An Internet VoIP Phone System is Popular for Its Flexibility and Cost Savings
Internet VoIP is rapidly becoming a mainstream small business phone solution. Although it has been around for some time, recent advances in technology have helped it become a reliable and flexible solution. These recent advances, as well as the current state of our economy, has businesses taking a serious look at what Internet VoIP is and how it can benefit them.
The telecom industry has never been one to make things simple, clear and easy to understand. They are infamous for throwing around highly technical words, jargon and abbreviations, not to mention billing statements that might as well be written in Hieroglyphics. The world of VoIP is no different in their use of a language that the average person does not speak. When considering any new tool for your business, it is important to have an understanding of what your options are and at the very least a basic knowledge of how the tools work.
Internet VoIP: How It WorksTraditionally people have been using the POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) to handle their telecommunications. The POTS way of doing things involves using the PSTN, or otherwise known as the public switched telephone network. With Internet VoIP, instead of using the PSTN, information is sent over a computer network using what is called packet switched protocols.
Anything that is sent over the Internet is basically a package of information. All of that information is sent in what are called packets. Packets are simply little bits of the whole package. The information is too large to be sent without being broken up into smaller pieces. In order to overcome that problem, the package of information is broken up into these packets which are then all put back together at the point where it is being received. Simply put, when making calls using Internet VoIP the voice signal is converted to a digital signal so that it can be sent over the network. When a voice conversation is moving across the Internet the same thing occurs as with any other information that goes across it. As it leaves the caller's handset, it is broken up into little packets of sound so that it can travel across networks and is then put back together into the larger package when it reaches the handset of the receiver of the call.
Internet VoIP: Words To KnowAs you start wading through all of the information about VoIP, there are going to be a lot of those abbreviations and jargon that we talked about before. It will be important for you to have an understanding of what these words mean. Even just a basic understanding will be helpful to you in the process.
A lot of the technical words that float around in a conversation about VoIP have to do with the overall picture of the Quality Of Service (QoS) you will get from a provider. A lot goes into determining quality of service when it comes to Internet VoIP.
Latency - As we discussed earlier, information sent over the Internet is broken up into packets. Latency is the time it takes for a packet to reach its destination or even the time it takes to reach its destination and return again. In VoIP, latency is measured in milliseconds. At 150 milliseconds you will barely notice there is a time lapse. At 300 milliseconds you will have too much of a time lag and people will begin to overlap in their conversation and hear echoing during the call.
Jitter - Jitter happens when the information packets are sent at irregular intervals. Imagine the individual packets of information as cars in a caravan. As the cars are leaving the parking lot the first few get clear and are on their way. The next few cars get a red light and cars behind them get stuck in an all out traffic jam. Because of this, not all of the cars will arrive at the destination at the same time. In Internet VoIP, jitter will cause words and sounds to arrive at different times. In a conversation it would cause words, sentences and sounds to be broken up and unclear.
Packet Loss - Packet loss generally occurs when there is a lot of traffic over the network. As a result some of the packets of information get dropped completely. As an example, if this sentence were being sent over the IP network and experienced packet loss, s me of the lette s wou be missi g. While you can still understand the sentence it is impossible to ignore the fact that letters are not there. While a single packet lost is acceptable, 1% packet loss would be irritating and 2% would be unacceptable.
Prioritization - Prioritization ensures that the voice packets get priority over any other data that is being uploaded or downloaded over the network. When voice packets get priority, they become the cars on the road that cut people off or ride down the merging lane and cut back in. But in this case the voice packets are actually more important than the other traffic travelling the same road. Giving all voice packets priority and sending everything else - email and web traffic - to the end of the line will ensure a better quality of service.
Bandwidth - Bandwidth is the amount of data that can travel to and from your computer at any given time. Again let's imagine that the packets of information travelling on the network are cars. If 10,000 cars use the same road to and from work and that road is 1 lane, they will not travel very fast. However, if you expand that road to 2 lanes the cars can travel at a faster speed, 3 lanes even faster, and 4 lanes even faster and so on and so on. So if you don't have enough bandwidth and all your packets of information are all stuck in a 1 lane road traffic jam, your whole network will suffer. At this point you will experience a high latency, a lot of jitter, packet loss, poor quality of service and an extremely slow network overall.
Internet VoIP Offers Businesses Numerous Benefits To Their Bottom Line and Their WorkforceInternet VoIP offers many benefits to its users. These benefits can generally be summed up in 3 different categories: cost savings, flexibility, and productivity.
Cost SavingsConsolidation Of Voice and Data
By consolidating voice and data into one businesses can save money. When switching to Internet VoIP you can do away with a standard phone system and pay only for an Internet connection and your VoIP service. If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of doing away with your standard phone system completely, you can still save money by switching to a very basic phone plan and reduce your costs there.
When switching from a standard PBX, you will be able to reduce costs in staffing. A standard PBX takes IT staff to manage it. Switching to Internet VoIP can allow you to either contract out maintenance or leave the ugrades and maintenance to the Internet VoIP provider depending on your particular VoIP solution. Either way, you will reduce costs associated with the maintenance of your phone system.
As discussed before, using Internet VoIP allows you to do away completely, or least reduce, your standard phone system. Calls are placed using the Internet so you are no longer charged by your phone company to make those outbound calls.
Different businesses have different needs so the amount of flexibility will be important when deciding on an Internet VoIP solution. Some companies want to have more control over their system and so they choose a system that allows them to make changes themselves rather having to contact the hosted Internet VoIP provider make them for them. With some solutions, changes may also be available through an online control panel while only larger configurations are done by the provider.
Another flexible feature of Internet VoIP is the ability to have your phone system grow or even shrink with your business needs. Internet VoIP is much more flexible in this way than a traditional phone system.
ProductivityEvery business can benefit from increased productivity. Here are some of the factors that contribute to Internet VoIP's ability to provide increased productivity.
- Frees up funds that can be used for other things in your business.
- Some Internet VoIP solutions allow users to utilize their VoIP phone anywhere there is an internet connection. This means they will be able to increase their productivity while outside of the office by still being available to customers and other staff.
- By integrating virtual fax with an Internet VoIP solution, faxes can be sent to email or an online admin panel for easy viewing and handling.
- For those businesses that do not have, or do not want to have, a fulltime receptionist they can still improve their productivity with an automated main menu. This will allow for calls to be automatically routed according to rules specified by the user.
- Calls can be monitored and reports can be run on the Internet VoIP system. This will allow users to make sure that their staffing is appropriate for the call volume and that employees are working efficiently and being the most productive that they can during work hours.
- Businesses running different ad campaigns can save time figuring out which ads are producing and which are not. By using an Internet VoIP system that will be able to run reports based on phone number dialed they will be able to track their advertising without trying to count calls.
Internet VoIP is a viable business grade phone solution for businesses of all sizes. It has many benefits including cost savings, flexibility and even the ability to help increase productivity. Having a basic understanding of what Internet VoIP is, how it works, as well as its benefits are the first steps in seeing if it is right for your business.
There is a lot of information out there about Internet VoIP. It can be quite a daunting task to find and interpret all of that information. One of the best things to do is talk to someone who has the knowledge and experience to help you find a solution that is right for you. Someone that is familiar with all the different options will be able to look at your specific needs and help to lead you in the right direction.