What is VoIP?
VoIP is short for voice over internet protocol. The name refers to voice traveling through the protocol of the internet. This modern technology has evolved so much that you don’t necessarily have to rely on telephones to use VoIP anymore. The smartphone in your pocket makes a call using your internet connection through one of the many applications, e.g., Skype, WhatsApp, IMO, etc. This means you don’t necessarily need a “telephone" to make calls over the internet. Additionally, you can make the same calls on your personal computer using just your internet connection. VoIP is sometimes referred to as the most successful technological advancement made in the past ten years. It is preferred by people over conventional telephone systems because of reduced costs and many of the additional features that it comes with.
How Does VoIP Work?
When you use VoIP applications and hardware components (even though you can simply bypass the hardware part of it), your voice gets turned into digital data packets with the use of codecs. After the conversion of your voice into data packets has taken place, these data packets travel over internet lines. At the end of their journey, the data packets are brought back into their analog form with the use of VoIP telephones, smartphones, and VoIP applications. Even browsers can act as the endpoints of VoIP communications when they are WebRTC-enabled.
Can I Use Traditional Phones to Make VoIP Calls?
Yes. However, you have to use ATAs to make that possible. ATA is the acronym for analog telephone adapter. The main function of this adapter is to convert the analog signals into digital packets. Once you have this adapter, the rest of the process is the same, i.e., digital packets over internet get converted to analog at the other end.
VoIP calls can take many different embodiments because the technology has not been adopted by everyone. There are still people who rely on their old telephones and the PSTN technology. A VoIP call can have varying rates depending on the nature of the call, e.g., VoIP to VoIP or VoIP to a traditional phone.
When you make calls from VoIP to VoIP, you don’t have to pay any extra money to your VoIP service provider. The monthly payment you make to your service provider for your internet connection includes as many calls you can make to other VoIP phones as possible. However, you will be charged additional money if you try to make the same VoIP call to a landline telephone connected to the same PSTN (public switched telephone network). This is because such a call has to travel on the PSTN circuit for certain duration and that PSTN service provider has fees associated with that service.
Compare VoIP Phones to Traditional Telephones
Traditional telephony is all about analog signals travelling over copper wires whereas VoIP relies on digital signals traveling across the internet. Physical networks are necessary to make traditional phones work and installation of hubs, switch stations, wires, etc. which makes them expensive. When comparing VoIP Phones to Traditional Telephones, the main factors you need to consider are:
With the improvement that had been taking place for several decades, traditional landlines were also able to offer some great features toward the end of their obsolescence (considering that the technology is obsolete today). For example, you could take advantage of call diverting, voice mail; call blocking and caller ID services. You could make national as well as international calls, albeit they were quite expensive.
The great thing about VoIP is that it offers all the features stated above plus some more. Since VoIP is the voice over IP, one can take advantage of internet technology in innumerable ways. Not only are you able to take advantage of the voicemail feature but you can listen to it on your computer or smart phone. Furthermore, you can call people in any part of the world without requiring a phone setup—your computer and internet connection are enough. Video conferencing is another feature that gives VoIP the upper hand over traditional telephones.
VoIP Call and Sound Quality
Call quality is quite similar on both landlines and VoIP phones. They can both experience interruptions. Crackling can occur with VoIP, but you can avoid these problems by subscribing to reliable and reputable services and purchasing quality VoIP supplies.
In this particular area, VoIP takes the cake. Even though landline services providers have done their best to bring down the costs of traditional landline services, the overall costs in the long run, are still much higher than VoIP, especially when considering international calls and weighing in value based on features. On average, integrating VoIP technology lets businesses save from 50% to 70% in costs. Not to mention, installation of multiple landline phones in an office requires several wires to pass through walls. This hassle combined with the unsightly wires coming out of phone closets can make landline phones a lot of hassle and also costly due to maintenance requirements.
Of course, the biggest difference between the two is of technology. At the consumer end, an IP phone and traditional phone work the same way. You pick up a receiver, hear a person on the other side, speak in the mouthpiece and a conversation proceeds. However, if you have an internet connection but you want a landline phone in your office, you will have to go through the installation of copper wires and various other components. On the other hand, if you buy a VoIP phone, you can plug your internet cable in it and start using it to make and receive calls.
- As mentioned earlier, the internet data packets can travel on various lines at the same time. Contrasting to that is the traditional phone where when you are talking to someone, a copper wire (a line) is dedicated to you and can’t be used by anyone else during that time.
Benefits of VoIP
VoIP is the new technology, and it has taken over the traditional telephone system to a great degree. This reason should be enough to switch to IP phones because you know most of the people you talk to use the internet. Having a landline as well as an internet connection to talk to the same people is redundant. Here are some of the main reasons for using VoIP technology for communication today.
VoIP Cost Savings
The main reason for using VoIP is cost saving. You can save tons of money by switching to this technology for either residential or commercial use. The biggest problem with traditional phones is that the more time you spend talking to someone on the phone the more you pay. Contrary to that, you don’t pay for how much time you spend on the line when you are on VoIP. In most cases, your monthly bill covers everything for you.
When you compare the costs of using these technologies, you save more than 90% for making international calls on VoIP phones. The savings on local calls can be easily over 40% for using VoIP technology.
The flexibility of options with VoIP technology beats traditional telephones any day. The only way you can talk using a PSTN system is by having an orthodox telephone unit. This is not the case when you use VoIP. Once you are connected to the internet, you have a variety of ways to talk to someone on the other side of the world. You can use an IP phone, which looks like a traditional phone, or you could use your smartphone, tablet or personal computer to make the call. This flexibility is associated not only with making calls but other areas as well.
- For example, you can receive voicemails on your emails and respond to them right from there. In fact, by using small adapters, you can convert your traditional phones into VoIP phones as well.
As time passed in to the digital era, traditional PSTN technology evolved and introduced a lot of features too. When landlines started becoming obsolete, you were able to put calls on wait and see the phone number of the caller before picking up their phone i.e. caller ID. However, these features cannot compete with what VoIP phones today have to offer.
- VoIP phones enable you to do voicemail with a twist. For example, you can now see a transcript of the voicemail right on the screen of your IP phone. People can still send voicemails to people who have hearing complications or hearing-impaired, and rest assured they will understand the message by reading it on the screen.
- VoIP technology allows you to have multiple people over the phone at the same time and send faxes without any charges. What makes it even more advanced is that you can now manage your phone settings remotely. You can even set calls to be distributed to multiple phones at the same time—a perfect feature for large offices with many employees.
VoIP and Remote Working
With the VoIP technology, you don’t necessarily need your employees to be available at their desks at all times. Once connected to the network, they can stay at home or be travelling while still connected to their office phone number. This allows them to answer calls for customers and clients even when they are out of the the office. The best thing is that your employees can answer those calls right from their own smartphones. As a business owner, this helps you save a lot of money because your office overhead costs are brought down significantly.
Many of the productivity aspects of using VoIP technology might seem small, but when you add them up over a long period of time the benefits can be huge. In the past, employees had to stop doing their work in order to pick up a call. Today, they can answer a call from their smartphone or even their personal computer. Call parking is another unique feature that VoIP has made easy. With the call parking feature, you can put a call on hold at your office phone and pick up the same call from the phone in your store room for example. Again, these gains might seem small, but such tiny productivity spikes add up at the end of the day.
For anything connected to the internet, security is an important concern. Internet connects the world which poses threats to people and businesses regarding their data, privacy, confidentiality, and money. VoIP was not created to compete with traditional telephone lines or just to be a bit better than it. It is a revolutionary technology and more importantly a ubiquitous technology making it all the more necessary for it to be fully safe for its users. There are many ways in which you can protect your VoIP phones. Here are some important ones:
Choose Your VoIP Provider Wisely
It is first the responsibility of your VoIP provider to have security measures in place before you make the efforts from your side. The first thing you want to ask them is encryption. Encryption of your voice data means that your data will be converted in such a format that it will appear gibberish to anyone who tries to access your data. ID spoofing and call hijacking can be easily kept at bay by having your data encrypted.
Secure Your VoIP Phones and Wi-Fi with Strong Passwords
There is no doubt that memorizing all the passwords in today’s digital world is nearly impossible. You can remember three or four passwords, but if you are an active internet user, you might have more than a dozen passwords to remember. However, it does not mean that you should start allocating the same or simple passwords to every account. When it comes to your VoIP phones and Wi-Fi, you should protect them using strong passwords. Make your passwords a combination of letters, numbers and special characters.
Use In-built Security Features of Your VoIP Phone
Your VoIP phones come equipped with several features that allow you to make them safe. When it comes to businesses using VoIP, these features can play a significant role. First, always use the login password and ID feature on the phone. Furthermore, create only limited accounts and allow them access. You can allow certain calls and disallow others. You can also decide the time during which all calls are blocked or diverted. Know these features well before you purchase a VoIP phone.
Install Only Authorized VoIP Applications
Use only the applications that your VoIP provider has asked you to install. Do not try to go for third party software as they can do more harm than good. Furthermore, update your application as soon as you receive update notifications for them. You have to keep in mind that non-updated and unpatched versions of software act like open windows for cybercriminals to invade.
Look for Deep Packet Inspection Feature
Deep packet inspection goes many steps ahead of shallow packet inspection. Before the packets come to you through the internet, they pass through deep packet inspection where filtration of any malware and harmful packets takes place.
Have Strict Policies for Those Who Access VoIP
This one is significant for businesses that have integrated VoIP solutions within their operations. Sometimes, businesses take all the measures to protect their VoIP systems and are quite successful with their efforts. However, while doing this, they forget a very serious security threat—employees' devices. These are the independent devices that belong to your employees, and they could be carrying malware and viruses in them. If any of your employees' devices connect to your network, make sure you have told them to have proper safety features on their phones, so your system does not get infected.
Use Call Forwarding Wisely
To understand this thing you need to familiarize yourself with toll fraud. Toll fraud is also known as VoIP fraud. A hacker committing this type of fraud will gain access to your phones and then make calls from it without you knowing about it. It is therefore highly recommended that you check your call forwarding rules and their applications regularly. You want to make sure that your calls are being forwarded to the right people. In addition to this, you should also check your call logs properly and regularly. By checking call logs, you will know that no unauthorized calls are being made from the phone.
Use a VoIP Specific Firewall
When you have a VoIP-specific firewall installed, you will not have to go through your call logs to look for anomalies. In fact, this firewall will automatically detect any anomalies and inform you about them. T is always best that you let the professional installers take care of these things rather than relying on your skills.
How to Integrate VoIP in Business
As mentioned earlier, VoIP phones have a long list of features that traditional phones don’t have. This makes VoIP phones the perfect investment for businesses. More and more businesses are fast shifting to VoIP solutions for their communications today. For your VoIP system to work perfectly, you need to have the right equipment. We will go into the details of how to choose your VoIP phones and accessories, but first, take a look at how VoIP can be integrated into your business to gain unimaginable benefits.
Connect VoIP to a CRM
A great number of businesses that use CRM have their customer relationship management systems connected with their VoIP systems. When both systems are connected to each other, information from the VoIP system is available readily into the CRM for customer service representatives to look at. By looking at past call records, CSRs of your customer service and sales teams are better able to serve the customers. Availability of such data allows for stronger customers relations and loyalty.
VoIP and Project Management
Google defines communication as the most important aspect of making any project successful. In fact, all the large organizations today believe in the power of effective communication to make projects successful. However, when new people are made part of the project in the middle, the progress can come to a stop because the new member has to be explained everything. However, with the use of VoIP technology, all your voice communications can be recorded for the newcomer to listen to and grasp what the project is all about.
VoIP Email Client Compatibility
You can connect your internal emailing system with VoIP to make the most of both the technologies. For example, Microsoft Outlook can be connected with VoIP allowing you to create a database of your contacts and manage it with perfection. With such integration, you can always make your Microsoft Outlook contacts available on your phone system. Any audio messages sent by your customers can then be listened to from your Outlook software. This means you won’t necessarily have to be on the phone to listen to customers.
VoIP Helps You Manage Your Accounts
VoIP systems get all the information from your accounting software to your mobile devices. This allows your agents to schedule calls for customers and get reminders to make those calls. If any customers have not paid their dues, your agents will be able to get in touch with them as soon as possible.
Integrating VoIP in Your Business
When you have a business, and you want to take advantage of VoIP technology just like thousands of other businesses out there, you have to make some important considerations. Keep in mind that integration of VoIP technology in your business is not an expense but an investment. Invest in the right technology, equipment, internet connection and features and you will be on your way to gain unprecedented benefits from VoIP technology. Here are some important considerations before integrating VoIP in your business.
Choose the Right Equipment
In order for you to make the most of VoIP technology, you need to have the right equipment in place. Some of the most popular brands include Digium and Sangoma. There are several components that come together to form a cost-effective and productive VoIP system for a business. Here are the most important components of a VoIP system.
Choose the phones that suit the requirements of the people who’ll be using them. Sales people need to store a lot of records and the ability to call those numbers instantly. Customer service calls have to be recorded whereas the CEO might want a virtual receptionist feature on the phone. You want to look for features like a clear display, wideband audio, expansion module compatibility and multiple protocol support. You will have to look through a wide range of VoIP phones to find the ones that has all the features you need and is priced right.
To make the most of your VoIP system, you need the right headsets. You can’t just work with any regular headsets and expect great quality when working with a VoIP system. You need to consider things like one-ear or two-ear operation, noise cancelling, ear cushioning, etc. before purchasing headsets.
These are the most important components that go into a business VoIP phone system. These boxes allow you to route calls within your workplace and manage incoming and outgoing calls. You need a robust IP-PBX system to manage all VoIP calls in the best possible way and reduce your overall costs of having multiple lines.
If you already have landlines in place and having a full VoIP system is out of your budget, you could consider buying VoIP adapters that allow you to connect even your traditional phones with internet lines. Or you could avoid the cost of buying more VoIP phones and hook up the available telephones with your existing VoIP system. You have to make sure your adapter is compatible with the equipment you have.
Your entire VoIP system and its performance depend greatly on the types of routers and switches you have connected to the network. Keep in mind that the routers in the system have a huge impact on the call quality over your VoIP lines. Modern routers have the features of managing your network traffic and bandwidth in a sensible way. They switch priorities to make most important network activities to get ample bandwidth. For example, an intelligent router will prevent some cloud sync from consuming all the bandwidth and affecting the quality of calls for your customer service department. You should look for QoS feature when purchasing VoIP routers to save your bandwidth costs and manage your network traffic intelligently.
Of course, one of the most important parts of communication for businesses is an intercom system. Employees working within a company should be able to get in touch with each other without busying the phone lines and additional costs. Ease of installation, performance, flexible call routing features and scalability make IP intercom systems a much needed feature for businesses.
A Mobile Solution
You have to look at your current methods of operation and decide the type of solution you want to go for. If you have employees that don't work from your office premises but are rather travelling, you would want a solution that meets these requirements. Not only do you want mobility to be a part of the solution but you also want a high quality of service. Keep in mind that when users are on the go, their connection with your system has to be perfect for proper communication.
VoIP Third Party Integration
This is an extremely important part of the deal that many small and medium business owners do not realize. For you to make the most of your VoIP services, you want third party application integration. For example, you might want the integration of your VoIP services with your DropBox service. In this particular case, you will have to look for a VoIP service provider that provides the integration of your VoIP with DropBox.
Whenever you are looking for the many VoIP providers, always take a look at your current third-party application reliance first. Get an idea of which application you rely on for your day to day tasks and pick a solution that integrates the technology with all or nearly all of the applications you use for employee productivity.
VoIP Customer Support
VoIP integration with your existing system is an easy task on the surface, but the workings are quite complex as you go deep down. Problems can continue to arise on a day to day basis, and you need someone answer your questions and provide support for your VoIP system. More specifically, when your calls are dropping, or the quality is choppy, you want the issue to be fixed before the image of your brand is completely ruined.
VoIP and Customer Databases
One of the biggest reasons why businesses choose VoIP solutions today is to make the most of their customer database. The modern world brings the advantages of big data where information is available from multiple sources. Rather than wasting this data, you should be capitalizing on it to offer your customers unique, customized, and improved experiences. This is made possible by interlacing the third party applications with your VoIP. Keep in mind that the benefits of such integrations are not only for your customers but for internal processes as well.
When Should I Make the Move to VoIP?
If you have the budget to make the move, you should move forward as soon as possible. Of course, if you have read everything mentioned above, you probably realize by now that VoIP is in the best interest of any business in terms of cost savings, features and better integration with third-party services used by most businesses today. Small businesses should be switching to VoIP technology just as fast as large enterprises are. In fact, cost savings are more important for start-ups and small businesses. A Sage Research has revealed that the use of VoIP technology at workplaces can result in productivity increased for every employee of up to 3.9 hours. The research showed that productivity gains were not limited to IT workers only; instead the gains were similar for non-IT employees as well. According to the same research, use of VoIP technology at offices can give an overall productivity boost of 60%.
The other thing to keep in mind is that the bigger your company gets the more difficult it can become to integrate VoIP in your existing system. While it is easy to install VoIP components in your existing system, the compatibility for third-party applications can make the job a bit more complex. On the other hand, your costs to switch to VoIP will be much smaller when your business has just started. As the time passes and your business grows, you can easily scale up your VoIP resources.