In the most basic terms, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) sends voice information over an internet service. VoIP is much more than just a different type of telephone line though; there are many benefits, and some cautions, that come with this type of service.
There are four different options for setting up your telephone system when it comes to VoIP:
- It is possible that your existing PBX telephone system can become a VoIP system, remain in your office, and function exactly as it always has with the same features and handsets.
- Or perhaps your traditional PBX telephone system could be replaced with a server, containing a software-based telephone system, connecting to IP handsets, still located in your office (which is also a common solution).
- You could choose to have that server moved into a data centre instead of your office, with the telephone lines and handsets connecting to it over the internet.
- Or you could rent a VoIP telephone system on a monthly basis from someone like Microsoft or BT who run the software in their own data centre.
This last option is the most widely accepted understanding of VoIP, but as you can see, it’s only one of many VoIP topologies. Every solution fits different needs and budgets. Speaking with an expert is essential to ensuring you receive the best for your business.
Benefits of VoIP
VoIP telephone systems are typically rented monthly, with very low setup costs. Because the rental is typically quoted as price per handset, VoIP telephone systems are ideal for young or small businesses. Further cost reductions come with multiple office environments, providing free telephone calls between sites.
Because the VoIP system is owned and hosted by a provider, they make sure software updates are always applied as they are released, at no extra charge to you.
A VoIP system can grow as much as your business does, and reduce if you need it to. Seasonal peaks in call traffic can be managed very effectively through short-term expansion.
All office locations, including homeworkers, are extensions on one telephone system. Take advantage of unified communications and you can see who is on the phone, at lunch, in a meeting, or off sick, no matter which branch they sit in.
Telephone numbers are not bound to a specific location when delivered by VoIP. If you want to advertise with a London telephone number even though your office is in Manchester, this is the solution. We can even supply personalised automated greetings with specific regional accents if required.
Some VoIP telephone systems have the benefit of auto-failover at a network level. Incoming calls can failover to a mobile number, another office, to voicemail, a call management service, to backup telephone lines into your office, or anywhere else that has a telephone number. You can capture every single inbound telephone call, even during catastrophic loss of premises.
VoIP handsets work over almost any internet connection. If your staff need to work from home, they simply take their handset with them. Or better still, use a mobility application and make their mobile phone act as their office phone, within seconds.
Take your telephone number with you, wherever you decide to relocate. And with VoIP phones you don’t need to move on the date Openreach tell you; just take your phones with you on the date most convenient to your business.
Risks with VoIP
Be wary – most VoIP providers will tell you that you need no maintenance on VoIP. In our experience, this is not best advice; if you had maintenance on your previous telephone system then you will be left exposed. Maintenance is optional but still recommended. Consider what happens to a handset if there is a fault, or if you need a change made. Who is now maintaining the network equipment at your premises – routers, firewalls and switches? What happens if one of those items fail? We offer both break-fix maintenance and a fully managed service on our VoIP telephone systems.
You have a firewall on your data network to protect your data from theft, damage and fraud. Well VoIP and the associated software can provide a route onto your data network that isn’t through your existing firewall. If that route isn’t protected by a firewall too, your data is exposed.
To give you an idea of how exposed, we can monitor how often our own VoIP telephone system’s IP address is being scanned by external sources. At the time of writing, our firewall reports that our VoIP system is scanned every 10 seconds.
A VoIP telephone system is only as strong as its weakest link. That weak link may be because the VoIP system is provided over an ADSL connection, a service only designed for residential use with inappropriate SLAs for business and for voice traffic. The weak link may be that the voice traffic is sent out over the ‘dirty internet’ before attaching to the public telephone network, rather than a direct connection. Or perhaps the VoIP system is not in a fully managed data centre with backup power, climate control and multiple data connections, but installed on a 10-year-old server with an obsolete operating system in a heated office and a plant pot added for decoration. Right next to the cleaner’s favourite plug socket.
Many traditional telecoms companies are not trained to manage data networks, resulting in intermittent gremlins on the VoIP telephone system. Is the broadband line big enough to handle the peak voice traffic? What about the switch backplane? Can the switch PSU manage power consumption of the telephones plugged into it? Will the internal network need to give voice traffic priority over PC and server traffic? Is the cabling of the correct standard? If the solution is not designed correctly, you will have an ineffective telephone system.