Voice over IP is the way that all telephone calls will be made one day. In fact, most calls are already being transmitted in this way and when Openreach turns off the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) in 2025, it will be the only way you can make phone calls in the UK.
We have probably all used VoIP already – if you have every used Skype, Teams of Zoom, for example, you will have been making VoIP calls. But if you are a business that relies quite a lot on its phone systems – to both make and receive calls to and from customers, suppliers, and partners, you will really need to have a dedicated VoIP solution. In all probability, this will be a hosted business VoIP solution that offers you all the features and benefits you will have been used to having on older analogue systems, and more – and with much greater freedom and flexibility.Back to top
What is VoIP and how does it work?
VoIP stands for voice over IP – it is a tried, tested and widely used technology of making phone calls over the Internet. The ‘IP’ stands for Internet Protocol, which is digital handshaking language that is used to make connections on the Internet.
You may also hear the terms ‘hosted voice’ or ‘cloud voice’ being used. These are really only different ways of saying ‘VoIP’. There are different ways of running VoIP, but in practice most are usually the Internet voice or phone system service is ‘hosted’ by a service provider in their own data centre. In other words, all you do when you want to make calls is log onto the service and away you go.
That means you can make calls from anywhere you have access to the Internet, on any device, and still get access to all your calls lists, voice mail and other features of the phone service, and have it all itemised on the same bill.Back to top
What VoIP equipment do I need?
For most VoIP services, its best to make used of a dedicated IP handset i.e. a desktop phone that has been specifically designed to work with VoIP. You just plug these devices into your broadband router or network switch and log into your hosted VoIP service. These handsets will usually be available from your service provider or reseller, but you will also be able to buy them online.
You will also be able to use your desktop or laptop PC, a tablet or even your smartphone to make and take VoIP calls. If you choose to use a desktop or laptop, and this is what you plan to use most of the time, it will be a good idea to get yourself and/or your staff plug-in headsets designed for use with VoIP.
You can also buy conferencing equipment and desktop speakers for use with VoIP, making it easy to set up offices where you might want to do group calls.
In terms of connectivity, if you already have decent broadband, you should not need to upgrade, unless you have quite a few users. For businesses with up to 10 people, a standard ADSL+2 connection will probably be enough, but many businesses already have fibre-based broadband and the extra bandwidth these provide means you’ll have no problem accommodating 30, 40, or 50 lines or more.Back to top
VoIP for business
There’s a lot to look for in VoIP for business. You will need to subscribe to a hosted or cloud-based business phone system. There are plenty to choose from and we would advise you to select one that is established and has a track record. You will need to sign-up to the service, just as you would sign-up for a telephone line, but what VoIP will give you is much greater flexibility – to make and take calls anywhere, to add or remove users, or even to relocate the entire business – or set-up a temporary location for a while.
Millions of companies and individuals all over the world already use VoIP, so you can be sure it works. The call quality is excellent and you would never know whether you were using a VoIP or an analogue system. While broadband connections can become congested or even go down, that’s rare occurrence these days. In truth, your VoIP phone system will be just as reliable as your old analogue phone system.Back to top
VoIP on smartphones
You can also use VoIP on your smartphone. One of the advantages of hosted VoIP systems is that you can take them with you and direct calls to any other number. Calls to your usual VoIP number can be redirected to your smartphone. Even better, you can access the VoIP system directly from your smartphone; you just register the number on your VoIP service and then, whenever you are able to connect to WiFi, you will be able to make and receive calls through the VoIP service. This means that if someone calls your direct dial VoIP number, it will come through on your mobile.Back to top
Pros and cons of VoIP
There are a lot of advantages to using VoIP business systems, and very few downsides. Hosted VoIP services are flexible and efficient. They are also very cost-effective compared to analogue systems and they give you access to much more detailed information available. They can be integrated with CRM systems to drive even higher levels of customer service and efficiency.
They are also very scalable and portable. You can increase or decrease the number of users on a VoIP system very quickly. They can be accessed and used anywhere you can get an Internet connection, and users will always be available on the same number and be able to access and use all the facilities made available by the VoIP service. This makes them ideal for remote and home working.
With VoIP, you could easily set up a temporary office location – such as on a construction or project site, for example. If you relocate the business completely, your VoIP and all your numbers, features and information, can go with you.
If there are any downsides, they are perhaps only that the VoIP service will be – as most systems and processes are now – on your broadband connection, so you need to make sure that is good enough.Back to top
How will our business benefit?
Greater flexibility is perhaps the biggest benefits. Your numbers follow your people and it is easier for them to work remotely or at home. You will get a whole load of features, such as auto-attendant, voice mail and call recording and it will be easy to add or remove users at any time. You’ll have access to detailed reporting, and you will also see a reduction in your overall costs as you will be paying less for calls (many are free with VoIP services) and making better use of your broadband connection.
As we have already noted, being able to log-on anywhere you have access to an Internet connection is a big plus. Wherever you go, you can make and take calls using your normal phone service.Back to top