In recent times, multimedia, voice and video conferencing have come together to create an entirely new form of communications. A key element of this new wave is Voice over IP, (“VoIP”), a protocol for digital transmission of voice and video.
Home and business VoIP telephony has grown to be a major segment in the VoIP market. It provides advantages in cost, mobility and increased functionality with a range of compatible devices.
Why should a business user consider moving to a VOIP for Business telephone system? There are justifiable concerns, mostly over call quality, but also that that they will lose their phone service if they lose power, and that it is a difficult and costly technology to implement.
However, improvements in technology and the use of standby power go a long way to alleviating these concerns. Simply put, the advantages to businesses from adopting a VoIP for Business solution far outweigh any potential drawbacks.
Here are 10 major reasons why
PTT charges are avoided by routing calls over the Internet rather than over the PTT network, thereby avoiding the call charges levied by the PTT. The cost of the call is 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.
Some organisations have a cost-recovery model in place. 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. It also assists in identifying miscreants who call unauthorised personal numbers.
For the mobile user, the integration of VoIP with WiFi provides the individual with an amazingly low-cost communications platform. Software apps on smart devices simulating desktop handsets provide the user with the means to be always in touch wherever they are.
This is accomplished with the implementation of SIP interfaces in the VoIP for Business configuration that allows a smart device to replace the desktop VoIP phone extension in a wireless-enabled environment. A mobile smart device user has full access to the corporate VoIP phone system from anywhere that they are in range of the corporate WiFi network, both centrally and at remote offices. In addition, most VoIP providers provide a facility via a secure network for users to connect to the corporate phone system over the Internet. This meets the Increasing need for remote access wherever they might be.
Voice mail and fax mail
Many VoIP service providers provide the facility to automatically forward voice mail and faxes to an email inbox.
A digital VoIP system provides many new features and communications applications. As examples:
The mobility described above allows employees to become productive immediately they arrive at a remote office and connect to the corporate network. Without waiting to be allocated a phone, they can use their main office credentials, any handset or their smart device to join the VoIP for Business phone network, using their main office phone extension number.
Employees can see if a colleague is present and able to receive calls. No more repeated redialling, or leaving voice messages.
Help Desk consultants can operate the phone system using a softphone application on the desktop giving a point and click interface.
Access to the full functionality of your VoIP for Business Phone System from anywhere if you are online.
A hosted solution needs no on-site equipment. That means there will be less space used in a small office. If a larger is installing a VoIP for Business solution they may need equipment installed on their premises.
It can be easy, though not always, to add features and functions. Often it can be done remotely and with no downtime.
All users log onto the phone system with personal credentials from any connected device. In essence, security moves from the device to the individual. No more sneaking into the manager’s office to make an unauthorised call. International or long-distance calls can be placed by only those employees with an appropriate security level.
The ability to set up group and individual security profiles can be very cost-effective, particularly if used to enable call management and cost recovery. Users can be grouped by cost centre and reports drawn up showing the overall cost of calls from a cost centre, and if required, who called where, when and for how long.
One point to bear in mind is that not all devices can be connected to a VoIP system. Older devices like some modems and fax machines don’t have a digital capability, while others might need software updates. Be especially careful of alarm systems that potentially could become inoperable if connected to a VoIP system.
The ability of VoIP for Business to host Conference calling and remote meetings is now an essential part of an organisation’s business tools. Unfortunately, there have been many reports of failures and poor performance using ZOOM and other collaboration tools.
While some poor conference calls may have been because of VoIP for Business technology failings, most are because participants are not familiar with the etiquette of conference calling and how to make them effective. Basically, using the same approach as for face-to-face meetings will provide quality meetings. Here are ten suggestions:
Just because it’s an online meeting, doesn’t mean that it can be less organized than a face-to-face one.
Send out calendar friendly meeting requests in good time and repeat
Most attendees won’t be IT experts and may need help and guidance to join the meeting. Have an IT support person to hand to assist. It’s getting easier, but many conference call services can be cumbersome to join. If the meeting request email provides an automatic link to an attendees calendar, all the better.
Zoom, for example, provides automatic links to a calendar and to the meeting itself, where the attendee only needs to click on a link to join. Send out a reminder, again with a joining link, just before the meeting time.
Send out Etiquette Guidelines
It might seem presumptuous to instruct attendees to behave during a meeting, but hopefully, you only need to do this once as a full document. Perhaps a short summary as part of the meeting request?
Have an Agenda
Meetings need to stick to the point. With no agenda or clear objective, a meeting will not be successful and to put it bluntly, waste everyone’s time.
Have IT check the connection and setup
Nothing is more frustrating than sitting waiting to join a meeting and not being able to connect because of a technical fault.
Start on Time
Starting on time is vital, especially if the meeting straddles several time zones. Don’t wait for stragglers, because if you do, you are signalling that it’s ok to join whenever you feel like it.
Have the Chair open the meeting
This is no different from a face to face meeting. The chair must open the meeting by thanking everyone for attending, explain the agenda, and nowadays, ask everyone to switch off cellphones. Thye host must also set expectations. Request that everyone announce themselves. Some attendees may be in sound only.
Try to finish the meeting early. That will be much appreciated by all attendees.
Microphones to be muted unless you are speaking
Because this is a remote meeting, people may be attending from all sorts of strange locations, coffee shops, home, cars for example. That can produce a lot of distracting noises and communications problems. If you aren’t speaking mute your microphone to cut down on outside noises.
No interrupting or talking over
It’s just common etiquette, don’t talk while someone else is interrupting. During a person to person meeting, we can observe non-verbal cues in other attendees. In meetings where this is not possible, perhaps because some attendees are attending on voice only, it is easy for a meeting to descend into chaos.
The host must maintain control, and attendees must observe the rule of only speaking when invited to.
Ask for feedback
Some attendees will speak a lot, some not at all unless asked to. It is easy to assume that just because someone has not expressed an opinion that they agree. Ask them directly.
People can also zone out and decide not to participate. Meetings can speed up and be more productive if you ask each participant to contribute verbally.
Have a closing review and repeat conclusions
As already pointed out, visual cues are absent in conference calls, even if a video feed is available. Even if they promise not to, people can become distracted from the meeting and start other activities. It’s easier with remote meetings because they can easily hide what they are doing from the meeting.
It is essential, to have a recap periodically during the meeting and at the end, have a full summary.
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
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
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 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
Business and home users have taken to VoIP like ducks to water. To both, it offers cost savings and convenience. To businesses, it provides the opportunity to use advanced communications features over and above the traditional land-line POTS solution. Rolling out toll-free International calling and video-conferencing, providing advanced call management to customer support centres and improving their overall business profile is now achievable and a modest and controllable cost.
Originally needing big iron, small businesses can run a virtual PBX on a dedicated desktop PC and take advantage of those new offerings.
However, as with all digital advances, security comes into play and VoIP Security is no exception.Continue reading
VoIP Communication is a common feature in corporate and personal life nowadays. Most large concerns use it as a matter of course as part of their corporate integrated communications platform.
In the past, communications costs were inflated by unauthorised calls and other activities designed to get around telephone security policies. It’s no different today in VoIP Communications. People still try to make unauthorised calls inside the organisation, and people try to hijack the company communications networks to make their calls. Nothing really new, except that it’s now digital.Continue reading
VoIP for Business provides a range of benefits, including substantial cost-savings that make it a must-have for most businesses. However, as with most IT advances, VoIP has attracted the dark side of the developers. Hackers and scammers are using VoIP for Business as a way to steal data and execute hacking exploits.
As with other types of malware attacks, business need to be aware of how these exploits are executed and what preventative measures they can take.
The first thing to understand is that most successful hacking attacks are by having users provide sensitive information. Scammers are becoming more sophisticated, and they are increasingly using VoIP to steal personal and company data or just cause mischief.Continue reading
First we had viruses, then rootkits, now we have ransomware. One thing is certain, the next bit of malware technology is currently under development and be with us soon. Even systems like VoIP are under attack and are being used as portals to gain access to corporate information.
What kind of threats are currently being seen in VoIP systems and how are they to be countered?
The first thing to understand that because VoIP is based on IP technologies it is vulnerable to all the malware and attack techniques that are inflicted on IP networks. The second is that VoIP goes over the Internet, and while you can contain and manage IP security in your internal closed corporate network, you are at the mercy of third-party service providers of varying quality in their security systems. The third, and one often forgotten, is that all devices in the VoIP network are IP devices and are therefore vulnerable to all the threats found with other IP devices. That must be factored into the overall data and voice protection scenario.Continue reading