Understanding Voice over IP
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a protocol that you can use to make calls using your internet connection as a phone line. Since you’re already paying for internet access, the only added cost is purchasing the VoIP service, thereby reducing your cost of phone services.
Mobile apps are also available from the top VoIP providers, allowing you to use your mobile phone to make and receive calls from anywhere.
Especially useful for business, some of the more important aspects of using a VoIP system include video calling, screen and file sharing, web conferencing and chat. Additional high-end features include solutions also offer digital assistants, call queues and integrated email.
More prominent VoIP providers include Avaya, Skype, 8×8 and Viber. Our team of B2B experts provide comprehensive reviews of these platforms, including RingCentral, one of the highest scoring solutions in the VoIP category.
Choose the Best VoIP Provider for Your Needs
VoIP cuts the traditional landline wires often used in a business telephone system and anticipated to diverge and effectively displace traditional landlines in modern businesses for the foreseeable future. Realistically, the increasing volume of worldwide VoIP service providers demonstrates that fast and reliable online phone service will permanently institute Voice over Internet Protocol as our standard communication outlet more quickly than we can imagine.
Why cut the cord on traditional landlines for VoIP? It’s elementary – Today’s VoIP systems for nearly any businesses and SMBs are multi-faceted, customizable, omnipresent, and cost so much less than the convoluted landline systems! Although the benefits of software-based VoIP systems vary from one platform to the next, what remains a common thread is that they all rely on IP networks to transmit voice calls. This translates to a much more efficient customer connection throughout your entire business system.
VoIP: First Things First
You may dream of having a more state-of-the-art business; however, you should consider whether a VoIP solution would be beneficial to your needs. Two benchmarks must be met first before opting for a VoIP system: One – will a VoIP system minimize the call traffic you receive each day? Second – do you have the necessary internet systems prepared to install and initiate an advanced VoIP platform to handle those calls?
The basis of any VoIP platform requires a stable broadband internet connection and solid bandwidth, followed by the flawless performance of all of your switches and routers. VoIP translates voice calls to data, so your internet system will be data-heavy. This requires a system that can compile traffic according to priority and help you select the correct system provider, specifically one that offers caps on bandwidth so you don’t have to set them yourself.
Not only does your internet system need to be adequate, you also require the correct hardware (telephones, fax machines, routers, adapters, etc.) that can recognize and protect against probable security threats. Defense against your security include anticipating traffic volume, installing DDoS and password control to prevent hacks to your network.
Installing and Launching VoIP
Often the VoIP service is hosted elsewhere, eliminating any difficulties you may have with its installation. You can also bypass the need of redirecting or forwarding calls without added hardware installation.
A more complicated option is investing in a VoIP compatible PBX system that uses a PSTN gateway that converts data to voice calls. While this type of a system may be less expensive, it also requires a much more arduous installation process and may not be worth the investment in the long run.
The basis of VoIP technology itself is three-fold, all working toward the primary function of any VoIP system – the ability to make virtually free phone calls.
One installation option is to use IP phones. They look like conventional telephones; however they use an RJ-45 Ethernet connection rather than the standard RJ-11 connection. Via the Ethernet, all calls are transmitted to your network router so you can implement them online via Wi-Fi.
Secondly, and also requiring a solid and quick internet connection, is to install an analog adapter. With this installation, the analog adapter converts all analog phone calls to digital data. Although this seems like a convoluted approach, it is one of the easiest ways to install and launch your VoIP system quickly.
The third installation option also manages long-distance calls. In this instance, you must establish a connection between multiple devices through a DSL modem. Since you will also have monthly payments to your ISP for the modem and services, this once again spotlights the lower cost features of VoIP.
Testing Providers Through Free Trials
The try-before-you-buy concept is critical before making the final decision on your new system. It’s important that you thoroughly understand what each service option is, what it does and how it can positively affect your business’s productivity.
- Small and mid-sized businesses and organizations can lower costs with VoIP systems.
- Larger operations can take advantage of the higher-end services with business-level VoIP services.
6 Featured Top-Rated Platforms
- 3CX: an advanced open source phone system that is customizable to your needs. Precise Business Solutions offers VoIP Consultation and Installation of this system.
- Nextiva: an all-in-one cloud-based system for voice calls, business conferences, online meetings, and more. They also offer a free online demo.
- 8×8: another cloud-based VoIP service for small to large enterprises with advanced features that include web conferencing, internet faxing and Smartphone integration.
- Skype: a web-based communication tool, Skype is more than text software. It also offers video chat and international calling services.
- Mitel: Mitel Communications offers a suite of cloud-based services to integrate any size business including phone and video conference calls, web sharing capabilities, and mobile communications.
- Google Hangouts: a communications platform developed by Google that offers a variety of communications services including text, phone calls and video chats.
4 Typical Categories of VoIP Providers
- Integrated platforms – For the beginner just learning about VoIP systems, integrated systems utilize traditional phone equipment and legacy systems integrated with VoIP service. Users are familiar with their current phone systems while the system works in the background to enhance the legacy system.
- SIP Trunks – Session Initiation Protocol is an ideal solution for companies still using PBX systems yet want all of the benefits of VoIP including mobile phone capabilities.
- Managed IP PBX – Comparable to SIP Trunks, but the provider manages the details and maintains the technology. The equipment is provided from the IP vendor and charges for its services.
- Hosted IP PBX – a cloud-based system similar to managed IP, however the business does not receive hardware from the service provider.
- Find Me/Follow Me – an advanced call routing, call-forwarding feature for mobile teams. Users provide a list of phone numbers where they can be reached prior to the call being forwarded to voicemail.
- Voicemail to email Transcription – this feature will transcribe your voicemail messages into text and send them to your email inbox.
- On Hold Music – Callers placed on hold will hear music while they’re on hold.
- Call Screening – Using a Caller ID feature, you can see the phone number of the caller, allowing you to decide how to handle the call.
- Auto Attendant – Callers are greeted with an automated voice menu system allowing callers to select the proper menu option for their needs.
- Conferencing – This feature allows you to seamlessly coordinate a conference including a floor monitor, inviting participants, muting callers and even “hand raises” for participants who want to ask questions or comment.
- Do Not Disturb – Use this option to put a temporary block on incoming calls while you are busy.
In comparing various VoIP service platforms, we found the following two benefits:
- VoIP is relatively inexpensive, thereby keeping you within your budget.
- VoIP keeps your up-front costs low, regardless of the size of your company, especially those who already maintain a strong broadband internet connection for their current calls and instant messaging. With the exception of SIP, most times there is no need for high-end hardware to support a VoIP system. Most providers also offer package subscriptions without contracts, so you only pay for the services or data that you use. If you operate a global unconsolidated business, you can save on the free international calling benefit, which further enhances the attractiveness of the low-cost startup.
Redirected Mobile Calls
This is another benefit for the discerning businessperson who is always on the go. You can use your cell phone to call and receive calls right from the home office just by installing an app.
VoIP – Powerful and Multi-Faceted
Unheard of with traditional landline phone services, VoIP provides multi-faceted, powerful and timesaving services including, but not limited to instant notifications, voice mail, voice recording and transcription.
Are There Risks with VoIP?
Depending on the quality of your internet connection, you may experience disruptions in your phone service or poor quality calls. While these risks are not seen in traditional landline systems, if your internet provider is stable and your connectivity is solid, the cost and timesaving features far outweigh the risks.
To offset any disruptions, if your employees’ internet connections are reliable, you can offer them the option of working from home if your office experiences a loss of connection so you don’t miss many calls if any.
Special Calls May Require Extra Fees
Some unique calls require additional payment, for example, emergency calls or international calls to countries with higher rates. You should inquire about free-minutes packages if you know you’ll be calling overseas often.
Traffic Going Through the Internet May Not Be the Most Secure
If you regularly route unencrypted confidential or critical business information toward the internet, you risk hackers getting that information. Having a virtual private network (VPN) offers relative protection but it isn’t 100% foolproof and shouldn’t be completely relied upon.
Furthermore, unless you configure your wireless security during installation, your network may be exposed to a number of vulnerabilities in the VoIP system.
Overview of VoIP Provider Pricing
There are myriad VoIP providers today, and they may continue to increase in the near future. Taking this into consideration, there is obviously a wide range of pricing structures that vary from one provider to the next.
There are also varying degrees of features, all with their own costs including specific hardware necessary to run the service and additional costs for hosting, installation and maintenance. Some providers detail the total costs before you purchase and install the system. Others offer contract-specific costs based on your needs and the detailed costs involved, including any special add-on services.
Overall, you can find a VoIP provider from as little as $19.99 in case of popular solutions like MightyCall up to $5000 for enterprise tools; however we advise you to check and compare providers and use their trial or demo programs first before making a final decision.
Expert insight about the business VoIP providers comes from our partners.