What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of VoIP?

Most businesses have installed a VoIp for Business system. The digital revolution has enabled most to replace their existing PSTN based systems with VoIP because of the benefits in cost management and customer service.

They might have justifiable concerns over call quality, and that they will need disaster planning measures so they don’t lose their phone service if they lose power. Recent advances in technology and the use of standby power can dispel these concerns. Bottom line, the advantages of VoIP for Business to the business far outweigh any potential drawbacks.

Integrating VoIP for Business in an integrated communications environment including video conferencing, instant messaging and Social Media integration brings the business firmly into the 21st century and at the leading edge of communications.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages:

  • Reduced Call Costs

    Reduced Call Costs

    This is often the first benefit that brings VoIP into consideration

    Calls are routed over the Internet rather than over the local PTT. That means that the call charges levied by the PTT fall away, and the call becomes essentially free, any infrastructure costs absorbed in the overall cost of providing the Internet connection.  The cost saving can be significant if there are frequent long-distance and international calls.

  • Cost Control

    Cost Control

    Some organisations manage call costs by using a budgetary cost recovery model. Being able to use call logs to see who made a call, to whom, when, for how long and the actual cost allows users and departments to manage phone call budgets easily.

  • Security

    Security

    In the past security was based on the physical handset. If someone wanted to make an unauthorised long-distance call, they would need to sneak into the manager’s office and use their handset. In the VoIP world, security is based on the user.  A user has a log-on id and pin code that defines their authorisation level.  With their credentials, they can use any handset and have the same security profile.

  • Mobility

    Mobility

    Implementation of SIP interfaces in the VoIP for Business configuration allows a user to replace their desktop VoIP phone extension with a smart device. The user has full access to the corporate VoIP phone system from anywhere in range of the corporate network, usually over WiFi, both centrally and at remote offices. A facility via a secure network for users to connect to the corporate phone system over the Internet allows them to use the corporate phone system from anywhere.

  • Productivity

    Productivity

    A business VoIP system provides new features and communications applications. As examples:

    • Employees become productive immediately they arrive at a remote office and connect to the corporate network. No waiting to be allocated a phone, they use their main office credentials and any handset to continue with their main office phone extension number.
    • Hunting and call-forward groups. Employees can see if a colleague is present and if not, pick up their calls. Call-forward groups forward a call automatically after a preset number of rings.
    • Help Desk consultants can operate the phone system using a softphone application on the desktop giving a point and click interface.

As we are too well aware, nothing is for free. VoIP systems do have disadvantages:

  • Connection Quality

    Connection Quality

    The quality and speed of the connection between here and there is out of the businesses control. It is dependent on other parties and will always have the quality and speed of the poorest intermediate link.

  • Setup

    Setup

    Setting up a VoIP environment can be a time-consuming and labour-intensive affair: 

    • A network audit is needed to make sure that all the network equipment supports VoIP and  that everywhere a handset is located has network and power connections;
    • All network switches are correctly configured;
    • The data centre is capable of hosting the VoIP servers and other equipment
  • Legacy Equipment

    Legacy Equipment

    Not all devices are capable of operating in a VoIP environment. These are usually fax machines, modems and alarm systems. Sometimes a driver or firmware update will make them digitally capable.

    Overall, replacing a PSTN system with VoIP for Business is a no-brainer. The cost, operational and reputational advantages far outweigh any downsides.

5 Tips to Make Your Virtual Meetings More Productive

One effect of the pandemic has been a quantum increase in remote working. In some cases, lockdown and travel restrictions have forced a move to work from home. Adopting e-commerce as a business platform has meant interacting digitally with customers and suppliers.

In remote working the need to communicate remains, and is even more important to maintain team morale. Virtual meetings using applications like Zoom, NetMeeting, and Skype have become the norm.

For many, remote working and remote meetings are very new and they are wary of the technology and unsure of how they should interact with other meeting attendees. Sometimes the first few meetings are less productive than the face-to-face equivalent as people find their feet and create a new working culture.

Here are five tips to help you make your Virtual Meetings more productive.

  1.  Have a clear understanding of how the meeting is to proceed

    how the meeting is to proceed

    Meeting basics do not change with remote meetings. Invitations need to have a clear statement of the subject and objectives of the meeting. Supporting material can be sent with the invitations and attendees asked to familiarize themselves with it.

    Have an agenda, and defined comfort and refreshment breaks. Because they are not in a communal meeting and perhaps at home, attendees may tend to just wander off when they feel like it if no breaks are scheduled.

    One point that is a subject of much discussion in business media is that long presentations are not practical in a virtual meeting. If they are required, then they must be short and designed to promote discussion. Use screen sharing to keep everyone at the same point.

  2. Don’t let a few individuals dominate the meeting

    Active participation

    It sometimes happens, in both virtual and face-to-face meetings that one or two individuals try to dominate a meeting. If that happens, other attendees will tune out, sit back and go off to check their e-mail.

    In the first few meetings, a facilitator will help to manage proceedings and make sure that the meeting stays on track and that all voices are heard.

  3. No Multitasking during a meeting

    No Multitasking

    Attendees can use their smart devices to do other things while at a meeting.  They check email, read and write on social media and even play games. They are, to all intents and purposes, not there.

    It is a lot easier to do that at a virtual meeting. Attendees can appear to be present but are really doing something else, and no-one will notice.

    The facilitator must explain that multi-tasking during a meeting is not allowed.   If the meeting software allows it, perhaps the facilitator can be notified when someone changes focus from the meeting to another software application.

    One problem in working from home is that of the unexpected visitor distracting an attendee. Pets, children and spouses have been known to gate-crash meetings.  That must be discouraged.

  4. Insist on Video

    Insist on Video

    A lot of communication is non-verbal, and the effectiveness and productivity of a meeting are significantly reduced if attendees are available in voice only.   If attendees can see each other’s facial expressions and body language, it goes a long way to making a better meeting.

    Have an audio dial-in backup though. Some places might not have a sufficiently strong Internet connection capable of supporting video.

    Finally, sit close to the webcam. This helps to avoid distractions in the background.

  5. Make sure the Technology works

    Make sure the Technology works

    There is nothing more frustrating than a delay to the start of a meeting because of technical problems. It’s a real momentum killer.

    Problems can arise because some doesn’t have the correct technology, or because their video isn’t working, or simply because they are not familiar with the meeting software.

    For all attendees, particularly first-timers, it is essential to have a one-on-one with the facilitator to make sure all problems are resolved.

    An organization should set a standard for the software to be used for virtual meetings. Remember though, that customers and suppliers may be using different software, so some pre-testing will be needed if it is a multi-application environment.

The usual mantra is that an ounce of preparation saves a pound of trouble. Be flexible and realise that procedures will need to change. Virtual meetings can be productive.

What Are the Benefits of VoIP for Organisations?

VoIP for business is now the defacto standard for business communications. Having established itself during the pandemic as essential to communicate with remote workers, customers, and suppliers, the push is to find new and innovative ways to leverage VoIP for business to provide more cost benefits and deliver new cost-effective services.

VoIP is usually viewed as the basis of a Unified Communications Strategy. All internal and external communications are moved onto a digital platform, and users can move seamlessly between different communication modes. They share global address books and can communicate directly with a customer or colleague from the address book, or even an email address.  

Several suppliers, including Microsoft, provide hooks into their core Office systems to allow other applications to share contact information. It has the undoubted benefit of keeping contact lists up to date.Continue reading

How VoIP Can Help in Remote Working

Working from home is rapidly becoming the new normal worldwide.  Businesses are quickly modifying their strategies and operations to accommodate it.    Ome area of particular interest is that of integrating VoIP for Business into the remote working scenario.

There has, admittedly, been a slow move towards remote working as the digital infrastructure spreads and improves in recent years.  Internet access through WiFi has become common in public spaces like hotels and malls and through fiber connections to homes.

The pandemic has accelerated this process, mainly through companies forced to have locked-down workers working from home.  A second driver has been the effect on bricks and mortar retail outlets.  Foot traffic has plummeted, retail shops are closing, and the malls they operate in are closing,  some never to reopen.   Retailers are forced into an e-commerce environment.   It’s no longer developmental but survival strategies.Continue reading

Are VoIP Solutions beneficial to Schools and Universities?

VoIP Solutions have been enthusiastically embraced by individuals and businesses. For some, it is no other reason than the substantial cost savings in moving from the tolled PSTN network to toll-free internet connections. There are, of course,  other benefits in improvements in operational processes and customer service levels.

One of the strategic moves forced on IT by the events of 2020 has been the move to remote working. Resources have been diverted from planned projects to emergency projects to enable the transition. VoIP Solutions have been a significant growth element, either as new implementations or developing an existing Unified Communications Strategy.

One question that is often asked, particularly in the education environment, is whether VoIP Solutions make a positive contribution. The answer is a resounding YES, and not just for Education. Any campus style, multi-building, or multi-site environment will benefit.Continue reading

5 Things to Consider Before Signing a Contract with a VoIP Provider

Most, if not all IT Departments are under cost pressure. They are being asked to continue with business as usual and provide support for remote working and work from home imposed by COVID-19.   Some are also managing the transition to full online e-commerce. With no increase in budget or staff.

One solution that is becoming increasingly popular is outsourcing VoIP systems to a Managed Service Provider (“MSP”) that provides both software support -and VoIP Phone maintenance. That fixes some budget costs and frees staff to carry out more urgent tasks.

Managed Outsourcing, in this case, only part of the VoIP environment is outsourced. A typical case is the maintenance and installation of VoIP Phones. This will involve having MSP staff on site. Full outsourcing, on the other hand, the MSP takes responsibility for the operation and management of the full VoIP environment. This can be accomplished either inhouse or on an MSP’s premises. In-House, the MSP manages your existing environment. They can also duplicate your environment on their site. Typically users outsource management to the MSP and hand full control over to them.

If you intend to use an MSP, you are embarking on a long-lasting business relationship and one in which the MSP will have access to most, if not all, of your business secrets.Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

How can SIP Trunking Benefit Your Business

Most businesses, small and large, now use VoIP technologies as the core of their Unified Communications strategy.  The benefits, financial, operational and to their business profile are undeniable, making VoIP a no brainer.

Within VoIP, there are several options that an organisation can choose to improve the quality of service.  Among these are SIP Trunks.

SIP Trunks replace the physical connections provided by traditional communications suppliers.  Simply put, a SIP Trunk is the digital equivalent of the conventional physical link. It is usually called a data circuit.  It supports voice, data, streaming media and video services, the basis of a business Unified Communications environment.Continue reading

Fixed VoIP and Non-Fixed VoIP: Know the difference

VoIP has become commonplace in the commercial and personal world in recent times.   Businesses, large and small, have taken to VoIP because of the cost and business benefits it brings.   Simply put, it avoids the costs associated with PSTN connections by routing communications over the Internet.  This allows VoIP service providers to bundle in other features such as free or low-cost long-distance and international calls.

In addition to providing on-premises VoIP calls, the digital format of VoIP provides connectivity for WiFi-enabled smart devices such as smartphones and tablets.  Remote and home working have increased significantly because of the Covid epidemic, and VoIP over public and private WiFi networks and VPN connections are rapidly becoming the norm.Continue reading

How to Switch to Cloud PBX Efficiently and Effectively

Calling a business is the first point of contact between the business and the outside world.  This first impression must be a good one.  Most callers nowadays expect a response, and a failed call is not an acceptable outcome.  Additionally, most callers expect to be able to use a variety of communications methods, traditional PSTN calls, internet access to a call centre and digital interfaces over specialised applications and social media.

The advent of digital PBX solutions has allowed all businesses to move to digital telephony as part of a unified communications strategy meeting these requirements. Cost savings, improvements in business profile and increased customer service levels are some of the major benefits of a digital PBX environment.

Switching to a Cloud PBX is a programme that involves both technology and people.   Doing it efficiently and effectively requires careful consideration of both elements.Continue reading