Small businesses to benefit from internet based telephone technology
21st June 2010
Businesses, large and small, continue to take a cost conscious attitude to purchases watching out for new ways to save money and increase productivity wherever possible. With the Federation of Small Businesses urging the new government to introduce minimum broadband download speeds to aid the growth of smaller businesses in rural areas, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems, look set to become an ever increasingly popular and affordable option.
Managing Director of Aberdeen based IT Hotdesk, Gordon Christie, discusses the pros and cons to VoIP, which use the internet to make telephone calls, and offers advice on what must be considered before taking the plunge.
"Although VoIP technology has actually been around for several years, it has only recently started to grow in popularity as it has become more affordable. It offers many advantages to both large and small businesses, and with many companies concerned about spiralling phone bills the main benefit is cheaper phone calls & ease of scalability. Traditional phone systems are costly to install and support. With VoIP, installation is straight forward and support calls are much lower, in addition add-on's like Music on Hold, Voice Mail & Interactive Voice Prompts are all available within the one system. Someone who's paying £1000 per month for calls at the moment could actually be paying more like £200 by using this technology.
"When you consider that the average employee spends hundreds of hours a year on the telephone, it's easy to see why VoIP is attracting a lot of attention. If you currently use a cheap, long-distance and international telephone service then you're probably using IP telephony already without knowing it.
The cost of high speed internet access (such as broadband) is becoming more competitive meaning that VoIP is now within reach of small businesses. VoiP systems with feature rich built in technology such as conferencing & presence (where collegues & partners can visually see your status) are now available to the small business sector.
Gordon continues, "VoIP can play a key role in increasing staff productivity and enhancing customer service with its ability to integrate call handling with data networks. Basically, it means you can adopt call centre style technology. It allows you to add telephones and increase call capacity without running additional cabling. It can trigger onscreen pop ups with customer details as well as allowing a function to add a 'click to call' straight from computer applications.
"But it doesn't stop there. Other key benefits include
Simpler infrastructure - With VoIP on your computer network
Scalability - Traditional Private Branch Exchange phone systems have a set number of ports for telephones to plug in to. VoIP systems provide greater flexibility as you can run a unlimited amount of users.
Reduce operating costs - Because VoIP is easier to manage and maintain
Wireless-compatible - With a wireless LAN in place, mobile devices like PDAs and smartphones can use your VoIP system
Dependable call management - Voice-related services, such as follow me roaming, caller-ID, call forwarding and broadcast messaging, become simpler to maintain and can be updated as needed by your employees
Flexibility - Remote offices or working from home is easier since you just take you phone with you or plug into any internet connection and your up and running. Green-field sites can be up and running in minutes not weeks.
As with all technology, you need to consider who you are partnering with to deliver your VoIP solution. Gordon explains, "Reliability of broadband and your network requires careful analysis. You need to look at the robustness of your core network , as the loss of your telephone service could be catastrophic. Simple solutions can be implemented to allow VoIP failover in the event of broadband or power outages. But your partner should identify the requirements during a survey.
"Security could also be an issue. While an attack on the voice network may be unlikely it could be crippling. Because voice is transmitted as data, it is more vulnerable than a traditional telephone system, whether it is exposure to malicious attacks, computer viruses or hackers of your network attempting to make free calls."
"However, securing voice networks is a straightforward process. Firewalls, encryption and password protection can all be used, and should be embedded from the start in your strategy and planning. In short, you need to make your VoIP system at least as secure as the rest of your network."
"Before investing in VoIP an analysis should be undertaken to compare the benefits to be gained against the cost of the upgrade. Look at how much money can be saved on calls, line rentals and in operating costs as well as the increase in productivity that can be achieved."
Gordon concludes, "VoIP has lots of advantages over a regular phone service, but like most emerging technology, there are still a few kinks in the system. As standards are further developed VoIP is fast becoming more reliable and affordable, and therefore it is inevitable that it will eventually replace the traditional phone service."
For further information contact:
t: +44 (0)1224 511611
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