How Can You Increase Connectivity with VOIP
Written by Steve Ross
Telephone networks are vital to Britain's small businesses - but Voice Over Internet Protocol promises to revolutionize the way your organisation communicates.
The communicative potential of the internet is constantly evolving, but conventional telephone networks remain an integral fixture of every small business' infrastructure. With Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) however, your business can overhaul the way it communicates, by integrating IT into its phone system - to streamline calls and other processes and reduce operational costs.
What Is VOIP?
VOIP is, simply put, the transmission of voice communication over the internet, as opposed to phone lines. By using your business' broadband connection, voice input into phones can be digitised and delivered across the internet at high speed. Of course, this process takes place in milliseconds but facilitates the same seamless conversations we'd expect from a standard telephone line.
The Benefits of VOIP Systems
Installing a VOIP system brings plenty of business advantages...
- Cost Savings: Since VOIP calls are measured as data - not minutes - they are charged as part of your broadband connection cost, rather than a separate phone bill. In many cases, your broadband provider may include a VOIP package as part of your service - making the calls, effectively, free.
- Streamlining & Efficiency: As part of your IT infrastructure, your phone system can be integrated with, and accessed through, other applications - like email, messenger software and social media platforms. You could, for example, listen to voicemails on your desktop, or click to call a contact from your web browser.
- Installation & Maintenance: Most VOIP services are installed as software, meaning no disruption in the office as a new line is put in - and an easier maintenance process if something goes wrong.
- Mobility: VOIP calls are possible wherever there is a robust internet connection, which means the software can be installed on mobile devices or tablets – a huge benefit for employees with remote work needs. Additionally, calls from outside the country no longer mean exorbitant fees.
- Flexibility: Beyond phone calls, VOIP platforms incorporate useful extra features such as voicemail, conferencing (video and audio), call-holding, call-diversion and even hold music, at a fraction of the cost of a conventional phone network.
Bear in mind, VOIP has its limits. Unlike conventional phone systems, VOIP is vulnerable to power cuts and its call quality is dependent on the strength of your internet connection: quality will degrade as more stress is placed on your bandwidth. Since it's hosted on your IT network, security should also be a consideration if you choose to integrate VOIP with other apps and services.
VOIP Solutions and Set-Ups
There are plenty of VOIP platforms ideal for a small business IT infrastructure. We've all heard of Skype and Google Hangouts (which can be configured for VOIP use) but more business targeted services, like Vonage and Ooma are great alternatives. The flexibility of VOIP means you can incorporate the platform you choose in a variety of ways...
- Analogue Telephone Adaptor: If you have an existing analogue telephone network, an ATA may be the best VOIP option. An ATA is a simple plug-in device which allows you to connect a standard analogue phone to your computer - the ATA converts your phone's signal to digital data for transmission across your network.
- Internet Protocol Phones: IP phones look and function like normal telephones, including all standard features: handset, cradle, keypad - but connect via ethernet to your network router. IP phones come with all the necessary hardware and software to transmit calls across a VOIP platform.
- Computer-to-computer: You can host VOIP via a software-only option which facilitates calls to and from desktops using in-built mic and speakers. Desktop VOIP software is often completely free, but may be lacking in essential business features - more capable versions are available for a fee.
Do I Need VOIP?
If your business values its mobile flexibility then VOIP is a smart choice: not only will you be able to handle the increasing demands of a mobile workplace, but your services will become cheaper and more efficient as you do. Ultimately, VOIP is empowering - it's another, low cost way to unlock the potential of your small business IT, increase functionality, and take an innovative step into the future as you do.
Do you need help choosing a VOIP platform? Want to expand your business' communicative potential? Contact Shackleton for help and advice...
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