Guide to Small Business VoIP Phone Systems
Why Trading Your Landline for VoIP Can Save Your Small Business Money, and Give You New Mobile Options, Too.
You’ve been thinking about switching your phone service over to a small business VoIP system (Voice over Internet Protocol), because of the savings potential for your company. However, scrapping your reliable landline system can feel like a big leap. The good news is, for most companies, the switch to VoIP can save their business as much as 20 to 60 percent a year on phone expenses, making the switch well worth the effort.
VoIP isn’t just for your forgotten home line anymore. Today’s VoIP systems are powerful and sophisticated enough to offer businesses reliable hosted phone systems that can even carry over to your employee’s mobile devices. Best of all, it can save your business 20 to 60 percent over traditional landline solutions.
Let’s get started with some information you need to know…
VoIP is different from landline services in one crucial way. Rather than using phone lines, service is hosted and delivered over your internet service line, via a T1, PRI or DSL circuit. Because of this, most people who use VoIP don’t need to have new internet lines run to their business. They can simply take advantage of the broadband internet service they are already using, running their phone call traffic over existing internet.
How does hosted service compare to traditional?
|-Uses a phone line
-Voicemail to email
-Voicemail to fax
-Must buy the phone system
-Responsible for system maintenance and upgrades
-Pay for the phone line and phone system separately
-Must call provider to set up new voicemail boxes or extension changes
|-Uses your Internet connection (Cable, T1, etc)
-Voicemail to email
-Voicemail to fax
-Lease phone system on a month to month basis
-Upgrades and maintenance handled by hosted phone company
-Bundled payment for service and system
-Uses an Internet portal that puts you in control
Changing your system, however, is not as simple as flipping a switch. Here are some things you need to know before you begin a switchover to VoIP:
There are hosted and self-hosted networks, depending on your needs. For the small business a “hosted” network means that your VoIP provider handles all the all the heavy lifting offsite, routing your calls to your phones and software clients with ease. Larger businesses with more complex connections and needs might want to consider a self-hosted system. Self-hosted systems need their own networking devices such as an IP-based private branch exchange (a VoIP version of the PBX phone systems that many offices use for their landlines), as well as a PSTN gateway that sits between your phones and the public switched telephone network, converting analog calls coming in to digital signals when needed.
You will need to replace your phones. Because VoIP systems run on digital signals, and your old landline service runs on analog signals, you will probably need to replace your phone hardware. Most VoIP systems run on SIP enabled phones. The good news is you may not be required to actually purchase your equipment. Instead, you can elect to lease your phone system. The advantages here are obvious – a low monthly fee instead of a large up front investment. Additionally, whenever there is a necessary system upgrade, your phones are replaced and upgraded, with no changes to your monthly rental agreement. And, when the numbers of your employees or extensions are increased or decreased, you can scale your operation accordingly.
Your service will only be as good as your internet connection. This is where VoIP systems can get tricky. Anyone who has ever experienced a busy family home where everyone is connected at once will know that your internet speed can slow significantly at peak demand times. If you don’t scale your internet service accordingly, this could happen to your phone connections, too, under VoIP, creating garbling, cracking or dropped connections. Keep in mind that when you talk on the phone using your internet service, you are using approximately 64 KB a second. Multiply this by the number of phone extensions you will need, and this gives you a pretty good idea of where your Internet connectivity needs to be. Generally, most-high speed broadband providers are up to the task, provided you have at least a G.711 line. But it should be the first conversation you have when you are planning any VoIP service for your company.
VoIP systems are cheaper and have less equipment to buy. Digital systems, in general, are easier to handle and route than analog ones. Because most of the connectivity happens through outside providers, short of a few routing items, there is not a lot of equipment to purchase. And the equipment you do purchase is far cheaper, especially for those using a hosted service.
The price of your system varies depending on the number of lines you have. Most VoIP providers charge anywhere from $15 a line to $40 a line for your service, depending on your call volume, the number of options you need, and the number of lines you have.
Digital systems offer cheaper in-network calls between offices and cities. One of the great features about VoIP is that you can make calls between offices–even if those offices are across the country– all for free. In essence, a call to the office down the hall costs the same as a call across the nation, because it is all on the same IP network. This can be the source of significant savings for businesses.
Your VoIP network can be transferred easily. Most employers these days have a “bring your own device” policy allowing employees to use their own mobile phones and tablets. VoIP systems work very well in these settings. Employees can have their VoIP-enabled work extension on their desk connected to their own smartphones using a special app. The app then receives calls that employees have forwarded to their cell phones or tablets, making the calls they receive “in network.” This results in a much lower cost for the call.
Companies with foreign offices may need special consideration. While companies working in the US and most major western countries enjoy the benefits of high-speed broadband access to the internet, not every country is so lucky. If you have offices overseas in countries that often have unreliable internet connections, then you may want to consider either investing in a boosted data presence in those countries, or remaining with landline connections.
VoIP systems, being digital, can offer more advanced features at no extra cost. While every landline system will offer the basic functions, VoIP services can offer more. For instance, most VoIP systems can offer voice mail forwarding to mobile devices, virtual receptionists, customizable call screening and forwarding rules, and a lot more. These systems are the wave of the future, because they can offer businesses superior services at a steeply discounted rate. Is your business ready to take the plunge?
If you would like to install a VoIP service for your business, our on-site service consultants and technicians can put together an estimate that will help your business consider the VoIP options that make sense, including equipment specs, monthly costs and setup investments.