"VoIP" stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol and means the use of the internet for telephony. It's the basis of many modern phone systems and allows voice calls through well known apps and services.
What is VoIP?
VoIP technology is used in a lot of common places such as Facebook's call function, Skype and Facetime. Using the internet calls can be made securely and at a much cheaper price compared to traditional telephony. You can connect with members of staff, clients and customers across the globe more efficiently.
There are primarily two types of VoIP cloud phones – hardware or software-based. The interface is similar to that of a phone with touch pad and display allowing users to make calls directly from their desktop, using a standard business phone or smartphone.
Type of VoIP systems
Free VoIP Services
There are many free VoIP services that allow you to make free calls using the internet. These services are mainly designed for more casual and individual use via applications such as Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, Skype and Whatsapp. These provide instant messaging tools and allow simple video.
Business VoIP Services
Many business VoIP providers offer a ‘Hosted System’ or cloud-based system meaning that you don’t have to own or install any equipment into your office(s) and there are no engineering visits required. The added benefit of this method is that the systems are always being improved.
How does VoIP compare to traditional telephony?
VoIP phone systems use data packets (audio) transmitted across a network. Unlike the way traditional phone lines work via a local phone provider and over copper-wires.
The most noticeable difference is the scope of features that a VoIP phone system posses. With over 50+ features ranging from call management to voicemail transcription, it's hard for traditional telephony to keep up.
Furthermore, traditional landlines are fixed at one source and in the event of moving office space it's unlikely to keep the same phone number. As VoIP runs on a cloud, numbers can be easily ported without expensive costs to install lines or added maintenance.
VoIP can also be a great addition to your business – in fact, it may become essential, with Openreach planning to switch off their ISDN network by 2025, migrating nearly all UK landlines over to a SIP trunk -based VoIP service.
How are VoIP calls made?
A VoIP phone system works by simply installing an app or hardware cloud phone to your office and all you need is an internet connection.
When making a call, your voice is converted into digital data and sent over your WiFi or 4G connection. With high-speed Fibre broadband now readily available across most of the country, VoIP is fast becoming the most progressive form of business communications. In places with free WiFi hotspots opens up for free calls to be made on the platform.
IP (Internet Protocol) at first glance looks to be normal hardware phones however they are built especially for VoIP. IP phones will connect to your router using an Ethernet connector.
A softphone is a software that loads a VoIP service onto your computer, often with an interface that looks just like a traditional phone. An example of this would be Skype. In order to operate a software phone you’ll need a microphone, speakers (or a UC headset) a sound card and a stable internet connection.
What do small businesses need to run VoIP?
Put simply, in order to get VoIP working for your small business is a fast internet connection along with VoIP software.
The amount of bandwidth that you need depends on how much data your business uses and how many people will be on the phone at the same time. Surprisingly, a VoIP call only uses a fraction of your broadband capacity so you may not even need fibre broadband in order for VoIP to work.
IP phone and software
At its most basic, you’ll need a VoIP phone or a phone with a VoIP adapter and VoIP software. VoIP software can easily be an app on a mobile device, for desktop small businesses may want to access UC headsets and hardware phones for call centre and office use.
Advantages of VoIP
Now you’ve got an idea on how VoIP is and how it works, let’s go through the advantages and disadvantages of incorporating a cloud phone system into your business.
Compared to having broadband bundled with a landline small businesses could see their costs cut in half. Hosted VoIP solutions are also more affordable than on-premise solutions. These systems cover support, maintenance and updates.
If your business would prefer an on-premise solution, the system functions on existing hardware and networks. VoIP will also save your small business on domestic and international call charges. In some locations, WiFi to facilitate calls can be available free of charge.
IP phone systems have multiple channels such as instant messaging, call conferencing and also a service that can transcribe voicemails and transfer into emails. Allowing communications to be unified and maintained in on application.
Expansion and location
VoIP has many features that allow your business to operate from anywhere in the world as long as reliable WiFi is available. Cloud phones aren’t disadvantaged from geographical restrictions allowing small businesses to set up offices abroad at no further cost - all while keeping a UK number.
Backup and security
Most VoIP providers operate on ‘hosted systems' which means that technology, security and software updates are handled externally. With cloud technology, security and software updates are handled by the cloud provider and updated automatically leading to minimal downtime for your business.
Disadvantages of VoIP
While VoIP is popular and a fast-growing option for small businesses, it still has its disadvantages.
A bad connection could mean poor call quality
As previously mentioned, VoIP uses the internet to transmit calls, so a fast and stable connection is needed for it to work to full capacity. If your business is in a rural area call quality may not be the best and could lead to dropped or missed calls.
In the event of a power outage, customers will not be able to reach your business. You can still use your cell phone and cellular data, but it won’t be as reliable.
What to consider when upgrading to an IP phone system
What connectivity do you currently have and is it able to support VoIP?
Above all, your business needs to analyse whether your current internet bandwidth is able to support VoIP. For example, a VoIP phone system has a much better chance of being reliable over a business fibre connection as they can prioritise voice traffic ahead of normal data making them suitable for use with both voice and data simultaneously.
What features do you require for your VoIP system and will your requirements change in the future?
Ahead of time decide which features your small business is interested in and needs to succeed. Your VoIP provider will be best suited to describe each feature to you and tailor an IP Phone solution for you. Next, decide whether your requirements in the future due to expansion etc, this will mean requiring more ‘seats’.
How long would it take to install the phone system and when would your business need it running by?
Normally, VoIP phones don’t require any formal installation by an engineer at the premises. However, due to the shutdown of the landline, there may be a shift in demand.
Overall, make sure you have the correct broadband, features needed and timeline on when to implement your new VoIP system.
As mentioned, switching your business service to VoIP won’t be a choice once SOGEA is rolled out.
The advice we recommend to our phone system clients and anyone else who asks us about VoIP is to ensure that your business is prepared for the end of the landline.Our VoIP phone system specialists are always on hand to answer your questions regarding cloud phones and incorporating this into your business.
Don’t forget to download your educational brochure on switching your traditional landline to a VoIP phone system guide curated by us!