Business VoIP Info
What is Business VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol, also called VoIP, has been a major improvement to telephone services in the 21st century. The number of people who use common VoIP applications such as Skype, WhatsApp, or Discord continues to grow because these apps allow people to call one another over long distances for the cost of an Internet connection and a device equipped with microphone and speakers. People all over the world can talk to each other without having to pay expensive phone bills or call in the middle of the night to avoid peak time charges. Calls are more crisp and clear because they are transmitted as data throughput rather than carried peer-to-peer.
Imagine what this can do for your business.
Business VoIP offers solutions that combine telephone service with a company’s broadband service, resulting in calls made over the Internet using a fraction of the resources absorbed by a regular phone call. Since businesses have diverse needs, business VoIP offers more options than personal apps. When all a business’s communications are handled in one place, it cuts costs on both the service and the equipment to use it. Business VoIP can be managed more easily than traditional “plain old telephone systems” because the system is online, making it easy to assign or add extensions, handle multiple simultaneous phone calls or set up local phone numbers where you do business, no matter where in the world your customers are.
What Can Business VoIP Solutions Do?
The most convenient aspect of business VoIP is the cost. Since VoIP is online, using it only requires broadband service instead of traditional telephone service. That means businesses only pay one bill for all their communications needs, and everything can be handled in one place.
Since all communications can be accessed from online, VoIP also offers the following benefits:
- You can add or remove as many phone lines as your company needs whenever you have to because you are not limited by the number of telephone ports you have.
- You can access it from anywhere. Even if you are on a business trip to another country, all you have to do to call your home office is access your high-speed Internet and make your call for little or no cost.
- Voice quality is clear and distinct because there are no peer-to-peer interruptions in the connection.
- You can use any phone or device, as long as it has an analog adapter. Most VoIP systems have their own adapters, so you only need to have a phone.
- Business VoIP offers more of the features that businesses need, such as conference calling, automated attendants, music on hold, Find Me/Follow Me, office directories, and more.
- Business VoIP is multi-functional, meaning you can use the phone, have a video conference, share files, send instant messages and keep up with email all at once.
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All of these activities require more bandwidth than most residential services use, as well as reliable service to insure workflow. The fast pace of business demands a faster pace of Internet use, making business Internet a great investment for any business.
Differences Between Analog and VoIP
To make a “plain old telephone service” phone call, the service provider establishes a connection between callers. Each call used to take a dedicated wire, and the wires went from point to point before reaching the other side of the call. The connection was open both ways as well, so the signal was always travelling in both directions at once, no matter who was talking. The farther the distance the signal had to travel, the more relay points it would have to go through, breaking up the transmission and taking up a lot of resources.
VoIP turns telephone calls into data, like an email or a Web page, then compresses it further so that the actual transmission is smaller. Voice calls are more efficient because the transmission only comes from the line that is speaking and since there is less traffic and fewer relays, more calls can be made at once with clearer sound and more reliability. All of this combines to produce savings to businesses by reducing costs while maximizing telecommunications.
For large-scale “enterprise” businesses, this has become an industry standard, since VoIP can be maintained by an IT department. However, small- and medium-sized businesses can have all of the benefits of VoIP without having an IT department by getting cloud-based or hosted VoIP. A business does not have to have hundreds of employees and billions in investments to display the professionalism of a large-scale enterprise.
Why is VoIP Better for Businesses?
Business VoIP includes features designed for inter-office communication, conference calling, heavy volume, directories, and other business needs. It is cost effective because it allows businesses to conduct their telephony with the same resources used for email and other applications. VoIP eliminates peer-to-peer landline circuits because it uses broadband to bypass them completely.
Some businesses manage their own PBX (a type of routing equipment for both analog and VoIP services that can be replaced with a cloud). Business VoIP is usually a virtual PBX while cloud phone systems are hosted PBX on a cloud. What is the distinction? PBX stands for private branch exchange, which is the in-house router that connects extensions to one another, transfers calls from outside to the right extension, and connects the whole system to the PSTN (publicly-switched telephone network, the outside lines and relays).
Cloud-based PBX means it is virtual server space rather than an actual piece of equipment. Usually that means someone else manages the cloud, which is great for smaller businesses that don’t have in-house IT. Hosted VoIP differs slightly in that the PBX is for one business only while cloud is shared. Virtual servers also indicate that the system uses a softswitch to transfer calls, relying on a session Internet protocol (SIP) trunk to translate between analog and digital signals. A softswitch is a software program that handles the connection virtually, rather than relying on the PTSN to do it.
An option that is becoming increasingly popular with businesses of all sizes is UCaaS, which stands for Unified Communications as a Software. UCaaS converts all communications into the same format and thus uses a single system to both send and receive all communications. UCaaS services are cloud-based and generally include VoIP, but also email, video, and instant messaging.
This is especially important to businesses that frequently use:
- Video Conferencing
- Screen Sharing both for meetings and to help clients.
- File Sharing
- Mobile Devices, either personal or company.
- Business Continuity & Disaster Management in case of emergencies.
- Secure Communications
- Response to Communications using multiple methods, from phone to text to chat.
- Integration with third-party apps such as Salesforce, Twitter, or Microsoft Office.
Switching to UCaaS is as good idea but doesn’t have to be done all at once, giving businesses the time to evaluate their needs while taking advantage of the benefits of VoIP. Since VoIP and UCaaS offer flexible options, growing businesses can expand their services as they expand their operations.
How to Set Up and Use VoIP
While VoIP must be used with other utilities and requires a little special equipment, it is very easy to set up. The most important thing a business needs to get ready for VoIP telephony is a broadband Internet connection; the faster the connection, the more calls a company can handle. Many business broadband packages include telephone service and may drop or charge more for broadband if you don’t keep at least one line open with them, so keep this in mind when dealing with your broadband company. A secure electric line is also a good idea since the Internet requires electricity to use. Battery backup can help ensure that business can continue when the power is out, especially if your company opts for its own PBX.
The only other thing a company needs is equipment. Some VoIP providers require clients to use their phones, while others simply provide an adapter than can be attached to a standard phone or a small PBX that all phones get routed through. Cloud-based providers can convert the analog calls into data themselves through hosted VoIP or UCaaS, which means the only thing a business needs is a SIP trunk. Soft phones are applications on a computer that only require a headset and microphone.
VoIP is plug-and-play; chances are you have a VoIP app on your smartphone. Business VoIP can be used right away, requiring minimal configuration that is simple and adaptable to your company’s changing needs. One of the benefits of VoIP phones is that since they are connected to the Internet, they can be configured remotely and most of the files required to keep each phone updated can be done from one central location rather than going to each phone. In addition to customer support from VoIP providers, there are a lot of in-depth tutorials online that small and medium businesses can turn to in order to learn the basics.
Security and Reliability
VoIP is as secure and reliable as any Internet connection.
Good service providers have disaster protocols in place to provide safeguards against outages or to minimize them if service becomes interrupted for any reason. Ask questions about their services and how they implement them when shopping for broadband service for your business. Also keep in mind how much broadband you will need to ensure the flow of data. Not having enough bandwidth can cause jitters – loss of call clarity due to the loss of data packets – and even cause calls to drop. Each line uses bandwidth, so be sure your plan provides enough.
VoIP has two levels of security –inherent features and the activity of the user and provider. Inherent to the way VoIP is set up, the packets of data that flow from end to end are only available at the endpoints of the call. To listen in on PSTN lines, a hacker only needed a piece of equipment to tap the line with. Now, since communications are transmitted by data stream, it is much more difficult to eavesdrop. Voice data looks like all the other data, so it is difficult to pick it out of the rest of the data flowing through. It is also buried in many layers of code that must be decrypted before the conversation can be heard. This has become so effective that law enforcement agencies have had legal concerns regarding the prevention, by use of VoIP, of court-ordered phone taps.
For business owners, securing most VoIP systems is just like securing any of a company’s sensitive data. Firewalls and virus protection are a good start, as are a variety of company policies for employees, such as periodic password changes and limits on archiving of old emails and other correspondence. Encrypted data is a very effective way to keep correspondence private, and many companies that use VoIP have devices that do the encryption in-house. Keeping equipment firmware up-to-date is a must, as companies often release firmware patches to repair vulnerabilities found by hackers. Device security includes phones, servers, infrastructure, and any devices that use the VoIP network.
It is also important to ensure your service provider is compliant with any regulations or laws that involves certain types of data. Medical records are subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which guarantees patient privacy. Financial institutions also must maintain the privacy of their customers’ accounts. For VoIP businesses, this means ensuring that the Internet provider is also compliant with these regulations before purchasing service. It also means that businesses that must comply with these regulations can’t use some of the features common to VoIP, such as voicemail transcription, because they are non-compliant. It is incumbent on each individual company to comply with privacy regulations.
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