In it's simplest form, Voice over Internet Protocol allows you to make voice calls over an internet broadband service, as opposed to an analogue phone line, by converting analogue audio into data packets for digital transmission. VoIP technology has been around for decades, but only in recent times has it reached a point where the right system can be a genuine game changer for any business.
The benefits of VoIP are many, but do vary from system to system. The most common benefits of VoIP you can expect to achieve are as follows:
You can say goodbye to peak and off-peak rates, flag falls, local vs. long distance, landline vs. mobile, and all the other jargon on your monthly phone bill that makes you cringe. Given that VoIP routes calls via your internet connection, it costs no more to call next door as it does to call the next state or, depending on your package and provider, the next country. There are many plans available that include unlimited landline calls and some that even include mobile calls, starting at as little as $30 per user, per month. Even without the inclusion of mobile calls, rates for outbound mobile calls can be as low as 12c per minute with no connection fee. Compare that to 36c per minute plus the 55c connection fee that you might be used to with your existing service, and you're starting to look at some pretty serious savings.
"The inclusion of a softphone also means no matter where you are, so long as you have internet access, you can perform all communication tasks that would usually only be possible if you were sitting at your desk."
Businesses generally have the choice of deploying their VoIP system on premise or having it hosted in the cloud. With the ongoing advancements around cloud technology, particularly with regard to hosting quality, security and redundancy, cloud is now the preferred option for many SMEs that have already adopted VoIP. With a hosted system, all you need is a reliable internet connection, and if the chosen system offers a PC/Mac softphone option you may not even need handsets, just a UC headset connected to your PC or laptop will do the trick. The inclusion of a softphone also means no matter where you are, so long as you have internet access, you can perform all communication tasks that would usually only be possible if you were sitting at your desk. Going one step further, some providers even have smartphone apps that allow you to login from your phone and have access to all of the same functions.
One of the greatest flexibility features however, is the ability to make system changes with just a few clicks of a mouse. Without having to submit a ticket or online request, the administrator is able to login to the VoIP server (regardless of whether it's on premise or in the cloud) and add or edit call routes, extensions, users, auto attendant setup, key press options, voice greetings and so on. It's important to keep in mind that not all business VoIP systems will offer this level of unprecedented flexibility and scalability, so make sure you do your homework and ask plenty of questions.
Further to the above, given that VoIP systems are essentially software applications, you can login from anywhere in the world and stay connected as though you were back in the office. Overseas on business? No worries. Use the hotel or airport WiFi to make calls to anyone back home at no charge. Or use the mobile app to send a quick instant message with a file attachment to a colleague or even your whole team, or login to the board's video conference meeting from your smartphone, tablet or laptop and share your screen, or a presentation you've been working on, making onscreen annotations as you go. You can even choose to have voice messages converted into text and emailed to you almost instantly.
VoIP systems offer the same features as traditional systems such as call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID and voice mail, with the addition of a whole raft of other very cool and beneficial features. Some that have not already been but worth a mention are drag and drop call handling (using a PC softphone), multiple location integration, quick and easy emergency management and recovery, and built-in presence (instantly see who's available, who's on a call and who's out of the office). You can even go so far as integrating with a CRM, so when a customer calls in their account will automatically appear on the screen in front of you, meaning you'll know exactly who's calling and you'll have instant access to all of the information you need to successfully handle the call. When you venture into call centre VoIP, the feature sets grow to include things such as real-time metrics, barge, monitor and whisper, and skills-based routing which automatically routes calls based on agent experience and skill sets.
When making a call using a VoIP line you are using bandwidth over your internet connection, and when you start to push the limits of your available bandwidth you will experience delays, poor audio quality including echos and jitters, and potentially failed calls altogether. A standard ADSL2+ connection can provide up to 20Mbps download speed but the upload speed is often less than 1Mbps, and this is where people often get caught out. If you are experiencing issues with your existing system or are considering a move to VoIP, bandwidth availability and stability is a good place to start.
Secondary to bandwidth is internet redundancy as, of course, no internet means no VoIP! So if voice or even video communication is an important part of your business then it's important you operate with a failover in place. This could be in the form of an additional broadband service from a different provider (for example it's highly unlikely that Optus and TPG will go down at the same time), or if you have the right equipment even a 4G wireless dongle might do the trick and get you through until your main ISP is back up and running.
Further, the lack of any QoS (Quality of Service) on a broadband service can have a significant impact on VoIP performance. For instance, you may have sufficient upload bandwidth to support VoIP usage, but without any prioritisation the bandwidth can easily be eaten up by non-essential activity and therefore impact the ability to make or take calls. Short of implementing a dedicated broadband service, introducing a system with QoS into the mix will dedicate a preset minimum bandwidth to VoIP, determined by your unique requirements, to avoid any congestion issues.
Last but not least, in the case of cloud deployment, unreliable hosting and lack of redundancy can be problematic to say the least. There are some smaller providers out there offering cut-price hosted VoIP, where the system is quite literally hosted on a server in their own premises. This doesn't just present security concerns but generally means there is no satisfactory redundancy in place. If they go down, you go down. When researching VoIP providers, if they can't tell you exactly where their hosting sits and what redundancy measures they have in place in the event their main hosting fails, then do yourself a favour and move onto the next one.
"Simply put, we make it easier for businesses to make the move to VoIP with the peace of mind that all aspects have been considered."
At Merge ICT, we're different than most manufacturers or service providers. We have a genuine interest in our customers immediate and long term success, and this can be seen in the well thought out and fully customised solutions that we provide. We already know what works and what doesn't, and have pulled together all of the various different pieces of the puzzle to overcome any potential obstacles and ensure the solutions we provide don't just work, but work well. Having aligned ourselves with a select group of manufacturers and developers, we offer genuine turnkey solutions with absolutely every box checked, including on premise or cloud VoIP systems with handsets and/or softphones, broadband internet, broadband bonding, compression and failover, all-inclusive charge models and no long term contracts. Simply put, we make it easier for businesses to make the move to VoIP with the peace of mind that all aspects have been considered, so you can start leveraging this brilliant technology sooner to reduce costs and boost productivity and efficiency.
If you would like to know more please don't hesitate to get in touch. Whether it's a new solution or just some advice that you're after, we're happy to help.