative to outdated phone systems. VoIP improves operational efficiency, cuts telecommunication costs, and increases overall performance. The preferred choice for countless brands and ventures, VoIP easily integrates into any existing telephony system or communications protocol.
Within the VoIP market, however, there are several brands and services available. The only way to secure the best VoIP package is to conduct extensive research. When it comes to the right system for your business, there are three important aspects to consider.
Scalability should be of paramount concern when selecting a VoIP system. Companies should look for the following before choosing a service provider:
- affordable VoIP services that promote brand growth and expansion;
- seamless integration of VoIP into existing telephony and business communications platforms;
- file sharing, screen sharing, uploads, downloads, and any other specific features that are needed by the business;
- Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking to expand or reduce business lines on an as-needed basis; and
- compatibility between private branch exchange (PBX) and SIP, with the flexibility to enhance, edit, or bring on new services.
Hosted vs. On-site Services
There are hosted and on-site options available for PBX services. Both have their unique advantages and disadvantages and should be taken into consideration when adopting new VoIP platforms.
- Businesses without existing PBX hardware tend to benefit from cloud-hosting services.
- Cloud services are easier to deploy, are more cost-efficient, and eliminate the need to purchase new hardware and pay maintenance fees.
- On-site systems offer more flexibility and better control over private telecommunications networks.
- On-site PBX is the best option for companies that have the means to invest in hardware and maintenance for optimal system functionality.
Deciding between on-site and remote services depends on the particular needs of the company. Businesses should also weigh the benefits and risks of deploying these services before signing their names on the dotted line.
With the advent of burgeoning technologies and bring your own device (BYOD) policies, more and more employees are able to get work done while on the go. In fact, many now use their own mobile, wireless, and digital devices from remote venues. With this in mind, businesses need to integrate contact lists, video conferencing, and call-forwarding services for their remote teams.
With modern VoIP features, businesses are also able to secure more freedom and flexibility for workers. They no longer have to invest in expensive tools for mobile workforces, since the same applications and programs are being utilized across the board.
The birth cry of the Internet came about in the U.S. when the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) delivered the first data packet between two computers in 1969. That very same ARPANET saw the birth of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) when the first data packet of encoded voice was transmitted in 1974. In recent years, the dawning and proliferation of the information age has seen VoIP truly come into its own.
An Innovation in the Data World
From businesses to the home internet connection, relatively inexpensive high speed internet is allowing VoIP to replace traditional telephone services. In all but the most remote rural areas, sufficient internet speeds are now available, prompting consumers to question the need for both telephone and internet services when internet will serve both voice and data functions.
Affordability and Convenience
In the past there has been resistance to innovations such as VoIP due to cost and the dread of having to get a new telephone number. That is no longer the case. VoIP equipment is highly affordable and often is less costly than even an average smartphone. Further, the cost of transmitting a data packet over long distance is hardly more than the cost to send the same data packet across the room, making VoIP more affordable than traditional long distance telephone services.
In the early days, a VoIP call had to go through a third party because telecommunications companies held a certain level of propriety over the connections. Now, VoIP calls go directly to the recipient, bypassing the middleman and keeping costs low.
Changes in FCC laws now allow phone numbers to be transferred from one service to another. The process of making the change takes just moments, and the service provider is usually happy to do the work in order to get new business. The service itself is has yearly costs comparable to regular monthly cellular phone charges.
Services That Are Part of the Package
Most VoIP packages include long distance as just another service provided for a very low single fee if not provided entirely for free. A number of services once considered to be extras were billed as such but are now being provided by VoIP as a standard package. Some of these standard services provided at little to no additional cost include call forwarding, voicemail, and call waiting.
Marrying VoIP to Apps
VoIP is IP-based and highly adaptable with regard to data handling applications. As a result, VoIP telephony systems are capable of previously unheard of functions and new applications are arriving on the scene every day. From screen sharing to faxing to email, the IP-based world is growing and expanding in capabilities at a mind-boggling rate. With the affordability of VoIP services being realized, what was once thought to be a tool for businesses has taken root in the home.
With more available options for communications, many businesses are looking at what service they should use for their telephone line: a more traditional Private Branch Exchange (PBX) or the newer Voice over IP (VoIP).
Both services have their advantages and disadvantages, including cost and reliability. PBX may be an easier option for internal employees, because it allows businesses to connect all their internal phone lines to a single leased external phone line. In most cases, this means that employees would only need to dial an extension number rather than dialing the full number to call a coworker.
VoIP, on the other hand, uses the Internet to make phone calls by transferring audio information as digital data. It possesses many of the same benefits as a PBX, but it has a lower cost. However, there are also some disadvantages to a VoIP system, leading some businesses to consider an IP PBX system, a combination of the two.
For large businesses or those that are geographically dispersed, cost may be the single biggest factor in whether to choose PBX or VoIP.
Using a PBX system comes with a monthly charge that can fluctuate depending on how many phone calls are made. In addition, whether or not these calls are made internationally can increase the price. However, VoIP systems use the company’s broadband connection to place phone calls, meaning that the majority of the calls are free no matter where in the world the person is calling. Another benefit of VoIP is a low initial cost; instead of an entirely new system, businesses only need to purchase phone adapters that will change their system from analogue to digital.
While cost is lower for VoIP, its reliability can sometimes come into question when compared with a PBX system. Because VoIP relies on the company’s Internet connection, loss of power or connection means that phones will also be unavailable. In contrast, PBX systems are powered by the telephone wire itself and will still work even if the power is out. Some businesses are looking into an IP PBX system for this reason: The ease and cost of a VoIP system with a few PBX lines is ideal for emergencies.
The company’s Internet connection will also affect the quality of phone calls made over VoIP. Small companies with slow or low-capacity Internet will find that voice quality is lower than with PBX. Fortunately, there are many features in a VoIP system—such as the ability to access a work phone number no matter a person’s physical location—that will encourage businesses to upgrade to a more robust Internet connection.
IT professionals and business leaders should have a good understanding of the pros and cons of VoIP and PBX before deciding which one to purchase. While cost is lower for VoIP, PBX has the advantage in reliability and will still work even without power or an Internet connection. However, with the speed with which today’s digital world moves, businesses may find that VoIP allows them the mobility to keep up – with PBX lines as a backup.