By Tristan Barnum, product line director,Business Phone Systems, Digium
You’ve probably heard that Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology cuts telecommunications costs and improves productivity among other benefits. It also provides useful features and capabilities that conventional phone technology can't offer. Yet, with all the information out there about the benefits of VoIP, it may be hard to know what you don’t know. We’ve highlighted the top five things you may not be aware of, but should know, when it comes to VoIP as well as expert tips for making any telephony system investment.
1. Can you hear me now? VoIP quality is all about the network.
A common misconception about VoIP calls is that they sound bad. On the contrary, since VoIP is digital it should actually provide a higher quality of sound than analog phones. In fact, VoIP quality continues to improve with companies like Polycom introducing “HD Voice” that creates a CD-quality sound. The interference you may be hearing during a VoIP call is actually a function of the network the call is on. VoIP Quality of Service (QoS) depends on several different factors, most importantly the strength of your broadband connection. Before deploying a VoIP system, have your Reseller conduct a network assessment to verify that you can support optimal VoIP calls.
2. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” but your phone system can be.
Just like building a city, installing and managing an enterprise-wide phone system can seem like an overwhelming (and expensive) task. Since a business can’t afford to be incommunicado for long periods of time, having a Reseller install your VoIP system can get you up and running in mere hours (versus days) and for a much smaller price tag. Resellers can customize your bundle to fit your needs and do most of the set up off-site so that once they arrive, it’s usually a matter of plugging in the PBX and phone lines, dropping phones off at desks and training users on a generally straight forward interface. Resellers can also manage the system and address any issues remotely, cutting down on wait time for a technician. With the money you save having a reseller install your VoIP system, your business can invest more in building custom integration applications possible with a software-based VoIP system that will further boost productivity.
3. It’s not always cheaper to VoIP.
Since a call is traveling over the internet it must be free right? Well, not necessarily. Just like paying a flat monthly fee for local telephone calls or a per-minute charge for long-distance calls, dialing over the internet can come at a price whether direct or indirect, which may or may not be cheaper than the “standard” PSTN (public switched telephone network) service. Cost also varies according to your call scenario. For instance, calling VoIP-to-VoIP within the same network can in fact be “free” (think Skype to Skype). However, when a VoIP user calls a non VoIP user (think: VoIP call to a cell phone) the call leaves the VoIP network and “terminates” into a regular public phone network where it is subject to regular fees. The difference is also a matter of WHO you’re paying and not just how much. If you are using a VoIP carrier or an ITSP (Internet telephony service provider) with “termination” points all around the world, the cost to call internationally or long-distance for instance can be significantly cheaper than a traditional carrier. However, a VoIP call from New York to a non VoIP user in London will not necessarily cost any less than dialing from a “standard” phone. The bottom line is that it isn’t an all or nothing approach when it comes to VoIP.
4. VoIP and “Standard” phone lines CAN Co-exist.
VoIP is certainly a cost-effective and flexible phone system for any business but as previously discussed, it helps to have an expert assess if your business can really benefit from a VoIP system. In certain cases where calling from your VoIP phone to a non VoIP line can cost you, it might make sense to keep some copper lines. It’s not all or nothing. Getting a VoIP system doesn’t need to replace your analog lines. In fact, VoIP can be used to supplement your analog lines and pave the way for you to set up your own least cost routing (LCR). LCR is a concept that’s generally associated with VoIP phone service providers and refers to the way they send your phone calls through a route that costs the service provider the least, so that they maximize their profit. You can do something similar with a PBX if you have a mix of traditional and VoIP lines at your disposal.
5. SIP Trunks don’t exist. There’s no such thing.
It’s a benefit of VoIP that multiple calls can occur simultaneously over a single broadband connection. This concept of the “trunk” was borrowed from old PSTN technology and applied to VoIP so that VoIP providers could charge you more and you wouldn’t question it because you were used to only being able to make as many calls at a time as you had lines. It seems most ITSPs these days do this, and sure, they’ve got to make money somehow, but if you have ever been confused by the concept of a SIP trunk, there’s good reason–there’s no such thing! A far more simplified way for VoIP providers to charge would be just per minute. If you’ve got one person on the phone for 10 minutes or 10 people on the phone for one minute, you would be charged the same amount, and no, you shouldn’t have to have 10 “SIP trunks” to support the 10 people on the phone at once. That’s not how SIP works!