What people call POTS — "plain old telephone service" — is just that, plain and old. Businesses are moving their phone service to the Internet for lots of good reasons. VoIP — voice over Internet protocol — saves money and offers many features. Even very small businesses can benefit from it.
With VoIP, your business's phones are connected to Ethernet lines rather than traditional phone lines. You'll use SIP phones rather than analog phones, or you can keep your existing phones by adding analog telephone adapters (ATAs). You can also connect mobile devices as software phones over your Wi-Fi network.
Your business can have an in-house digital branch exchange, or it can connect to a hosted exchange. Small businesses will usually opt for a hosted system to avoid maintenance headaches and allow easy upgrades later.
Calling over a hosted VoIP system is significantly less expensive than analog calling. Calls are digitized and travel over the Internet as cheaply as any other data. You can have a virtual phone number at an exchange in the heart of Boston even if you're outside I-495. This can save your customers money if they're in the metropolitan area rather than near your offices. Having more than one number, each in a different exchange, doesn't add much to the cost.
You have only one set of cables to maintain instead of two. Wherever you can plug in a computer, you can plug in a phone. If running Ethernet cables to a part of the office isn't convenient, you can connect the phone by Wi-Fi.
Where VoIP really shines is in its features. Since your calls are digital data, your system can manipulate them in many ways. It can set up conference calls, establish call forwarding, create multiple away-from-phone messages for different times of day, and send unwanted numbers directly to voice mail.
Some of these features are available in a traditional PBX, but they cost more and are generally less flexible. With VoIP, everything is under software control, so you can add or change features with little trouble.
With hosted VoIP, your phone network isn't limited to the office. You can use an authorized IP-enabled phone from anywhere for incoming and outgoing calls. This lets employees stay connected while they're working from home or traveling to work sites. They can use their personal cell phones both inside and outside the office.
A VoIP system can be part of a Unified Communication (UC) system. This allows video as well as audio calls and allows sending documents as part of a video conference. When a UC system connects offices in different locations, it can make a lot of travel unnecessary and allow quicker decision making.
Cautions and considerations
You have to keep a few things in mind before making the change. Your phone service will be only as reliable as your Internet connection. If you have frequent Net outages, you should consider improving your connectivity before using VoIP. Traditional fax machines don't play well with VoIP, so you might need to keep your existing fax line. Alternatively, you can use a digital fax service to view and print faxes at your computers.
You might need to upgrade your router. Some routers have QoS (quality of service) features to make sure that voice calls sound clear and undistorted even when there's a lot of other traffic on the network.
If you're installing new phone service in an office, the decision is practically made for you. It's nearly impossible to get an analog PBX any more. VoIP isn't just the sensible way to go, but the only way.
PHD Communications can set up a full-featured VoIP system for you, with the features that you need. Contact us for details.