What is VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol)? And how can modern SMEs successfully deploy the latest intuitive and easy-to-use communications solutions to boost their competitive advantage?
Management teams in growing businesses understand how important it is to stay in contact with their client base. Despite the ubiquitous smartphone, packed with applications and features yet paradoxically underused for speaking, there is still little that beats the immediate feedback and interaction of direct verbal communication with customers. It is for all these reasons that marketing, sales, and accounts payable departments make dozens if not hundreds of telephone calls every working week, in businesses across the country.
Given that it is so important to promote dialogue with prospects and maintain contact with existing customers, how can companies minimise ongoing expenditure? Is it still possible to maintain the same level of outgoing calls while making the most of new, flexible communications packages? And what other benefits can the latest communications technologies offer an expanding business in today’s rivalrous and sometimes cutthroat marketplace?
Making the Most of Existing Networks
The answer is in Voice over IP calls, sometimes also known as computer audio. Internet telephony is another term used to describe the new way to make digital voice calls, instead of connecting via the long-serving public switched telephone network (or PSTN) that uses analogue electrical signals. Rather than the copper cored electrical wires of telephone lines, Voice over IP telephony uses computer networks – whether broadband ADSL or fibre-based – to transmit the call, video and other information. The latest protocols supersede ISDN (Integrated Services for Digital Networks), which was a bolt on to the older infrastructure and still limited by the typical capacity of conventional telephone cables.
In contrast, computers, new IP telephones and smartphone handsets that use VOIP software now send audio and video signals in data packets. In effect, these signals are bursts of information that use a special sequence of network handshakes and validation to check the sound quality and general call performance. In technical terms, the way in which computer systems transmit these packets of data can follow various digital methodologies. Some leading examples include Skype, Cisco, PBX, SIP or open source protocols.
Apart from numerous technical advantages and additional features that provide up-to-the-minute flexibility, Internet voice and video calls deliver significant cost benefits in comparison to traditional telephone systems. Each call is more economical, taking fixed line rental charges into account and given that many businesses already have Internet service provision in place. Ideal for free or low-cost calls to customers and suppliers in remote sites or distant offices, the latest high-speed services are reliable and offer businesses top quality service featuring life-like sound.
With the latest digital offerings, there is no longer any need for a modern company to rely on consumer-grade Wi-Fi to power its communications. Simply upgrading the contract bandwidth to a professional-level business package is sufficient to ensure clear sound quality and excellent reliability of service. Moreover, larger SMEs may find it cost-effective to opt for individually hosted professional communications services, should they so wish.
Available anywhere that has a reasonably good connection, Internet calls also tend to facilitate increased mobility and new ways of working. According to industry sources, the rapid deployment and extra flexibility are ideal for more than seven in ten home workers. Now, remote staff can take calls on their PC or their mobile with ease, with seamless call transfer that is often invisible to the customer. What is more, cloud-based management enables network monitoring from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, whether by cable or satellite.
Because calls made using VOIP software are significantly cheaper, the new communications method is currently experiencing an unprecedented CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of almost 10 percent a year. This impressive uptake looks set to continue at the same level until at least 2021, as businesses switch from old telephone and landline-based systems to save costs. Innovative companies are quick to appreciate the benefits of little or no up-front capital outlay, combined with the considerable savings to be had from the outset.
Communicating More Easily
Reassuringly, Voice over IP service providers advertise that call quality is of similar or superior quality to that experienced when speaking via standard telephone landlines. It is possible to make Voice over IP calls using computer headsets (for hands-free working) or from special telephones, similar to conventional equipment but boasting additional functionality yet still easy to use.
Typically, VOIP calls use only a fraction of the connection’s available broadband capacity and the processor power of a modern PC or workstation. Some of the other advantages of VOIP calls include:
- Instantly deployable – phone lines are virtual, so extra cabling is not necessary.
- Convenient for office workers, using a computer headset or earpiece and microphone.
- Only one network to manage, which now carries voice and data at once.
- Reduced maintenance costs, as there are now no traditional phone system overheads.
- Video calls and conferencing using web-based functionality help to reduce business traveling time and costs.
- Three-way calls: ideal for post-sales support, technical questions and handovers.
- Integration with mobile devices makes for more efficient and convenient communication.
- Virtual meetings at short notice.
- Website clicks to call services.
- The possibility of integrating with CRM (customer relationship management) software systems.
- Call monitoring and recording.
- Instant messaging.
- Presence information.
- Voice call buttons on emails.
- Feature-rich voicemail with that can be set for email delivery.
- No need to buy or rent extra switchboard hardware or dedicated lines.
- Works with existing standard office computer and network hardware.
- Portable personal Voice over IP number, allocated to a person (wherever they are in the world) instead of a conventional landline number that is fixed to a desk.
Supplying Leading IT & VOIP Solutions in Scotland
Edinburgh-based Onestop IT offers a fixed cost VOIP software service from only £10.00 per month. The company is a leading information technology and communications services supplier that specialises in helping growing SMEs to gain access to quality enterprise technologies at affordable prices. If you are an IT decision maker and would like to optimise your business communications with leading-edge Internet telephony to engage customers and empower employees, please click here for further information.