Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is one of the major advancements technology has made toward a more efficient and convenient business. If you are a small business owner and are looking to save money on how you operate, VoIP can be a great place to start. Though VoIP is becoming more and more popular, some businesses are hesitant to make the switch; concerns about audio quality, costs to implement and power outages are all valid things to think about. How do you know for sure if business VoIP is the way to go?
When it comes down to it, the benefits of VoIP outweigh any potential drawbacks. Improvements in technology allow us to make and receive calls over the Internet using standard phones or feature-rich IP phones. Sound quality has also improved – many businesses today have abandoned traditional phone systems in favor of VoIP. Factors that affect VoIP quality are bandwidth, equipment, ATA/Router, phone frequencies, weather conditions, location of your hardware and compression.
The low cost of VoIP is one of its biggest appeals. Business VoIP services are significantly less expensive than traditional phone services; you have less hardware to buy or lease, monthly subscription fees are lower and in-network calls are generally free. With VoIP, businesses no longer have to maintain separate networks for phones and data -- another significant money saver. The costs associated with employee moves, adds and changes -- which can cost $100 or more per occurrence -- are virtually eliminated. All you have to do is move your IP phone (or traditional phone with a VoIP adapter) to a different broadband network jack and plug it in.
Today’s workforce is mobile, so you have to expect your phone system to be the same way. With VoIP, business users can use VoIP wherever there is Internet connection, allowing users to talk on laptops, get voicemail and faxes with e-mail, get virtual phone numbers and overall, increase productivity.
Most VoIP providers and IP-PBX (News - Alert) software packages deliver a much more robust feature set than traditional phone providers do. All the basics you'd expect are present -- including conference calling, voicemail, Internet faxing, and caller ID -- but VoIP services also often supply virtual receptionists and greeting functionality, customizable advanced call screening and forwarding rules, integration with office software, and the ability to forward voicemail to your email or your mobile phone. Many providers offer these advanced features as part of a subscription; even when you must pay extra, the cost is usually less than you would pay a traditional phone provider for the same services.
Some disadvantages of VoIP to think of when it comes to your business is that if you’re Internet service or power goes out, so does your VoIP service. Some hosted services reroute calls to mobile phones in the event of a service disruption, but communication access from your office phone will be cut off until you get power or Internet back. Many VoIP providers don’t offer 911 services and if they do, there’s usually and extra charge for it.
If you’ve made the decision to go with VoIP for your business, there are some other things to think about. You want to make sure you’re making the most educated decision possible, so make sure you ask business VoIP providers these questions before you buy anything. Another great resource to check out is GetVoIP.com, which reviews providers, phone systems and VoIP services for free.
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Edited by Rich Steeves