Is VoIP The Answer? Probably.
You’ve probably heard people use the term VoIP or softphone in the last few years. These refer to phone services that use the internet to process call data rather than a traditional telephone line. Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, has gained popularity because it offers businesses and individuals some serious advantages over traditional legacy telephone lines. The range of people that can benefit from VoIP is anywhere from stay-at-home-freelancers to international enterprises. This article will help you decide if VoIP is right for you. For the basics of softphones, check out this article.
What’s so Great About VoIP?
There are five main benefits to using VoIP for your telephony communications. They are:
4) Ease of use
Generally speaking, the recurring costs of a VoIP line are significantly lower than those of a legacy telephony line. There are three minute costs you might incur using a VoIP solution: Since VoIP phones use the internet to process calls, all VoIP calls contribute to your monthly internet usage. Also, every VoIP or soft phone has a telephone number associated with it, which is paid for on a monthly basis. Should you choose to use a hosted VoIP solution, you will have to pay a monthly fee to your host. These three costs: internet, phone number, and hosting, are already insignificant, but, they can be minimized further. For one, if you already pay for unlimited internet, then the internet cost doesn’t apply. Also, if you operate a larger business, closer to enterprise-level, then installing a SIP-based private branch exchange (IP-PBX) can be an expensive one-time cost that yields significant monthly savings from hosting services.
Another perk of VoIP systems is mobility. There are two aspects of VoIP that makes it mobile. The first is that VoIP lines work on many different devices, anywhere in the world (provided you have internet access). This means that you can use one number between your cell, your Canada office, and your Australia office. Also, since your VoIP line and it’s number can be used anywhere in the world, if you’re on a trip to Moscow, Berlin, or London, your phone call back home won’t be considered long-distance. This is yet another way that VoIP can lower costs.
Expanding a VoIP network is as simple as purchasing a number and adding it to your system. It does not require any additional equipment, aside from I/O devices, such as a headset should your specific usage require it.
Ease of Use
VoIP lines are easy to use and highly accessible. Of course, it’s simple to open the application and start a call, but more importantly, it’s impressively simple to adjust settings & features. Say you want to limit call length, add a feature like Caller ID, or adjust the layout of your softphone. All of this can be managed within seconds from the graphical interface. Compare this to adjusting the layout, settings, or preferences of a physical phone: You would need a phone call to your telephone company to get new features, and a complete redesign of the physical phone to adjust the layout.
Another major benefit of VoIP and softphones over traditional telephones is the ability to integrate with applications and hardware. Skype, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and other collaboration platforms have built-in integration for softphones, streamlining your VoIP line within the application. These integrations can give a business some important benefits: You can see who’s online and who’s on a call. You can call a number from the internet or an email simply by clicking on it. You can have voicemails sent to your email. You can even can host a video conference with several parties. The integrate-ability of VoIP phones offers great benefits to the user and to businesses, especially for logistics and tracking purposes.
There are three potential drawbacks to consider before making the move to VoIP. The first is the hefty setup cost associated with a private IP-PBX solution. VoIP is offered in two different forms: hosted solutions and IP-PBX solutions. If you are not a large business and subsequently choose a hosted solution, then a VoIP host will charge you a monthly fee for the phone line and for routing your calls. However, monthly hosting fees can be avoided by hosting the IP-PBX yourself. Larger businesses and enterprises will want to consider hosting themselves privately not only to reduce monthly costs, but also for security, upgradability and quality control.
Another drawback is that VoIP calls require internet. If the power goes down and your router, computer, and monitor don’t have a battery backups, then VoIP calls are not an option. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to keep at least one traditional telephone line for emergencies.
Usage, Bandwidth & Latency
There are three other concerns that stem from VoIP’s reliance on internet: usage, bandwidth, and latency. VoIP lines use your internet for call data, and therefore contribute to your monthly internet usage. You will want to consider your monthly usage before committing to VoIP lines. Of course, this is not an issue if you’re on an unlimited plan. Two other potential issues are bandwidth an latency. Bandwidth is the speed at which your VoIP line downloads & uploads call data. Latency describes how much your voice is delayed from the person on the other end. If your connection has low bandwidth, then call processing will be slowed and the quality will decrease. If your internet connection has high latency, then you might hear what your caller says with a second or two of delay. High latency can ruin the calling experience if you are consistently waiting a few seconds to hear your caller.