VoIP makes your phone system highly flexible, creating a ‘mobile office’.
Voice-over Internet Protocol or VoIP is no longer a new phenomenon but has been on the scene for a number of years. A continually evolving technology, it is rapidly growing in popularity and on a global scale.
The research and analysis firm In-Stat recorded that VoIP subscribers increased by 34 million users in 2006. It predicts that by 2011, 38pc of broadband households worldwide will subscribe to VoIP services, and records that the European VoIP market has shown the largest growth with 14 million new subscribers in 2006, mainly focussed in France, Germany and the Netherlands.
What this all means is that public confidence and usage of VoIP has grown and continues to grow exponentially. But exactly what benefits does it offer the business community and why should they make the technology an integral part of their communications infrastructure?
One of the main and most talked about benefits of VoIP is dramatically reduced cost of phone calls. When you make a call using a traditional phone line a dedicated connection is established and has to be maintained throughout the conversation.
However, with a VoIP connection the voice information is packetised and the individual call packets travel by independent routes across the internet. This means that the resources needed during a VoIP conversation are significantly reduced and each call costs less no matter where you are. While cheap phone calls are a key benefit, the technology provides a host of other useful features and capabilities for business that normal telephone systems just can’t.
For example, VoIP makes your phone system highly flexible, creating a ‘mobile office’ using telephony software through a headphone or microphone unit connected to a laptop. This allows the user to make and take important calls on a business trip without being hit by high roaming charges. This is of particular benefit for export-focused businesses which, through VoIP, are able to contact their overseas clients using substantially reduced phone tariffs or even for free.
Voicemail on line
VoIP allows the user to forward voice messages to email accounts and have them played back through a PC. It also gives access to voicemail via the internet and boasts more complex address books and contacts lists, conversion of a mobile phone to an extension of your offices phone system and call diversion or forwarding to a range of numbers simultaneously.
The technology can also improve business efficiency by keeping detailed records of each call a business makes. It can provide information on how many calls a business has missed, how long it takes staff to answer the phone and even how many personal calls are being made during work hours.
VoIP can also significantly reduce ‘phone tag’, the annoying and costly by-product of a hectic working day, by having numbers configured to ring on multiple devices, like a landline, work and/or home mobile before going onto voicemail. The average person wastes at least 90 minutes a week trying to reach clients, contacts or suppliers on their various different contact numbers. Cutting down on ‘phone tag’ will help people work more efficiently and boost productivity.
A growing phenomenon
More and more businesses are waking up to these benefits. A recent study by Coleman Parkes Research has found that 70pc of global companies expect to be using VoIP regularly on mobile devices over the next two years. Installing VoIP is also much easier than ever before – there are a number of new technological advancements that allow small to medium sized businesses to implement VoIP and IP PBX systems that are 100pc compatible with their existing hardware.
Since its creation VoIP has evolved dramatically and earlier claims of poor sound quality and service don’t stand up in the face of current technologies.
The latest software means that if the power goes out, one phone immediately connects to the public network for emergency services. If there is a failure in the broadband connection itself then a backup PSTN line can be used to make and receive those all-important business calls.
For companies who may still be reluctant to fully embrace the technology there is another option. Hybrid IP deployment is an interim solution that can allow business to retain part of their existing telecoms infrastructure while at the same time gaining some of the capabilities of a VoIP-based system. Many firms find this ‘toe in the water’ approach very useful as it allows their staff to get used to the technology before it is rolled out across the company. Most businesses, however, after installing a hybrid system, quickly make it a core part of their communications network once they realise its advantages.
No matter the size of an organisation, VoIP is a flexible, affordable and easy-to-use technology that offers a wide range of business benefits.
By Paul Graham, managing director, Clarity Telecom