VoIP Hard Phones vs Softphones: What’s the difference and Which is Better?

VoIP has become commonplace in recent times, both in business and as a personal communications tool. The benefits are such that it becomes a no-brainer for both individuals and businesses to move to VoIP, principally because of the reductions in long-distance comms costs.

Cordless home systems based on DECT technology, with a core unit attached to the PSTN, and satellite units communicating over wireless had been around for some time before VoIP.  They were similar to VoIP systems but lacked versatility and features in comparison with the later true IP based systems.

Recently, the use of WiFi as a primary network topology, coupled with mobile technology, has become more and more common.

As a result, one of the considerations when planning a VoIP environment is the type of handsets needed. The handset type will depend to a large extent on the network environment and the type of anticipated usage.

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7 Reasons Why Many Businesses are Choosing Cloud PBX

One of the major benefits of the digital revolution for business has been the emergence of computer-based PBX systems offering advanced features. in the past, these were limited to larger companies but the emergence of cloud-based technologies has seen the emergence of the Cloud PBX which allows small companies the benefits of voice over IP but at a vastly reduced cost.

Here are 7 benefits which will come to a business if they implement a Cloud PBX solution:Continue reading

Can You Keep Your Voip Working During a Power Failure

Can You Keep Your VoIP Working During a Power Failure

The impact of digital convergence and improvements in technology have generated widespread adoption of VoIP phone systems by businesses and individuals.   Businesses use them to substantially improve their business profile and improve communications efficiencies.  All users use VoIP to substantially reduce their communications costs, particularly for long-distance and international calls.

There is one major difference between the traditional PSTN phone systems and digitally hosted VoIP phone systems. That relates to performance during a power outage.  Power to PSTN systems is provided by the PSTN supplier and PSTN phone systems, therefore, they continue to work during a power outage.Continue reading

5 Ideas to Monitor the Quality of Your VoIP Network

5 Ideas to Monitor the Quality of Your VoIP Network

The increasing effect of digital convergence and the undoubted cost and other benefits of VoIP networks has led to their widespread adoption in all sizes and types of business.   However, as with all things, there are two sides to the coin, and maintenance of an acceptable level of service for your VoIP system is of paramount importance. 

Before looking at monitoring techniques it is important to see what we are looking for.

Typical complaints and their cause  include:Continue reading

Five ways to tailor your telephone system to match your business needs

Five Ways To Tailor Your Telephone System To Match Your Business Needs

One of the more significant developments in computing in recent years has been the wholesale adoption of VoIP systems by businesses and increasingly by home and mobile users.   Simply put, VoIP systems remove the costs and restrictions imposed by the traditional PSTN service providers.

Because of digital convergence among other things, the initial objective, to replace PSTN connections with digital connections has grown by leaps and bounds into fully-fledged integrated communications environments supporting media connections, not just voice.

Businesses are now presented with options among others to improve their presence and reduce their costs.  Here are five such.

  1. Cost reductions through Call Security

    Cost reductions

    In the past, PBX systems were location based.  Extension numbers were tied to a physical location such as a desktop.  The ability to restrict calls was linked to the physical device. Anyone using the handset could only make the calls that were allowed for that extension number, for example, local calls only, no national or international calls.

    VoIP systems are by contrast person based in that an individual uses a PIN number to log-on to the VoIP system wherever they might be.  They can log-on from the traditional desktop handset or by using SIP technologies from a smart device.   Call security, therefore, becomes person based rather than location based.  The ability to make calls resides in the individual profile. Applying call security according to individual needs becomes that much easier.

  2. Business presence

    Business presence

    Using VoIP can make a business seem much larger than it actually is. Two examples are automated call forwarding and departmental assignment.

    With automated call forwarding, calls made to a local number are automatically forwarded to a central number.  In this way, a company can seem to have a local presence, but in actuality operate a central support organisation.  Many companies have done this with their call-centre operation.  For example, British Airways operated a centralised call centre in India.  All calls to a local or national call centre were automatically forwarded there.

    With a departmental assignment, different extension numbers can be published for sales, finance, procurement, and so-on.  However, they can be automatically forwarded to a single extension number.  The company looks like it has different operational departments when in reality it does not.

  3. Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”)

    Customer Relationship  Management

    An organisation that operates a call-centre to provide customer support can tailor its VoIP system to support a CRM environment.  The VoIP system can be linked to a database application.  In this environment, the call-centre operative will have customer information displayed on a local computer screen when that customer calls in.  The data is retrieved using the incoming telephone number.  The operator can then answer the call with “Good day <customer name> “ giving a much more personal and warm aspect to the interaction.

    Often details of previous and current interactions with that customer are shown giving the ability to deal more effectively with the customer.  VoIP provides that capability.

  4. Automated Documentation Support

    Automated Documentation Support

    A large part of customer support is providing documentation, usually product related.  This obviously can be accomplished via a website application, but most VoIP systems can also provide this facility.

    The requestor dials a number, taken for example from a media advertisement and is presented with the option to email a document to a specified address.   In this way, the requestor receives the information they want, and the company has an email address for future marketing activity.   All without any manual intervention thanks to VoIP.

  5. Automated Call Handling

    Automated Call Handling

    There is nothing more frustrating than calling an organisation and being forwarded from extension to extension as your call is not answered. The use of calling, hunting and auto-forwarding groups maintained by the VoIP system can significantly ease that pain.

    While they are similar there are differences between calling and hunting groups.  Calling groups allow anyone in that group to pick up a call for anyone else in the group.   For example, a call to an extension where the normal answerer is unavailable can be picked up by someone else nearby.  This is especially useful after hours where desks are unattended.

    Hunting groups automate this process.  If a call is not answered after a certain time interval it is automatically forwarded to another extension number.   Calling and Hunting groups often work together to improve customer service.

    Auto-forwarding is particularly useful for support and alarm calls.  The VoIP system can be programmed to auto-forward calls to a particular number to another number, for example, the duty engineer. The forwarding can be done manually by manually programming the number into the extension profile itself, or in some cases can be accomplished via a calendar. In this way, incoming calls should be answered, not just ring out.

    The increasing sophistication of VoIP systems now enables small businesses to punch above their weight and bring improved customer service levels at little or no cost.

How Business VoIP solutions can impact a company

How Business VoIP solutions can impact a company

Most will agree that the Internet has given rise to a major upheaval in Unified Communications, including Voice over IP (“VoIP”).   Business worldwide is embracing VoIP solutions as a tool to reduce communications costs, increase communications effectiveness and increase company profile.

It’s not just in the ability to make toll-free or low-cost calls that VoIP Solutions are having an effect.  Company culture is changing too.

If we take the cost benefits of VoIP Solutions as read, there are many other ways in which they can impact a company.Continue reading

VoIP As a Powerful Tool in Disaster Recovery

It’s not a question of if, but when a disaster will hit your company.  A prudent company has a disaster recovery plan, covering all components of recovery, and including a public relations/communications plan.  It should also include various scenarios for keeping the company running normally as far as is possible while the full recovery process unfolds.     

In short, not disaster recovery, but business continuity.

Obviously, the recovery steps and how long it takes to implement them depends on the nature of the disaster.  However, all have the common theme of an interruption to normal business that needs to be managed.Continue reading

How VoIP Affects Business Mobility

It is difficult nowadays to find a business that does not use Business VoIP. The cost and business benefits of it are undeniable.  Allied to improvements in digital telephony and digital convergence, most large and medium-sized businesses use it extensively as part of their internal and customer-facing processes.

One of the major benefits embraced by business is the ability to improve mobility and accessibility of staff.

In the past, whenever an employee left the office they were mostly uncontactable.  At best they were contactable in the evening at home or in their accommodation on the road. This made communications between staff and the office difficult at best.Continue reading

Five helpful VoIP guides for your Business

Five helpful VoIP guides for your Business

Thanks to digital convergence, Voice over IP (“VoIP”) business systems are commonplace in businesses worldwide. Most major Telcos, networking companies and many third-party suppliers provide VoIP for Business systems and services as part of their hardware and software repertoire.

As usual, you need to be careful before committing money and resources to a particular VoIP for Business solution by making sure you understand exactly what you want.    You need to consider the functions required of your VoIP solution and set them out in a wish-list.  Knowing your budget is also essential.  You can use these criteria to measure solutions and see how closely they meet your needs.Continue reading

Four reasons why on-premise PBX will stay - for good

Four reasons why on-premise PBX will stay – for good

Many businesses have embraced digital convergence by replacing the traditional Telco supplied on-premise PBX with a digital PBX.  The positive benefits of the new features and functions of the digital business telephone system and sharply reduced call costs have proved too good to miss.  In many cases businesses have been able to reap the benefits of a digital business telephone system by moving to an external hosted solution managed by a service provider and moving away completely from the traditional Telco.  

There is a current debate going on about if it is better to use an on-premise PBX or an outsourced service provider.   There is no definitive answer, other than that for small businesses outsourced makes better economic sense, and on-premise is better for large business.Continue reading