How can you benefit from a VOIP Business Telephone System?
Any business with a concern about efficient and cost-effective solutions for telecommunications has likely been informed that (VoIP) business telephone systems are the best choice in today's Internet-driven society. As best as anyone can tell at first glance, it seems like VoIP services are answering many, if not all, of the primary communication needs companies to require from telephone systems.
However, it doesn't take long to run into conflicting advice. At Ok, we are often asked to clarify confusion about VoIP telephone systems that arise from this. People want to know if VoIP communication solutions are as useful as they claim to be.
The analog voice calls are converted into packets of data, which travel over the public Internet or a private IP network. A private IP network is chosen over public internet connections when stronger security is needed or wanted. This technology can be used to make or receive calls via landlines, cell phones, or from computer to computer. For businesses purposes, a VoIP provider provides fully-fledged VoIP systems that, unlike Skype, do not rely solely on a computer or mobile interface, supporting desk phones and enterprise applications.
VoIP can help a business' bottom-line, mobility, and productivity. Instead of a company having to manage two networks (one phone network and one internet network), they can streamline and save money by only having one. This allows them to easily add, move or change phone extensions and locations. VoIP is also very mobile. Many hosted VoIP providers offer mobile apps that let you use your data connection to make and receive calls at home or on the road.
As part of the name suggests, a VoIP telephone system utilizes Internet Protocol to make calls. Instead of using telephone lines, all communication data is turned into packets and sent over the IP network. The IP network your business uses could be your Internet connection, a direct IP connection to your telephone service provider or a combination of both. The important part of the IP connection is that there is a guaranteed quality of service (QoS) from your telephone service provider's network to your office network. Note that if you are using the Internet to connect to your telephone service provider, QoS is not possible.
Placing calls over traditional phone lines means that a line is taken up by the two callers using it to communicate. Since there are only so many lines that can be installed, calls placed over landlines, especially if they are long-distance, are expensive. But using the Internet to relay call data circumvents this problem, making domestic and long-distance calls cheaper overall.
In fact, businesses that use VoIP are often given the ability to make domestic and domestic long distance calls for free.
If your business is on-the-go, VoIP services can be a tremendous benefit to you because they will follow you wherever you go.
On a traditional phone system, a line that runs to a home or business is assigned its own phone number. Any movement that takes place then becomes a trial of remembering the right codes or keys to dial on your phone. A lot of time can then be wasted by contacting phone companies to transfer services and phone numbers to new locations.
With a VoIP phone system, all of this is eliminated. There are no physical limitations. You have the freedom to move as your business demands without any added stress.
Versatility of Features
Using VoIP phone systems allows you to multi-task with the most tech-savvy devices, allowing you to be the most productive you can be.
Suppose you are on a call within a queue. While you are waiting, you can strategize your approach to client calls you have missed as you read voicemail-to-text transcriptions that are sent directly to your email inbox.
In another case, you can forward messages and voicemail easily. If you receive an important message in a voicemail, you can forward that voicemail to three other people at the click of a mouse.
These features and many more useful ones are available with VoIP phone systems. And because the service always goes with you, the features you find helpful can be added or subtracted with ease. In short, VoIP telephone systems grow with your business.
Simple Conference Calls
The features just mentioned are not all that's made easy by VoIP. Since all calls use a converged data network instead of dedicated phone lines, creating and participating in conference calls are made much easier.
It's possible to take part in conference calls if your business uses a traditional phone system, but what you will find is that you will have to pay for an additional service to host multiple callers for a conference. These services are native to many VoIP phone systems. Instead of paying for something extra, you can take advantage of the ability to make conference calls as an added benefit to the service you already pay for.
Not only that, but VoIP services make video conferences much easier as well. Of course, these sorts of conferences are usually special cases, but face-to-face interaction with colleagues and clients, while business personnel are out of the office, is much more manageable with VoIP phone systems.
Efficient Client Interaction
In today's global economy, businesses can be located anywhere. This often means that meetings require travel. Even so, with a VoIP service, there is no reason to lose the ability to conduct important calls or to fail to forward essential documents.
With a VoIP phone system, you can choose where your calls ring and how. For instance, you might select the first few rings to be forwarded to your office. If you don't answer the call, it will then be transmitted to a second or third device, say, mobile phone or laptop. Quite simply, calls don't need to be missed anymore if they are urgent.
Important documents that need to be forwarded no longer have to wait either. Using VoIP, business associates can e-fax their documents instead of waiting a day (or several) to get to a fax machine.
Reliable in a Pinch
A common worry that surfaces about VoIP is the fact that if the Internet stops working, so does the ability to make calls. This doesn't have to occur under the right circumstances. The truth is that call-forwarding, like other features in VoIP phone systems, is incredibly flexible.
The capability to choose where your calls are forwarded, and how, means that you also don't have to lose productivity because of local power outages or weather-related events. If the office phone can't be answered, your mobile device or laptop can.
How companies can benefit from small business VoIP service
Business VoIP systems are clearly becoming the go-to communications solution for smaller companies.
Choosing the best VoIP for small business can go a long way towards making your enterprise more competitive in an economy where every company, big or small, needs every edge it can get. Ok uses the latest in cloud technology to provide subscribers with a powerful phone solution that not only addresses your office communication needs, but also gives you advantages over your competition.
What used to be an alternative to expensive on-premise phone systems is now the go-to communications suite of organizations of all sizes. It doesn't matter if they're running a fledgling company with a handful of employees or an established corporate enterprise with its own call centre.
Upgrading to Business-Class VoIP
The products and services in this review roundup are focused on business use, and because of this either provide some PBX features or serve as full-on virtual PBXes. This may mean, among other things, that they provide service to telephone sets on your employees' desks. Most also support electronic faxing in some fashion, either directly (which can be a significant challenge for some VoIP services) or by simply integrating incoming fax with your email system. Other popular features are video conferencing and shared meeting software (so meeting attendees not only hear each other but can present presentations or documents in a shared workspace).
Some form of call centre capability is often available, though many times either as a different product version or simply a higher pricing tier, so be careful before you assume you'll be getting those features. These capabilities are meant to support large sales or service desk staff and their need to route and process a relatively large number of incoming customer or user calls. That means complex menu trees, an auto-attendant for routing, and service queues. You'll probably find you need interactive voice response (IVR) capabilities, and that should be backed up by support for a live operator or some other type of human intervention.
On the higher end of this space, hosted PBX providers will generally offer (sometimes even require) on-premises handset hardware, like a desk or cordless VoIP phones that get sent to you pre-configured to work with their service. Plug the phones in, make sure they see an internet connection, and after some self-configuration time, your VoIP service goes live auto-magically.
That situation is for fairly pristine network and business conditions, however. Companies with legacy equipment or unique business needs may need a hybrid PBX, in which a portion of the voice network remains in the analog world, while the rest is converted to cloud-based VoIP. This could happen if you occupy an older building without the necessary Ethernet infrastructure to support VoIP or if you had custom software built a long time ago that simply isn't compatible with newer phone technologies.
For SMBs, the most commonly important features you should be considering include:
- Interactive capabilities
- Call queuing
- Extension assignments,
- Call recording
- Voicemail to email transcription
One of the most exciting and clear differences between a cloud PBX provider and a standard telephone system is software. Your IT staff will find a host of new software tools to help monitor and manage the system. But what catches most business operators' eyes are two key capabilities that software provides: back-end integration and softphones. The latter is exactly what the name implies, a phone that's rendered entirely in software allowing any compatible device to become a phone as long as it has an internet connection, a speaker, and a microphone.
Back-end integration with custom and third-party apps, like CRM systems, also open a whole new world for your calling data because now it can extend the phone system beyond just basic voice communication. Such integrations allows users to transfer calls to and from their mobile phone, place and receive calls from their personal phone (that appear to be coming from the business), and interact with colleagues and customers via voice and text -- all from a variety of devices. But it also allows recording and analysis of call data to measure things like customer satisfaction, understand your sales audience at a new level, and even handle customer requests and problems automatically without the customer ever being aware they never spoke to a human.
With integration being at the heart of VoIP and UCaaS, you can't make a purchasing decision here without thinking about the future. On one side, think about what you'll need in 1-5 years. On the other side, consider each vendor carefully to see what they've done over the last half decade in terms of product development and keeping up with VoIP and UCaaS trends.
It's also critical that you consider the impact of mergers and acquisitions on your phone system, both from your own organization's perspective as well as your VoIP provider. Because VoIP systems turn calls into data, the whole process isn't as plug-and-play standards-based as the old-fashioned analog phone system might have been. Should your company merge with or purchase another, VoIP compatibility will become another significant IT issue.
On the phone providers' side, since this review roundup was first published, some of the products listed here now belong to other companies and some have merged into new products. If you're planning to depend on your phone system over the course of the next decade, then you should consider a vendor that's stable enough to still be around when it's time to upgrade.