What do you need to consider before purchasing a VoIP phone system for your business?
What is cloud based VOIP? You may have heard of more common cloud based VOIP services like Whatsapp, Skype and Viber. Whilst they look and feel different, they are all based on communications over the internet using VOIP.
VOIP technology allows high quality, affordable phone connections via the internet, perfect as a cost effective and scalable business solution.
As the NBN rolls out across Australia and land lines are disconnected, more and more businesses are moving to VOIP technology. Most larger organisation that have a phone system with voice recordings and phone menu options will already be using a VOIP service.
PABX, PBX, Commander, Key, VoIP or Converged Systems are most of the different types of phone systems used by businesses today. Each system operates differently and provides various features and technologies but all share the common trait that they are designed to support businesses telephony infrastructure in the following ways:
Manage inbound and outbound calls through a phone service provider such as TPG, iiNet, Telstra.
Manage internal calls, communications and transfers as informatively and efficiently as possible.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is the transfer of voice data over IP-based networks, most commonly, the Internet. The Internet Protocol (IP) was a concept used in data networking, the concept was so successful that it was quickly adopted as a worldwide standard for data transfer and has been adapted for many different uses, most relevant here it has been adapted for networking voice data.
Whilst there are varying benefits to using different phone systems, VOIP phone systems have the biggest advantage when used in business with multiple office and work locations such as remote staff or staff working from home. Some of the benefits are:
All locations with an internet connection can access the same phone system and utilize features such as phone extensions, call transfers, a centralized recorded menu and many other business features.
Having all staff at all locations able to use the same phone system enhances productivity, staff engagement and helps build a positive, inclusive working environment.
Internal calls within the company phone system are free regardless of the location of callers. If calls are on the company network, the phone calls are free – even if offices are located thousands of miles apart.
A VOIP phone system is easier to manage from an administrative perspective with remote management and configuration of devices standard practice.
Phones can be moved, added or reprogramed easily and remotely allowing for rapid deployment over many sites and mass remote management of devices through a centralised administration.
Mobile, travelling or remote staff are able to use VPN software to use the VOIP phone system to make calls through the company VOIP system.
Benefits from a VOIP system are in addition to standard phone system features such as caller ID, call management and call forwarding.
VoIP phone systems can also come with or be integrated into advanced call management systems used by call centres, helpdesks and team environments.
A well planned and configured VoIP phone system can simplify business communications in addition to saving money in a number of different ways.
Calls within the company VOIP system are free of charge. Interstate, international and home offices are included if calls are through the company network.
VOIP systems can be scaled to meet business requirements resulting in lower ongoing telephony costs and ongoing savings from an improved and centrally manageable telephony infrastructure. Network administrators, maintain a single network infrastructure allowing for better efficiency and productivity. Centralised management allows the move, add and change process of hardware within the network to be simplified and streamlined through a remote web interface. Changes can be made quickly and simply without the assistance of on-site technicians and hardware vendor involvement.
Multiple office locations and staff can share company resources such as a single receptionist and automated phone services such as an auto-attendant and voice mail service.
When remote staff connect to the business networks using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) they can utilize the business VOIP network rather than being reimbursed for their own higher costs. This can be useful when staff are travelling internationally, they can make calls using a laptop by connecting to the business network via a VPN and using a softphone, which is an application installed on the laptop that acts like a software phone.
For small and medium businesses there are a number of features that are important to consider.
VOIP systems allow interactive menu’s and services to be implemented to assist callers to get to the right person or department simply and effectively.
Call queuing, prioritisation and other call directing rules are available, whilst generally used in call centres, any team of any size can benefit from a well configured call system.
On hold content can be a mix of music, business information and advertising. Inform clients and customers of important changes to your business, sell products and services or just set the mood with some choice tunes. Time on hold can be a tool to enhance your business, not just pass time.
Correctly configured and assigned phone extensions and a well maintained dialling directory for ease of communication.
Call recordings to capture the caller experience for the standard reason of training, sales and general business analysis.
A very handy took is voice to email transcription which helps manage busy environments and ensure communications are received and directed to the relevant party.
One of the most significant differences between a VOIP service list a cloud hosted PBX and a traditional phone system is the software services that are available. Administrators will have a host of software tools at their disposal to help develop a customised business communication solution that will boost internal and external communication processes and boost productivity. Two key points of interest that stakeholders tend to notice are the ability to integrate phone systems with other software such as CRM tools to further customise the overall solution to meet business requirements and softphones, which are software based phones used in situations where a traditional VOIP desk phone may not suit such as mobile or temporary staff.
The use of integrated applications like CRM and analysis tools allow data to be collected and analysed to better understand how sections of the business are operating and give greater visibility to internal and external communications. Mobile phones, laptops, tablets, wireless phones conference phones and conference rooms are all able to be integrated into a single network with a single phone system. Data analysis can assist in measuring customer satisfaction, peak calling times, call durations and call locations. You can also implement automated service systems to give information and answer enquiries.
Whist the idea of switching to a new technology may sound difficult, the reality is that transitioning from traditional phone lines to the VOIP service you have chosen is actually not that difficult. You will need to select a VOIP provider, VOIP service and plan for how you want the VOIP service to work. Once the planning is complete, a service provider can complete all the configuration often remotely with little to no on-site assistance required.
In normal times, a basic VOIP service for a few users can be set up in a few days, more complex systems with call flows, large numbers of extensions and phone lines such as a call centre can take longer. Service providers can usually give a very clear summary of the setup timeline when they have an approved VOIP solution to work with.
With the rollout of the NBN resulting in traditional landlines being disconnected, more businesses are moving to a VOIP system. Understanding the NBN will help to understand how it will impact your business phone system and communications.
The NBN rollout replaces Australia’s existing copper telecommunications infrastructure, as a part of the process, existing landlines are disconnected. When the NBN comes to your area you will need to plan your phone system accordingly. With access to faster internet and the transition away from a regular landline the way your business makes and receives phone calls will also change.
It is advised to plan ahead for the NBN rollout. You could start by contacting your internet service provider to determine when the NBN will be connected to your business locations. It’s important to note that the NBN is not a choice, once the rollout is complete you will have no choice but to have all your existing services such as phone lines, fax, EFTPOS and your entire phone system.
Since the NBN isn’t optional, that means a VOIP service isn’t optional either. What IS optional is how that service will be configured and how much you can use it to positively impact your business.
Is a VOIP system going to give better call quality that a landline? No, however in saying that, technology has improved to a point where you shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between VOIP and landline services from a quality perspective.
It is extremely important to note that with the NBN, your VOIP phone traffic will be competing against normal internet traffic for available bandwidth. It is recommend speaking with a network expert to ensure your network is set up to prioritize voice traffic over all other network traffic. A well configured network may even pre-allocate network bandwidth for calls to ensure the best call quality.
Unless you have a backup internet connection, you will lose VOIP communication if you lose power or internet. With communication being so critical for most business continuity, it is important to consider a backup internet connection, which is generally a secondary internet service provider on a separate modem/router, a 4G connection is a good place to start.
Backup power is possible, especially to keep internet running in the short term, even if there is only enough backup to power the internet and Wi-Fi network, mobile phones and charged laptops will still be able to function.
Each call will use upload and download bandwidth so it is important to consider how many concurrent phone calls you will be making and ensure you have sufficient bandwidth allocated for your VOIP calls. The below table is a general recommendation of the internet bandwidth required for VOIP calls:
Number of Concurrent Calls
Minimum Required Bandwidth
100 Kbps Up and Down
3 MBps Up and Down
300 Kbps Up and Down
3 MBps Up and Down
500 Kbps Up and Down
5 MBps Up and Down
1 MBps Up and Down
5-10 MBps Up and Down
Yes is the simple answer. VOIP is going to be around for a long time and with the huge number of benefits VOIP can bring to a business, it’s a sound investment. In addition to cost savings and technical features, VOIP is very easily scalable. It’s easy to add or remove lines, extensions and services that you either will need or no longer need. Software is constantly being updated so you will always have access to new features and technologies. You will be able to keep your business more agile than those not using VOIP.
In addition to VOIP itself, the world of software that VOIP can be integrated with is always advancing. VOIP can be a building block used with other software to help build, transform of grow a business.
One of the benefits of a VOIP system is being able to easily manage the size and design of the system. If the business only receives limited inbound calls, they may only need a single line, if the business has a large sales team, they will need additional lines to ensure no sales called are missed.
Most of the cost of a VOIP system will come from how many lines you have and which features the system will include. Since most of the cost is with the service, it’s important to design the system to ensure it meets business requirements without exceeding requirements. You can create huge savings by spending time creating a cost efficient phone service for your business.
The two main points to consider when building a VOIP solution are:
The number of lines used. Every time a call is received or made, it takes up a line. If you only have one line, you can’t receive a call and make a call at the same time, similarly, you can only take a single call at any one time. If you want the ability to put someone on hold in order to take a second call, you would need to use a second line. Estimating how many concurrent calls could need to take place within your company is the first step towards building a solution.
Extensions. Extensions are generally given to each phone in operation, this can be a mix of hardware and softphones. To be able to transfer a call to a particular department or staff member, they need an extension number. Extensions are also allocated to devices such as fax machines, multifunction printers and any other device that needs access to make or receive calls.
Once you have determined what sort of phone system you need and how it will be set up, you can begin looking at the range of desk phones and cordless phones. DeviceDeal staff are ready to assist with any questions you have or information you require.