What is VoIP? A Comprehensive Guide to VoIP
What is VoIP, and how can your business use it to increase communication efficiency? How can you find the best VoIP service provider for your needs?
Voice over Internet Protocol – also known as Voice over IP or VoIP – allows you to make phone calls over a data network and internet connection. Bypassing legacy phone lines helps you control costs for long-distance phone calls and save on telephony hardware and maintenance.
VoIP converts your voice and other multimedia into a digital data packet that can be transferred over your network connection. A VoIP phone connects to a VoIP server that can reside on-premises or in the cloud. The server will convert the phone number you dial into an IP address so you can connect to the other person via the internet. Voice data packets are then transferred back and forth between the VoIP endpoints until the call is finished.
VoIP can be used on almost any device. You can place a VoIP call from a special hard phone, or use a “soft phone” by installing software on your computer or smartphone. VoIP allows companies to consolidate their unified communication platforms – landlines, smartphones, voice and videoconferencing, email and more – to let you collaborate from anywhere.
You might already be using VoIP services. WhatsApp, Facebook video chat, Google Hangouts and Skype are just a few examples that consumers use every day.
But for business, enterprise VoIP systems can greatly expand the number of simultaneous users and functionality for your VoIP calls. They can also scale to your needs, grow with you, and be hosted anywhere you need them to reside — even the cloud. Cisco Webex or Microsoft Teams are good examples of enterprise VoIP platforms that can help you collaborate with even more of your own employees or with clients outside of your network.
As long as you have a high-speed internet connection, you can set up VoIP. VoIP telephony uses about 100 kbps of bandwidth per line of voice service. But, it’s a good rule of thumb not to max out your network bandwidth — anything in the ballpark of over 80% total network usage will affect the quality of your phone calls.
It can help to combat speed or bandwidth issues by connecting VoIP devices to a wired Ethernet connection. Even better, a Power over Ethernet (PoE) switch can power your phones and your network over one wire.
You’ll also need to carefully review your Quality of Service rules with your provider. All bandwidth is not created equal, and having rules that prioritize voice calls over, streaming YouTube can keep VoIP calls clear and reliable.
You should also consider VoIP equipment needs in terms of specialized hardware.
- Do you want your VoIP infrastructure onsite? Then you’ll need to buy IP gateways and IP servers.
- How many users do you need to connect, and how many of them need their own business phones?
- Do users need to handle simultaneous calls?
- Do they require a separate webcam if they work on desktop computers? Or would a software-based option that allows everyone to make calls through their computers and a pair of headphones suffice?
An overhaul of VoIP technology can be expensive. But the good news — even if you’re not completely ready to invest in VoIP architecture, a VoIP adapter allows you to use your existing telephony equipment over the internet.
A VoIP service provider should be able to align your implementation plan to your company’s staffing growth plan so you can easily add voice lines as needed. VoIP allows you to quickly expand phone service to branch offices or remote workers. And VoIP phone systems don’t require expensive upgrades and maintenance like analog phone systems.
Hybrid PBX solutions do exist. Companies can use both analog (PBX) and VoIP endpoints to balance the cost of both systems. But, moving to VoIP is the overwhelming trend among organizations today.
VoIP vendors have different offerings, and if you don’t take a critical eye to what features your users actually need, you could end up unnecessarily increasing the total cost of your VoIP service. A domestic-only business could save by skipping a service that offers international VoIP numbers, for example. On the flip side, you’ll also want to make sure your provider can integrate with other third-party services you already use — Salesforce, Dropbox, etc. — so you don’t waste time migrating tons of business data.
Reliability is also a huge factor. Look for a comprehensive service-level agreement (SLA) that outlines quality of service, uptime and scheduled downtime. It should also give you options for events like unscheduled downtime and fallback procedures for disaster recovery. Some things won’t be covered – you’ll need to have your own plan for when your internet or hardware fails. But problems like the provider’s system crashing or slowing down due to demand should be touched on in your SLA. Also make sure they have the right technical support options through multiple channels. If your phones are down, you won’t be able to call them to fix it.
For security, the best VoIP providers will offer high-level encryption for your calls to decrease the chance of your data being intercepted. VoIP vendors can also increase security by supporting multifactor authentication for your users and performing regular audits on their data centers.
The short answer is yes. A VoIP call center can be one of the best ways to meet customer expectations of 24/7 support. VoIP phones can outsource calls to anywhere in the world and forward calls to the next available support agent, or offer a call back if no one is available.
VoIP also integrates with other business apps. Hook your VoIP system up to your CRM and your agents can access the customer’s history immediately and solve problems quicker.
You can also take advantage of VoIP call logs for better analytics and business intelligence. With these recorded call logs, managers can review to learn when customers are calling in, how long calls are lasting and other data to create opportunities for increasing customer happiness.
Ready to bring VoIP to your business?
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