VoIP works differently from traditional phone services and can be more portable, provide more options, and be easy to adapt to a variety of different needs. In this article, we’ll introduce VoIP service and help you understand how you can apply it at your office and benefit the most from it. With some basic preparations and strategies, you can avoid common problems and provide some simple troubleshooting of your network.
Conventional phone service can quickly become a costly venture, particularly if you are endeavouring to use such services to satisfy the unique communications demands of the small-to-midsize business market. Luckily, such businesses now have options when it comes to voice communications and are no longer subject to the burdens of a standard phone service.
In today’s marketplace, instead of investing large sums of money on outdated PSTN services (Public Switched Telephone Network), businesses should opt for more reliable and cost-efficient Voice over IP (VoIP) communication platforms. These types of digital calling systems leverage the functionalities of high-speed Internet to transmit high-quality voice calls and present users with a wide range of rich, business-enhancing features. The question remains, however - how do you choose a VoIP provider? And, just what is the best VoIP system for a small business? Our preferred VoIP provider can be found at the end of this article.
VoIP and your business
VoIP, piggybacking off existing internet infrastructure, is much easier to maintain and cheaper to operate, so VoIP service providers pass these savings along to subscribers. Businesses all over the world are discovering the opportunities and possibilities offered by VoIP phone services. Originally available as a commercial service beginning in the 1990s, VoIP has become much more efficient and effective. Increased broadband speeds have dramatically improved the audio quality and reliability of VoIP calls. These improvements have led to more businesses signing up to VoIP services.
What does VoIP mean for your business? It means advanced phone features, improved remote working flexibility, additional functionality and improved technology. VoIP can provide your business with a host of useful features and more scope to expand, whilst costing less than you would expect.
Here are just a few of the benefits:
- Remote-work friendly
- Auto attendant
- Interactive voice recognition (IVR)
- Remote voicemail
- Voicemail transcription
- Conference call capabilities
- Call analytics
- Call recording
- Call monitoring
- Call management
- Unified communications
- Call centres
- Contact centres
- Multiple lines
- Choose your area code
- Future proofing your business (BT to switch off ISDN / PSTN in 2025)
Because of how VoIP works, it is necessary to optimise your network for VoIP use before trying to implement a new VoIP service. Your network may be designed primarily for web surfing, sending email and such, without being very effective for VoIP. VoIP packets need prioritisation in order to ensure high quality audio.
Optimising your network for VoIP calls:
To start off with, you’ll need to think about how you use your VoIP plan and what existing network equipment and configurations you already have in place. Start by doing a quick assessment of how your business uses phones. What sort of call volumes are you dealing with? And, what bandwidth are you willing to dedicate to your phone system?
What equipment do you already have available, or plan to use? If your network router is basic and lacks functionality, you may struggle to get your network working to your satisfaction when you introduce VoIP calls. Upgrading your equipment to offer 'Power over Ethernet' (PoE) is worth considering, as it gives your device's power directly from the Internet connection, instead of using additional wiring to provide access to electricity.
What else are you using your network for? The configuration settings probably need to be changed if you’ve always just used your network for conventional business use.
VoIP data prioritisation:
The network should be optimised to prioritise VoIP call data over other types of data. The network will be carrying different packets of data, but the VoIP packets all need to travel together to achieve good-quality audio. It makes sense to work to prioritise VoIP, so calls don’t arrive as disjointed and jumbled. Prioritising network traffic will help to ensure that e.g. someone downloading a large file will not negatively impact the phone call quality.
Some additional considerations when switching to VoIP:
Higher bandwidth: If you plan to have a lot of calls occurring simultaneously, you’ll need additional bandwidth because your VoIP system will use a substantial part of it. VoIP calls, in order to provide high-quality audio, need high-speed Internet, and ideally broadband access. Any Internet service you have, if the connection is used for other things, will be sharing bandwidth. Use a broadband availability checker to find the fastest broadband available in your area. A business-class connection will probably be sufficient. If you have questions about how much bandwidth your system will specifically need for the level of quality you are looking for, be sure to ask your VoIP supplier for guidance.
Do you want to use soft phones or hardware phones? This can influence how your network is configured, so you will need to make that decision. Some people have a preference. For example, people with hearing impairment may struggle to use a headset. It's worth considering the needs of all frequent phone system users before you invest in new equipment.
Look at how your team operates. Do your employees work remotely, or onsite? Is there a lot of travel involved with your business? Configure your network accordingly. Getting a virtual private network (VPN) established can make it easier to secure a network, whilst still allowing remote workers to connect to the same phone system easily from elsewhere.
Is VoIP secure?
VoIP is like any other Internet-based service and can be vulnerable to hacking and other online security risks. As such, your business network should be secured appropriately and software and equipment kept up to date. Throughout the process, be open to making changes and be sure to provide adequate training on using VoIP. It may even be helpful to teach some basic troubleshooting to everyone at your business who will regularly work with and use the phones. For instance, if you need to use the same connection for VoIP and other uses, it may help your team to know that waiting to download large files and run updates until after everyone’s off the phone is probably smart. At a small business, it may make a difference in quality.
Our recommended VoIP provider
FasterBroadband switched to VoIP calls back in 2013. At the time Orbtalk was our VoIP provider of choice. In 2018 Orbtalk was acquired by a London-based company called Telappliant, who to this day still deliver us with a faultless and cost-effective VoIP service. We would highly recommend Telappliant as a business VoIP provider.
Try Telappliant free for 30 days. www.telappliant.com/free-trial