VoIP technology — an internet-based alternative to traditional phone services — has steadily been gaining popularity over the last few years, especially with small to medium sized businesses looking to cut back on unnecessary expenses. With the potential to dramatically cut-costs associated with old fashioned office landlines, VoIP offers many advantages over old fashioned telecommunications. But is it right for your business?
How it works
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and as the name implies, it allows you to make voice calls over your broadband connection. Some services allow you to make calls to other VoIP users free of charge, while paid services allow you to connect with ordinary phones at a fraction of the usual price.
How you use VoIP depends on your preferences. If you’re comfortable using your old handset – no problem! All you need is an adapter to hook your phone up to your computer and the right software to make calls. Once it’s all set up, you can dial and make phone calls as per usual. There are also special IP phones on the market specifically designed to plug into your router.
If you’re not dead set on using a handset, making calls from your computer is easy. Once you have VoIP software installed on your computer, all you need to make the call is a good quality speaker and microphone. We recommend using a headset for the best call quality.
The main advantage of using VoIP for all of your telephony needs is that it offers great savings, especially on long distance calls. It can also be set up, changed, maintained and scaled more easily than a traditional phone system. More special features include:
Easy set up
Setting up a VoIP system may require some investment up front for new routers and equipment, however, the expense doesn’t compare to setting up a traditional phone system. It’s also much easier to make changes once your system is in place.
VoIP offers professional features like caller ID, call transfer, call routing and so on much more affordably than traditional phone providers.
Flexible phone numbers
VoIP gives you the ability to create multiple phone numbers and take them with you wherever you go. For example, you can create different phone numbers for different countries, so that your contacts can reach you without paying long distance fees.
Online management features
VoIP includes special features to help you manage your communications online. For example, you can arrange for VoIP to send any voice messages or faxes sent to your phone to your email inbox in text format.
Access your phone from your desktop computer
If you aren’t near a handset, you can still access your phone from your desktop over your internet connection.
If you don’t have a fast enough connection to support VoIP, you may experience lower call quality. Using VoIP could impact other online activities, like sending emails and downloading. In addition, if you lose internet connectivity, VoIP will go down with it, leaving you without voice communications.
While VoIP hasn’t drawn much attention from hackers yet, it’s still not quite as secure as using an old fashioned phone line. You’ll need to invest in extra security measures to keep your system safe, especially if you frequently transfer sensitive information over the phone.
No emergency calling
Some VoIP providers don’t allow you to connect directly to emergency services through 911. Make sure to check this before signing on with a potential provider.
If you can’t afford to let your phone lines go down during a power outage, then depending on VoIP for all of your telephone services will definitely present an issue. If you lose power to you adapter, computer or router, your phone will no longer function.
VoIP has significantly improved significantly over the years, but it’s still relatively new technology. New providers crop up all the time, so it’s important to ensure that the one you choose is stable and well-established.
Is VoIP right for your business?
In our experience, the biggest benefit of VoIP is more than just cost-savings; it’s the ability to make small businesses sound bigger and more professional at minimal cost. By eliminating the expense of special features, like call routing, music and on-hold greetings, VoIP services can help deserving businesses show their credibility. More importantly, these tools can also help them become more responsive over the phone and take advantage of opportunities that might otherwise go unaddressed.
We typically recommend VoIP to businesses with fewer than 50 employees, especially if that business:
- Is growing and requires scalability
- Makes a large number of long distance calls
- Involves a lot of travel
- Has more than one location
- Is trying to build a more professional image
With that said, there are lots of options to choose from, and there’s no need to completely abandon your old phone provider if you’re not sure VoIP is the right solution for you. Many businesses use VoIP to supplement their existing systems and communicate with branch offices as cheaply as possible. Ultimately, you’ll probably want to consult with an adviser to help you assess your options and figure out what will benefit you most in the end.