VoIP, also known as Internet telephony or ‘voice over IP’, is a way of making phone calls without using a traditional analogue phone line. It stands for ‘Voice over Internet Protocol’ and, as the name may suggest, it’s the system of making a phone call over the Internet rather than using a landline or mobile network. This system works by using voice signals and turning them into digital signals, then using your broadband line to send them as data – essentially the same concept of speaking to someone in another location, but via the Internet. So if it’s such a similar idea, just why is VoIP becoming such a big player for business across the world?
There are many benefits of using VoIP. It’s cheaper than normal phone lines once it has been set up, and could even mean that you pay nothing at all when you make a phone call – though this depends on the distance and which country you're calling. In some cases, you can spend hours on a telephone conference for free!
VoIP does more than increase savings by lowering costs though. Here’s why so many businesses are ditching their analogue lines in favour of VoIP:
Access via a smartphone
No longer is it a requirement to be in the office to connect to your phone system. You can receive calls to your business or DDI on your smartphone. You can access the office directory and make and receive calls as if you were in the office via the VoIP system app installed on your mobile.
You can access VoIP via a smartphone through one of two ways. Firstly, you can use an app that allows you to make calls such as Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and many more. This is one of the easiest ways to use VoIP. If the person you are calling has the app and an access to the Internet then it's free and easy to use.
You can also use VoIP on your smartphone from your landline provider. You can make calls that use the minutes from your plan, which is a benefit if you have certain deals such as cheap international calling. Landline providers such as BT and TalkTalk both have popular services.
Improve and upgrade functionality
For as little as £3 per month per user you could replace your existing business phone system and get a new VoIP system. The features of a VoIP system allow you to have voicemail, call waiting, hunt groups, all easily managed via an online portal e.g. Broadcloud.
Access on your computer
Make and receive voice and video calls as if you were in the office from your laptop, iPad, tablet or home PC. A VoIP system exists wherever you work and gives you all of the functions you may need remotely. It is also easy to send and receive faxes too. Calling a landline or mobile will be routed through your office minutes contract.
Your number follows you wherever you go
Now you can get your call routed to your desk, your mobile or the office you choose to work from wherever that may be. Calls are intelligently sent to your available location. Now you don't miss any important calls or return to the office to a ton of voicemails.
Integrate other office systems with your VoIP system
CRM, desktop support, email, all link into your VoIP system so it is much easier to access contacts and respond to the important issues that you are faced with during the working day.
So what will you need to make VoIP work for you? It depends on the method of VoIP that you’re going to use. Firstly you will need a broadband connection, preferably a fibre optic one is best as they are more reliable. You’ll ideally want an unlimited plan so you will be able to have the freedom to talk as long as you want to. To get the best VoIP experience you will need a full FTTP or an Ethernet connection, which are available with some business broadband providers. Search for a business broadband VoIP connection here.
If you want to use a VoIP system you will need to purchase the licenses from a VoIP provider and, if you don’t already have one, a compatible phone. If the phone plugs into an Ethernet network then make sure that your router is compatible too.
To use VoIP with your computer it's probably a good start to have a laptop or desktop computer that is able to connect to the Internet. You will also need a working set of headphones or speakers and a microphone. You may consider getting a headset for the highest quality, but it’s not essential – as long as they can hear you, you’ll be off to a good start. For most providers you will have no option but to keep your landline, as you will need line rental to receive broadband.
VoIP is taking the business world by storm due to the financial savings that it can make against the costs of normal landlines, as well as the higher quality calls that can be made and the consistency of the service when lots of other people in the office are also on the phone. Slow Internet will mean low quality calls, but generally business Internet is improving and if you have fibrotic, you will be fine. In some cases, you will be able to keep your phone number – it depends on the provider if they can swap it over. In some cases, you won't even need a number. The cost also depends on your setup. App to app is mostly free, and those provided by a business will come with a monthly cost.
If businesses keep taking up VoIP plans at such a rapid rate, it’s likely analogue phone lines could soon be a thing of the past. If your business has not yet begun making the switch to VoIP, now is the time to upgrade and make sure you and your business doesn’t get left behind.
Nathan Hill-Haimes, founder, Amvia
Image Credit: Everything Possible / Shutterstock