The days of needing a landline to stay connected with your customers are coming to an end. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) lets you make calls over the Internet. Benefits include cost savings, scalability, and mobility. However, there are certain drawbacks to consider before switching over.
What is VoIP?
VoIP converts analog audio signals into digital data that can be transmitted over the Internet. With VoIP, you can use the Internet to make phone calls rather than relying on the phone company. VoIP calls can be made through the use of analog telephone adaptors (ATAs), computer-to-computer connections, or IP phones.
ATAs allow you to connect a standard phone to your computer with an analog-to-digital converter. ATAs often come free with the purchase of VoIP service and setup is simple. Computer-to-computer connections are another way to use VoIP. This solution requires a computer with a microphone, speakers, sound card, and Internet connection. You'll also need VoIP software, but it is typically free or low cost.
The most popular VoIP solution for businesses is IP phones. IP phones look identical to normal phones. However, they have an Ethernet connector allowing them to be connected directly to your network.
Compared to standard telephone service, VoIP saves you money. Operating costs for VoIP service providers are much lower than those for traditional phone companies. These savings are passed on to you. VoIP also provides a suite of free features including caller ID, call waiting, call transfer, and three-way calling, for which most phone companies charge extra. Furthermore, long distance VoIP calls are cheap or free, depending on how the call is placed.
VoIP also helps you scale. As your company grows, you won't have to install new phone lines. You can use your existing broadband and simply buy more handsets.
In addition to scalability, VoIP offers flexibility. IP phones and computer-to-computer connections let you make calls almost anywhere you go. As long as there's an Internet connection, you can hold a conversation. Apart from making phone calls, you can also use VoIP for video conferencing. This allows you to stay in touch with employees and clients, no matter where they're located.
Many people shy away from VoIP due to rumors of inferior sound quality. However, the opposite is true. VoIP typically provides better sound quality than traditional phones, but it does depend on the quality of your Internet connection.
The most obvious drawback to VoIP is reliability. Traditional phones just work, while Internet service frequently has hiccups or downtime. These issues can cause latency, jitter, and packet loss during VoIP conversations. VoIP also depends on electricity. A power outage means no phones when you use VoIP. This is particularly problematic if you need to dial 911 for emergency services.
Although VoIP provides outright cost savings, you may need to hire personnel to manage it. Simple VoIP systems require little technical know-how, but larger VoIP systems need to be installed, configured, and maintained by experts. If you have more than just a few employees, you'll probably need the assistance of a VoIP expert.
Lastly, VoIP's increasing popularity has unfortunately attracted hackers. Hackers may intercept VoIP calls or even bring down the phone system. The best defense against these attacks is to follow best practices, apply regular security updates, and monitor for exploits.