What is 'VoIP'? (Voice over Internet Protocol)
'VoIP' is different from 'traditional' telephony in that this technology uses a 'Data Network' - usually the Internet, for making and receiving phone calls. VoIP converts the voice signal from your phone into 'digital' signals ('data packets') at one end, sends it over the internet, and then converts it at the other end back to 'voice' signals.
The most commonly used type of 'VoIP' is called 'SIP' ('Session Initiation Protocol'), which allows you to use the VoIP technology to ring any phone number, the major advantage here being that the party you are calling does not also need to have 'VoIP' at their end in order for you to be able to ring them, or vice versa.
When you use 'SIP' VoIP (outside/trunk) lines there are some significant telephone call and line rental savings achievable.
Each VoIP line uses about 90Kbps of data, so if you want to simultaneously use several VoIP outside lines, then you need to ensure that your broadband service is good enough to handle the extra data traffic, and that your Modems and Routers can handle same. The ‘Quality-of-Service’ feature is essential so that the ‘voice’ traffic is prioritized over normal data (internet) traffic.
VoIP technology can also be utilised in many other different ways - enabling 'Remote' extensions of your office phone system for 'home' or 'Branch' offices, seamlessly 'linking' multiple branches (making for free 'internal' calls between them). This technology is the definite way of the future in telephony, as the two major technologies used in business - Telephones and Computers continue to 'merge'.
What are some reasons I might choose an 'IP' Telephone System?
A 'IP' system uses 'Internet Protocol' ('computer' communications software) for it's main operations - unlike 'traditional' systems which use the old 'circuit switched' technology. All telecommunications industry hardware is moving to this technology as it enables the continuation of existing strong trends - the integration of telephony with Computer networks.
The ability to use 'VoIP' 'outside' lines to take advantage of cheaper phone call and rental costs is a major advantage in 'future-proofing' your system. Some 'IP' systems do also allow you to continue with the use of 'traditional' 'outside' lines like 'PSTN' and 'ISDN' so you can make the transition to VoIP lines at your own pace. There are many potential advantages of using an 'IP' system - including:
- ‘iPhone and Android mobile phones 'doubling' as an office extension’ can provide the ultimate in call flexibility - you can answer incoming office calls, put callers on 'hold' (callers hear the 'on-hold' music from the office system), transfer calls to other extensions, all just like you can on your office phones. You can also make outgoing calls using the office 'outside' lines, so the people you are speaking to don't even need to know you're not in the office! Not all brand systems have all these capabilities, so you'll need to check to ensure that the system you select can cater for this.
- ‘Remote Extensions’ – excellent for ‘home’ or ‘branch’ offices, they can even save you on office rent by using some for ‘remote workers’. The phone can be exactly the same as the other office phones, and can use the office ‘outside’ lines to dial-out. Ensure that your remote extensions retain full system feature functionality – including seamless free ‘internal’ extension calls and the ability to transfer ‘outside’ calls. You can also have a ‘Remote Extension’ on your laptop or desk-top computer on some systems.
- ‘Multiple Site Linking’ – branches can be ‘networked’ together, and systems with ‘distributed architecture’ can also incorporate a branches’ own ‘outside’ lines for local outgoing calls. Again – seamless Free ‘internal’ and ‘outside’ transferred calls, plus ‘centralised control’ of all systems if required.
- ‘Unified Communications’ – have Voice Mail or fax messages sent to your Email, ‘click-to-dial’ phone numbers on the computer screen.
- ‘IP Attendant’ – your operators can do their call handling easily by using the computer screen.
- ‘Web Page Assistance’ – User friendly‘Extension Setting’ changes, dynamic ‘User Guides’ and ‘Administrator’ system management which saves on paying a Technician’s time - all available through embedded Web Pages (not available on all systems).
- ‘Hosted’ or ‘Cloud’ IP System – this is where some of the phone system infrastructure (the main ‘controlling’ part) is ‘hosted’ remotely off-site at the suppliers premises. You usually would also have to use their ‘VoIP’ outside lines as part of the arrangement, and hence you become totally committed to that one supplier for everything with regard to your outside lines and system. It can suit some businesses, however there is usually a compromise whereby you lose a lot of flexibility to make individual changes to fine-tune the system to your business’s precise requirements. You lose a certain amount of control of your system, especially when it comes to being able choose the 'carrier' of your outside lines.
- ‘Data Base Integration’ – makes for easy dialling from your existing data base like a ‘CRM’ (Customer Relationship Management) application with a simple mouse-click, or a ‘screen-pop’ on your computer with the incoming callers’ details.
Are all 'IP' telephone systems pretty much the same?
The answer here has to be a categorical 'NO'! There are many different branded systems available, and many of the manufacturers come from different backgrounds - some having considerable previous experience with the more 'traditional' Telephone Systems, whilst others come from a 'Computer' background. Some of the latter's systems do not always provide required commonly available 'telephone' features that customers take for granted and need, and this can impact on your day-to day operations and create unnecessary frustrations. Some systems will only allow for the use of 'VoIP' outside lines, whereas many businesses still want to use some of their existing 'traditional' outside lines like 'PSTN' and 'ISDN' until they (or their broadband service) are ready to fully embrace 'VoIP'. If you believe that you may utilise one or more 'Remote' or 'iPhone/Android mobile phone' extensions, do ensure the system you choose has 'full functionality' on these extensions, as many do not, which can then limit the usefulness of same.