Many people have now heard of voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP, but many still don’t fully understand what it is. For business owners, that lack of knowledge could be expensive. Just as the Internet has expanded options for written communication, it has delivered new ways for people to speak to each other, and the reason why VoIP has been such a big success is that it can save users a small fortune when they want to talk to individuals in other countries. There are start-up costs, but once those are out of the way, the only costs involved with VoIP are for bandwidth and hardware maintenance.
VoIP for business
Considering the advantages outlined above, it will come as no surprise that an increasing number of businesses are setting up VoIP systems. Unlike domestic systems, however, any business that has a substantial number of staff members making frequent VoIP calls will need to have the bandwidth and the electronics infrastructure to sustain this. This should include a router on which VoIP software is given high priority so that sound quality can be preserved.
Since the Internet has made it easier for small businesses to trade internationally, it has become increasingly important to have a business phone system that can handle international communications at an affordable price; VoIP is the obvious solution. Alongside this, it can be useful for keeping staff connected when they’re away from the office, using VoIP-enabled mobile devices.
There are two main ways to set up a VoIP system for a business—either by setting it up for computers only, or by integrating it with existing analog systems. The former is easier and less expensive, and enables staff members to make calls directly from their computers provided they are equipped with adequate microphones and speakers or headphones. The latter method is useful for businesses that already have complex systems and don’t want to have to deal with training everyone to use a new one. In this situation, however, it’s necessary to install a voice gateway and normally only a limited number of analog phones will be able to be connected to it. It is possible to use IP handsets on either type of system.
The amount of new infrastructure needed will determine how much it costs to set up, but businesses should also factor in the cost of good security systems if they intend to use the system for sensitive calls. Secure VoIP is actually less vulnerable to outside access than a traditional telephone system.
Getting staff used to any new system can be a challenge, and the same applies with VoIP. Whatever kind of system is chosen it’s a good idea to take an hour or two out for training before the launch, noting that some people will adapt to it instantly (and may already be using it at home), whereas others will find it much more confusing. It can also be helpful to prepare a simplified guide that staff can turn to if they’re uncertain, so they don’t have to refer all their questions to management or to the head of IT, and so that they’ll be less tempted to try and overlook problems.
As IT goes, VoIP is easy to use, especially if it’s filtered through an analog system that staff are already familiar with. Any new system can encounter problems just after installation so it’s useful to set up a simple way for staff to report problems, and to stress that this is important. In particular, problems with call quality or calls cutting out should be reported straight away, as they could indicate that not enough bandwidth is available for the system. Once identified, this problem is easy to remedy.
In a small business it’s possible to install VoIP directly without any ill effects. In a larger one, however, it’s a good idea to bring in professional help, as VoIP will affect the whole computer system and any potential clashes with other software need to be identified and sorted out quickly. This also means that installation costs will be predictable and money will not be lost due to the process taking longer than expected. Under normal circumstances, it will also be covered by the installation company’s insurance policy.
Professional installation will ensure that everything goes smoothly, and often the same company will offer training for staff. After that initial outlay, communications costs should drop dramatically.