“Recent research finds that more than one-third of all businesses are now using a VoIP phone system, with the vast majority of those being businesses with fewer than 50 employees." http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8924-voip-for-business.html
You might have heard of VoIP, you might not. Is it worth you getting involved in, and is it good for your business? Here's what you need to know to make a sensible, informed decision.
What is VOIP?
VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, which doesn't really leave you any wiser! It's actually a way to make telephone calls over the internet, without any wires or circuits or anything else physical, simply an internet connection.
It isn't really a new thing, first developed in the 1970s by America's Department of Defence, but its real-world application has been slow on the uptake. Having said that, those in the know predict US citizens alone will spend $87 billion on VoIP services by the end of 2017. And today's cloud-based solutions are proving extremely popular.
Four types of VoIP
VoIP takes several forms. PC to PC VoIP, for example Skype, is based on instant messenger services. PC to telephone networks like CallService require the user to wear a headset. Telephone network to telephone network services come with a special adaptor on the phone, for example BT's Broadband Voice. And an IP phone to telephone network enables the phone itself with no need for an adaptor, for example Vonage.
Using VoIP for business
VoIP can cost you a lot less than traditional telecoms. All you need is an internet connection and a computer with a microphone and speakers, plus software installed on your computer, to avoid the usual charges you get from a regular telephone service. You can even get free international calls, which would otherwise cost a great deal of money.
You can easily roll all your phone requirements into one thanks to VoIP, including everything from business phones to instant messaging, mobility, video-conferencing, local and long distance calls, which makes it extremely flexible. If you've ever run into annoying issues because you can't take your landline number with you when you change premises, it's no problem at all with VoIP. It also means you don't have to disconnect yourself from your business just because you're not in the office. You can do it all on the move.
VoIP is also popular with business owners who are fed up with constant face-to-face meetings. It can get horribly expensive in terms of time and money to attend meetings, what with travel time and transport costs. With VoIP you can video call and conference with ease and comfort, simply and effectively, and can often share documents via video conferencing.
If you're concerned about your employees telecomms usage, you can get useful real-time data about an individuals' call activity and do the same by department. And the best packages let you log calls direct to your Customer Relationship Management system as they happen, cutting your admin burden right down.
Having just the one telecomms supplier for voice and data streamlines your working environment simply by linking different applications and technologies. If your business operates over more than one premises it can save you even more cash because internal calls don't cost you a fortune any more.
If you tried VoIP in the past but were put off by the poor sound quality, give it another go. The tech has improved dramatically and these days it's very reliable.
Useful added extras available via good quality VoIP services
The VoIP supplier landscape is highly competitive, good news for the business consumer. Most providers offer a host of added extras including an anonymous call blocker to prevent calls from withheld numbers, which are often cold calls. You get caller ID, call diversion to other numbers, and call waiting alerts. Most providers let you call 999 emergency numbers just like a regular phone service. Three-way calling is a popular extra for businesses, ideal for conference calls. And voicemail is popular too, either accessed via email or online.
Will your business benefit from VoIP?
Do you need VoIP? To find out, analyse your phone usage. If you make a lot of international or long distance calls, or regularly find yourself paying high bills, VoIP could save you a lot of money even if you need to pay a monthly fee to use an IP phone. If you prefer to have fewer systems to maintain, it's a great all-in-one solution. If you like user simplicity, it's a winner.
If you will be calling non-VoIP customers, you'll need a special IP phone to connect direct to our modem or router. Then you can make calls even when your computer is switched off. Many providers give you a free IP phone when you sign up and some provide dual-purpose phones, which can handle both VoIP and conventional landline calls.
If you'd like to compare the costs and services from VoIP providers, here's an excellent resourse from PC Magazine. (http://uk.pcmag.com/internet-telephony-voip-products/41717/guide/the-best-voip-providers-and-phone-services-for-2016)