Voice over IP
The rise of the internet has had a profound impact on telecommunications. Historically telephone networks and data networks were separate and distinct. To carry your calls you needed a dedicated telephone network and dedicated telephone lines to connect to the outside world, either plain ordinary analogue lines like you have at home or ISDN lines if your business needs more than a handful of lines.
Voice over IP is a technology that allows us to make and receive phone calls over a data network. In short, your voice is converted into ‘packets’ of data and carried over networks like any other packet or piece of data.
Voice over IP brings telephony into the realm of data networking. With VoIP a single network can be used to carry all your voice, data and video traffic. This elimination of the need for a separate telephone network means significant cost savings as duplication is removed.
For a small business that means separate telephone lines are no longer required as data connections, typically broadband, can be used to carry phone calls instead. In other words, if you have got broadband for data, that’s all you need for your telephony too. You can dispense with existing analogue or ISDN lines and make significant savings.
Voice over IP however is simply a technology, a protocol for carrying telephone calls as data. What makes it more exciting than the technical stuff is the new services that VoIP allows businesses to take advantage of.
VoIP is far more flexible than traditional fixed telephone lines. Extra capacity can be added and removed at will, particularly valuable for businesses that have busy periods when lots of extra phone calls can be expected. VoIP also makes it easy to connect to the network and make and receive calls. If you can get an internet connection, to all intents and purposes you are in the office even though you could be anywhere in the world. You can make and receive calls as if you were at your desk.
You can also use many device to make those calls, a desk phone, your mobile phone and even a laptop or desktop computer with a headset.
Mobile workers love VoIP because they can remain productive when out of the office, touching down to work at customer premises, coffee shops and airport lounges. Home working becomes a practical proposition, using domestic broadband and a soft client telephone on a laptop or mobile.
In addition there are a host of other benefits. One that I spend a lot of time talking about is the way that VoIP removes the physical link between your local telephone exchange and your phone number. With VoIP you can retain your phone number wherever your business may move to. No more expensive diverts when you move to new premises.
You can also have a phone number for a town or city where you don’t actually have a physical office. This works well for small businesses who would like to pick up business from local towns by having a local number that rings elsewhere.
So VoIP is a great enabler. So what’s Hosted telephony then? Well, hosted is the service you take in order to use VoIP.
Historically in order to use analogue and ISDN services you bought a suitably equipped telephone system for your business, and it lived in a cupboard under the stairs or in the comms room if you have one. The telephone lines were connected to this box, known as a PBX. You would have a maintenance contract in place, and periodically would upgrade the software to keep it current and supportable.
The problem was for small businesses in particular that PBX’s are expensive to buy and maintain. It’s also costly to add new features for a small number of users, like conferencing or call recording.
Hosted Telephony changes the model. Essentially with hosted you rent whatever number of extensions you require from a provider who runs a mega PBX ‘in the cloud’. That is to say the PBX may reside in a data centre or data centre somewhere in the world, and you connect to it over the internet.
Users pay an amount per month for the use of their extension, and often there is a bundle of inclusive calls. In many ways it’s a similar model to your business mobile.
The great advantages of hosted are that it’s low cost, with minimal upfront expense and it’s a predictable cost per user, per month. All upgrades are included so no nasty bills for upgrades out of the blue.
Also, because you are connected to a large PBX, you can add functions on a per user basis. So if you need to record one persons calls, you can do so by paying a few pounds extra per month. Compare that with the cost of adding a call recording system to an on site PBX for one user!
In the UK BT will stop supporting analogue and ISDN lines in 2025. That seems a long way off but as the average life span of a telephone system is 10 years it’s an important consideration now.
Customers should move to VoIP, either using hosted or by replacing existing ISDN lines with VoIP based alternatives, in particular a new technology called SIP.
It’s a lot of acronyms and a lot to take on board, which is where Mann Telecom can help.
We specialise in VoIP and hosted. We carry a broad portfolio of the leading solutions from Daisy, Ringcentral, 8x8, Voiceflex and Gamma.
We carry these solutions as whilst the fundamentals are the same there are differences in the features on offer, the licencing models, the service levels and the pricing models too.
We will help you navigate through this complexity to understand which solution from which company is best for your business. Hosted or SIP, we can help you introduce VoIP into your business and begin to enjoy lower costs and greater functionality.
Why not call us today for a chat, we would be delighted to help.