The scope of VoIP Services has grown dramatically since they first appeared some years ago. In size they are available from the Big Iron on-site replacements for the PABX to the small desktop-based software VoIP systems and in location from onsite to hosted. In a similar way, the VoIP services offered have matured and grown in scope and applicability.
If we start with the assumption that VoIP is an essential for modern businesses of all sizes, then the question becomes what VoIP Services should a business consider. What different types of VoIP services are there?
In essence, there are three types of VoIP Service: In-house, hosted and hybrid.
Inhouse VoIP Systems
These can be found in the very large down to the small business. Large corporate businesses use them to replace the older POTS PABX. In small business, software based VoIP PBX systems hosted on something as small as a dedicated desktop computer provide similar features.
What will you need for an in-house VoIP system?
The first major item is the PBX itself. The existing landline connection to your current service provider, probably a Telco, will be terminated and replaced with an internet connection. This may be dedicated or routed through an existing network connection to the Internet.
Bear in mind that some devices, including some fax machines, legacy dial-up modems and some alarm systems are not digitally capable, and their existing connection to the old PBX must be transferred as a non-digital connection to the new VoIP PBX. A software upgrade is another option, but that is not feasible for all devices.
Handsets. You need to replace the existing landline handsets with VoIP specific digital handsets. Some existing handsets may be capable of operating as VoIP handsets. In any event VoIP capable handsets are much better for the new system because they are capable of supporting the extended features supported by the new VoIP system.
Mobile users. With SIP technology, smart devices like smartphones and tablets can act as telephone extensions, ideal for the larger site where a user always wants to remain in touch. Mobile use does of course need a WiFi network to provide a continuous connection to the PBX. You will need SIP software on the new VoIP PBX, and a SIP app on the smart device.
Hosted VoIP systems
If a business does not want to incur the capital costs of buying a full inhouse VoIP system, or perhaps the cost of hiring the specialists needed to support one, then using a hosted VoIP service can turn capital expenditure in an operating expense. Many hosting organisations have arrangements with finance houses to offer leasing solutions, providing the comfort of a periodic fixed cost for the VoIP system.
The hosting organisation can be external to the company, with the VoIP system installed at their premises, linked to the company by a communications line. The big danger in this scenario is that if the link is lost then all voice communications are lost. An interface can be installed in the company to make sure that internal calls can still carry on if the link goes down.
The hosting company will have the same equipment at their premises as that which you would install for an in-house system. You will still have to install VoIP handsets and make sure your network can support VoIP.
An alternative is to install an inhouse system and outsource the supply, operation and management to a hosting organisation.
Some companies are happy with the existing non-VoIP system but want to take advantage of the cost and functional benefits of VoIP, so will continue to use both. In time though, hybrid system users will migrate to the full VoIP system. For the larger companies this is likely to be an Inhouse system.
The option you choose will depend on cost and operational constraints but do it. VoIP will benefit your business.