We look at the advantages of VoIP and how it's taken the business world by storm.
Although VoIP technology has been around since the mid-1990s, a significant proportion of the UK’s existing infrastructure had needed to catch up before it became the widespread solution it is today, meaning more significant investment in fibre and Ethernet connectivity was required to reliably support IP-based calls.
How VoIP works
At its most basic level, VoIP takes voice calls and divides them into data packets that can then be transmitted over the internet. This means that rather than calls using an often expensive, physical link between two locations, the data can be routed anywhere, resulting in cheaper international calling. The earliest way of using this technology was to use a computer with a microphone and speakers, which is how early services such as Skype gained popularity.
Despite this revolutionary idea, internet connections in the 1990s weren’t really up to the job of providing the fast, reliable connections we’re used to today, and that is undoubtedly needed to hold a successful call. This meant that early adopters would suffer from unwelcome side effects such as distortion and dropped connections.
One of the main reasons for VoIP’s increasing popularity today is that the UK’s infrastructure has caught up. Thanks to the wide availability of fast fibre-optic connections, it’s now possible to take full advantage of the benefits VoIP has to offer. There’s also a greater range of hardware options available so users are no longer limited to having to use VoIP on a computer. Instead, handsets that both look and work like traditional desktop phones are now readily available.
Perhaps the main business advantage of making the switch to VoIP is cost savings. Conventional PABX-based systems rely on ISDN connections which can be expensive to rent and often limit the number of lines that can be used. With VoIP, there is limit and users can make calls using their internet connections – be it broadband or a leased line. The setup costs, therefore, are cheaper and you also save on ongoing line rental.
Of course, you can also make cheaper calls. Direct calls to users on the same VoIP service are usually free, regardless of where each party is located. But even calling conventional PSTN phones is cheaper than using more traditional alternatives. This applies to international calls too, so for companies that might carry out business overseas can make significant savings.
Savings can also be made on equipment costs. you can make calls from a computer, but many modern PABXs are also compatible with SIP trunk connections, so can be used to make calls via a VoIP network. Alternatively, you have the flexibility to do away with in-house exchange hardware altogether and switch to a cloud-based PABX. This mitigates any upfront hardware costs and of course ongoing maintenance and power requirements. Learn more about SIP trunking.
Because VoIP is software-driven, arguably, the most significant long-term savings are to be had in the costs surrounding ongoing maintenance and configuration of a setup. When you need to make changes to phone numbers or call diversions, you can do so without the need for a site visit from a technician as may have been the case with legacy systems.
As well as cost savings, VoIP also has the advantage of offering additional flexibility. As mentioned, conventional systems tend to rely on ISDN connections which are not only costly but also limit the number of lines that you are able to use. Upgrading to add extra capacity, therefore, requires a long lead time. VoIP, on the other hand, is limited only by the bandwidth of your internet connection. Adding extra call capacity is easy, so you can gear up for expansion or seasonal peaks as required.
Another flexible aspect of VoIP is the ability to make calls from anywhere you have an internet connection. This means that you can call from your business number whether you are working from home, in a different office, or even using your mobile. Of course, this works two ways: you can receive calls on your business number wherever you are too. This provides enormous advantages in terms of geographic numbers; you can give customers a local number to call for a specific area while having the calls answered at a central location. You can also take your number with you if you relocate your premises.
With a cloud-based PABX, adding extra extensions is simpler too. Hardware costs are minimal compared with those required to upgrade a conventional system and it’s easy to configure the system for extra users.
So, what about the features that VoIP offers? We already know about the cheap calls, but there are plenty of advantages of a cloud-based service.
Features on offer include voicemail, call forwarding, caller ID, automated menus and conference calling. These are facilities that larger businesses take for granted on their in-house systems, but which until now have perhaps proved out of reach to smaller businesses. But with VoIP, all of these things are available to any business – regardless of business. This can allow smaller businesses to gain a quick and competitive advantage that may well result in increased revenue.
VoIP is perfectly poised to be used as part of a unified communications (UC) strategy by linking it to your data network. This makes it easy to implement policies such as hot desking, where employees can simply log in at a particular location and automatically have their calls diverted there.
So without a doubt, VoIP can deliver many business benefits, not least in reducing the cost of your voice calling. This, combined with the advantages of flexibility and a range of useful features, make for a compelling case to switch from an older system. Find out how VoIP can equip your business with a more accessible and more cost-effective way to manage your telephony