The Pros and Cons of VoIP for Businesses
Voice over IP, or VoIP, has come a long way.
Where once the call quality of a landline couldn’t be beat and voice communication over the internet was unreliable, companies can now run their entire voice communication system seamlessly through their internet connection and computers. The headsets and phones even look and function the same.
VoIP is a very hot topic in the business world as companies evaluate if traditional phone lines continue to make sense for them or if one of the many VoIP options in the marketplace could save money, improve efficiency, or add useful features. This is something the team at Kelser routinely helps our clients navigate and implement. In fact, we even help the media provide information to the business community about VoIP.
Kelser and VoIP in the Media
In an article titled “The Inside Story on Setting up Enterprise VoIP From an IT Professional,” Top10.com explores the process of evaluating VoIP options through a deep dive into Kelser’s relationship with our client Retina Group of New England. VoIP opens up a number of opportunities for this medical practice with three locations, as well as cost savings.
Of course, VoIP has its own set of terminology, which can be intimidating. I was recently quoted in an article by Best Company called “VoIP vs. UCaaS: Business Buzzwords Demystified” which offers a bit of a vocabulary lesson on the subject. I helped the writer explain "unified communications” or UC, which is where all of your chat, conference calling, email, phone calls and voicemail are on one platform.
How To Start Thinking About VoIP for Your Business
Companies interested in switching to VoIP can start by looking at the features they wish they had in their current phone system. What capabilities would enhance the business? Simultaneous ring or "mobile twinning" is one of the most common features that companies are looking for. It allows team members to be on the go while maintaining a single phone number without the effort of having to forward a line or a call. How great is it that when you are on the road or out of the office, you can take a customer order or address an issue from your mobile while on your way into another sales call or appointment? This is huge in today’s mobile world, and most small businesses recognize the need for this functionality to be nimble and compete.
Unlike traditional phone systems, VoIP offers a great deal of cost structure flexibility. Companies can shop around and find a deal that suits their need. For instance, VoIP providers typically allow customers to contract for the hardware in a predictable monthly expense instead of an upfront expenditure. Depending on the nature of your business and phone use, you may be able to reduce the number of lines in your phone system today. Most VoIP providers also use "call paths" instead of a traditional number of phone lines, which allows seasonal businesses to scale up and down to control expenses. Companies that begin to look into VoIP often realize they are paying for lines they don’t need, and that savings will help in the cost justification of purchasing a new VoIP phone system.
One way to control costs is to choose a provider that supports "softphones" or phones that are loaded onto a laptop/PC. You can use the softphone along with your mobile device for your handset. This eliminates the extra expense of the traditional handset (there is a cost for softphones, but typically less than a handset).
What VoIP Features Should I Consider?
Voicemail to email integration is a great feature when you are traveling or out of the office where a voicemail is put into a WAV file and sent to you as an email that you can listen to directly from your mobile device, without having to login to the phone system, enter passwords and take more time out of your already busy day on the road.
Companies will want to consider how the different VoIP providers handle forwarding calls in the event of internet or power outages. If the office network is down, a VoIP system can predictably forward the main business number to an alternate number. Many providers offer a portal that is used to manage the phone system so that an administrator can log in from a mobile device and re-route the calls to a number of their choosing with a few keystrokes, making extended downtimes a thing of the past. You can also receive notifications via text message that calls are being forwarded to your mobile devices.
Are There Any Concerns or Drawbacks to be Aware Of?
Internet bandwidth will need to be considered when looking at VoIP. If you have a DSL or slower cable modem for internet access, you may need to upgrade to account for the fact that your voice and data will now be traversing the same connection. Making sure your network can handle the VoIP system you are envisioning is an important part of estimating the cost.
Finally, you don’t have to go it alone when exploring VoIP for the first time. You may want to consider working with an IT consulting firm that partners with VoIP providers/brokers. The advantage here is that an IT consultant can not only look at multiple VoIP providers to find the best solution for your needs and give you multiple price point options, they can also assess your network to ensure that your environment is ready for VoIP. I have been doing this for clients for many years and when clients are considering a switch to VoIP, we can help determine their priorities, features etc. and submit that information, along with the number of lines and current phone bills to our VoIP partner network. When we receive the options for the client, we review for accuracy to make sure the service meets the feature sets required and fits within the budget. This process helps the small business utilize a trusted advisor and allows for a seamless process to receive a quote and move forward with the right VoIP solution for the business.