Business Phone Systems Featured Article

To VoIP or Not to VoIP, That is the Question




January 17, 2014


By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Unless you’ve been living in a monastery the past five years, you’ve probably heard about VoIP. Businesses of all sizes are adopting the technology, which stands for voice-over-IP and basically represents the move from traditional calling to Internet-based calling.

With VoIP being in the news as much as it is, you’ve probably wondered if it is worthwhile for your business to make the switch.

The short answer is a resounding yes. But, let’s take a look at exactly why you might want to make the switch.

The first reason to consider a move to VoIP is the added features that typically come with Internet-based calling. While traditional, TDM-based telephone systems certainly offer a number of features, one of the reasons to go with VoIP is that using these features is usually easier. VoIP is a modern telephone system, so the features are baked in instead of being bolted on. This improves usability.

VoIP also natively has some features that TDM phone systems just can’t match due to the underlying technology. One of those features is easy call-forwarding to any other number, and another one is mobility. Because VoIP is digital, it is easy for it to route to a smartphone app or integrate with an iPad.

As a recent article by commentator David Waring points out, VoIP also usually comes standard with auto-attendant functionality that serves as a virtual receptionist.

“VoIP has the auto attendant feature that can automatically direct calls to different departments or individuals, at no extra cost,” pointed out Waring. “Traditional phone systems charge extra for most of the features they offer.”

Flexibility is another reason to make the switch to VoIP. With a traditional phone system, it can be hard to scale up or down depending on need. But with VoIP, especially hosted solutions, it is easy to scale up or down. Adding lines (or taking them away) is often as easy as logging into a Web control panel.

Cost is a third very important reason to make the switch. Because VoIP runs over the Internet, there’s no need for dedicated telephone wires. This cuts cost dramatically, so business VoIP solutions often offer cheap, flat-rate pricing for domestic calls and comparatively cheap rates for international calling. The original value proposition for VoIP was its cost savings, and that is no less true today.

Installation and maintenance is a further benefit of VoIP, especially for hosted solutions.

“A traditional business phone system is extremely complicated,” noted Waring in his blog post. “It must be installed and maintained by a trained technician. This is not only inconvenient, but very costly, as well. VoIP phone systems can be installed by anyone. Most systems are plug-and-play, and each user can configure his settings to suit his needs.”

With a hosted VoIP solution, there’s almost zero setup or maintenance. That’s the basic value proposition of the cloud—it is a service, not something that the end user needs to maintain his or her self. So for VoIP, that can mean no telephone closet or hardware maintenance.

Then there is call quality.

In the early days of VoIP, call quality was the big downfall of the technology. That’s because the VoIP infrastructure was less developed, and because there was no data prioritization for VoIP. Early VoIP was subject to the whims of the Internet.

But that has changed. Business VoIP is often backed by quality assurances and prioritization that enables better quality.

Further, VoIP has the potential to deliver much higher call quality than is even theoretically possible with traditional telephone systems. With VoIP, it is possible to have high-definition voice.

What is high-definition voice, you ask? Just imagine what HD TV has done for television, and apply that mental model to voice. In a word, HD voice can be spectacular.

While not all VoIP systems deliver on the promise of HD voice, many do.

All that said, there is the concern about reliability. If the Internet goes down, a VoIP system also will go down. With traditional phone systems, this is not the case.

But with the Internet becoming a crucial part of business, and other essential business functions moving to the cloud and therein relying on Internet access, Internet reliability already is crucial. So if the Internet goes down, phone systems are not the only problem.

And, in fact, VoIP even delivers a second pathway in case the Internet goes down. Unlike traditional telephone systems, which rely on the telephone network, VoIP works over any Internet connection. So even if a business loses its Internet access, it still is possible to reroute business calls through the cell phones of employees. So there actually is the potential for more reliability than traditional phones.

Sold yet? Yeah, I knew you would be. VoIP just makes sense.




Edited by Rory J. Thompson
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