In the past an average business would use a standard landline telephone system; it ran through copper wiring, was connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network and required bulky equipment on site to switch calls between employees.
As reliable as a landline phone system is, recent developments in technology and improved internet connectivity have opened up a whole new world of options in terms of phone systems for businesses: VoIP.
What is VoIP and how does it work?
A VoIP phone system doesn’t use copper wiring but instead runs on your business’ existing internet connection. This means there is no need for physical phone lines to connect your offices, employees or stores. Voice calls are converted to data and can then travel just like email through your internet connection.
A VoIP system enables easy integration with computers so your employees will be able to make and receive calls from their desktop or laptop, and possibly even have voicemail messages sent directly to their email inboxes. If your business uses Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software then you can connect the VoIP phone system to this so that telephone calls with customers can be integrated with their records.
With a VoIP system you can still make and receive calls using landline telephones if you have an analog telephone adapter.
If your business’ phone system needs to be used by several people, you will need a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) in both a VoIP and a traditional landline phone system. With a VoIP phone system you do not need to install a large PBX on your premises as they tend to be much smaller and lower in cost. And, if you choose a Cloud hosted system, there is no need for any onsite PBX at all.
Types of VoIP Phone Systems
Once you’ve concluded that a VoIP phone system is the right choice for your business, you will need to decide which type of VoIP system is best for your requirements. Specifically, do you want the PBX system to be hosted on your premises or in the Cloud?
An on-premise VoIP system will have the PBX equipment installed onsite. This means you remain in control of the way it operates and are responsible for keeping it running smoothly in terms of repairs and updates. An on-premise system usually involves an upfront installation cost for the equipment which can be sizeable but is more customisable to your needs. These set ups generally suit larger businesses which can afford the upfront installation and have in-house IT teams who can manage the system effectively. Some argue that an-premise system is more secure as all your data is stored on your site rather than the Cloud.
If you opt for a Cloud-hosted system you will not need a PBX to be physically installed. All the equipment and data is maintained by your provider in a different location. Your provider will manage the day to day running of the system as well as any ongoing maintenance and upgrades needed. Your only initial equipment cost will be the phones. Set up of a Cloud system is usually very simple and quick as all that is needed is to plug in the phones! A Cloud based system is particularly popular with small businesses because of the low upfront costs involved and the round the clock support provided by the supplier. A potential concern with a Cloud-hosted system is the reliability of your provider’s service and the data security measures in place.
There is a third option for particularly small businesses which is to introduce a call forwarding service or virtual phone system. This means your employees can have a business phone number which forwards to a home or mobile number. They can be programmed to ring more than one line at once or in succession; this means that if a call to a home phone is unanswered it is redirected to the mobile or another employee. Other possible features include automated attendants, call screening and voicemail. A virtual system is usually based on a monthly, per-user fee and a maximum number of minutes.
How could a VoIP Phone System benefit your business?
- Save money on phone bills by combining voice calls with your existing internet data package.
- Manage a single network with multiple phone lines, flexible extensions and across several locations.
- Improve collaboration and productivity by integrating your phone system with other areas of your business such as customer relationship management and enable your employees to use the system from home or on the road.
- Access a range of telephone functions and features at a fraction of the cost of a tradition system such as voicemail transcription, conference calling, automated attendants, interactive voice response, call queues and recording.
- Enjoy a high call quality with clarity and reliability that is at least equal to that of traditional landline systems.