Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

The Benefits of VoIP

The main advantage of VoIP is cheaper phone calls. Another key advantage is being able to combine phone calls with business data. It means you can adopt call centre style technology, with each incoming call triggering onscreen pop ups with customer details. Or you can add a ‘Click to call’ button on your website.

When you consider that the average employee spends hundreds of hours a year on the telephone, it’s easy to see why VoIP is attracting a lot of attention. Many large corporates from banks to retail are using it for voice calls. UK bank Abbey is rolling out Voice over IP to its branch network, and sandwich retailer Pret A Manger has installed VoIP to communicate between shops, estimating it will save £10,000 a month.

As the cost of high speed internet access (such as broadband) comes down, VoIP is now within reach of small businesses. Some telecoms companies and ISPs are now offering Voice over IP deals targeted at the small business sector.

Traditional phone calls work by allocating an entire phone line to each call. With VoIP, voice data is compressed and transmitted over a computer network. This means VoIP uses up to 90% less bandwidth than a traditional phone call and is consequently more cost-effective and more efficient.

Phone companies are already using the technology to carry international calls. According to industry estimates, up to 75% of international calls will be carried over the internet by 2007. In fact, if you use a cheap, long distance telephone service, you’re probably using IP telephony already without knowing it.

VoIP is helping the phone companies save money, and by introducing
a VoIP phone system on your own computer networks, you could do so too. For any business, the immediate benefits can be:

  • Cheaper external calls – long-distance and international calls for the price of a local call.
  • Free internal calls to all parts of your company that share a computer network. With a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in place you can speak to connected colleagues at different branches or on the road free of charge. This is particularly useful for the growing number of SMEs who have multiple sites – currently 33% according to the Yankee Group.

But cheaper calls are not the only advantage. If you merge your phone and data networks, VoIP can help you work more efficiently and make your company’s phone network easier to look after.

  • Simpler infrastructure. With VoIP on your computer network you can add telephones and increase call capacity without running additional cabling.

  • Scalability. Traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchange) phone systems have a set number of ports for telephones to plug in to. VoIP systems provide greater flexibility as you can run a number of ‘virtual users’ through each network socket.
  • Reduce operating costs. Because a VoIP-enabled system is based on software rather than hardware, it is easier to manage and maintain.
  • Improve productivity. VoIP treats voice as if it were any other kind of data, so users can attach documents to voice messages or participate in virtual meetings using shared data and videoconferencing.
  • Wireless-compatible. With a wireless LAN in place, mobile devices like PDAs and smartphones can use your VoIP system. (If you install a ireless LAN, you need to make sure you have appropriate security measures in place, such as a firewall or encryption.)
  • Enhanced customer service. By adding a ‘Click to talk’ button to a website, a VoIP-enabled enterprise can put web users in touch with customer service staff. You could also look at implementing customer relationship management software (CRM). Incoming calls could automatically trigger screen pops with customer account information and contact history.
  • Dependable call management. Voice-related services, such as follow me roaming, caller-ID, call forwarding and broadcast messaging, become simpler to maintain and can be updated as needed by your employees.
  • Flexibility. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an allocated amount of bandwidth on the public internet where public access is prevented through encryption. If your company has its own VPN and combines it with VoIP, you can set up a fully functioning office where there is a broadband connection. Green-field sites can be up and running in minutes not weeks.
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