This article is the first of an occasional series delving into more detail on some of the technologies that can facilitate remote and home working, following on from our earlier post.
As outlined in our previous article about the technologies that can enable home and remote working, one of the most obvious and valuable is VOIP telephony. VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) is a combination of hardware and software that enables voice calls to be transmitted over the internet in much the same way as email and other traffic. This has numerous advantages in the modern era – it frees business from expensive, proprietary and clumsy traditional phone systems (PBX’s or Private Branch Exchanges to give them their full name). It also dramatically reduces call charges and substantially reduces the capital costs traditionally involved with phone systems, so economically there is almost always a saving with VOIP. There are far more issues to consider when moving your telephony over to VOIP than economics alone though.
The most obvious one (particularly in these times) is the complete mobility that VOIP gives you and your employees. Gone are the days of being tied to a physical phone, or people needing multiple numbers to reach you. With VOIP, you can work seamlessly from any location and receive calls from a deskphone, mobile phone, PC or laptop. In fact most VOIP systems enable multiple devices to ring at the same time, meaning you can always pick up the one most convenient at that time without any settings or configuration being involved. You can even receive and send voicemails via email.
VOIP also gives you flexibility in terms of location – you can run most systems on your own internal servers, which gives you maximum security and control, or in the cloud which gives you potential capital cost and disaster recovery benefits.
If you’re a growing business or a start up, the correct VOIP system will allow you to extend the number of users, handsets and calls over time, as and when you need them. There is no need to replace the system when you get to a certain headcount as is the case with some traditional systems.
If you’re reading this from the UK, there is one additional compelling reason for looking at VOIP – the forthcoming shut down of ISDN by BT. Now planned for 2025, this effectively means that from this date onwards we will all be forced into VOIP based systems, so much better to do this in advance if at all possible.
The net result of all of this is that there has been a steady uptake of VOIP over the recent past, something that has been significantly accelerated by the COVID-19 working from home upsurge as a result of the mobility benefits it offers. Google can show us how the numbers of people searching for terms like “business VOIP” have increased over the past 12 months;
Note the particular spike in the first week of March 2020, when the COVID-19 virus began to emerge in earnest in the UK.
The above shows that VOIP is potentially becoming the first choice of businesses when considering telephony solutions, so we thought that it might also be useful if this article also considered some of the various factors worthy of consideration when choosing the move to a VOIP system.
Firstly, we’d suggest thinking about a couple of areas unrelated to the technical capabilities of the system itself. These are the implementation of the system and your own businesses ability to support it and maximise usage of its feature set. Many VOIP systems are marketed as self service and, if you have in house technical capability, this can further reduce cost of ownership of the system. But it is worthy of consideration to use a specialist for the implementation and additionally, this is an area where preparation is key. If you’re moving from a current phone system, its worth documenting exactly what functionality this has and which features you want to recreate in your new system. Voicemails, auto attendants, ring groups and call queues are all areas that need to be considered and, if you’re looking to minimise disruption to your users, replicated on the new system.
You may also, as mentioned earlier in this article, wish to consider the location of the new VOIP system. Most offer you the choice between on premise hosting on your own server and cloud hosting. Both approaches have their own pro’s and con’s. Cloud hosting is useful in removing both reliance on internal infrastructure (potentially useful in a disaster recovery perspective) and the costs involved in acquiring this. It does however entail a commitment to monthly recurring hosting costs, so you may find that hosting on an internal server to be more cost effective as well as giving you more control – every case is potentially different.
Finally, perhaps the most fundamental technical requirement for VOIP is the quality and reliability of your internet connection. With VOIP, your businesses ability to communicate is completely reliant on consistent internet coverage of the appropriate quality, without this the system will not operate. So, prior to implementation of VOIP, always ensure that you’re internet connectivity is of the appropriate speed and availability.
Here at CF Systems we’ve numerous implementations of VOIP systems under our belts (including for ourselves as well as for our customers) and are huge fans of the cost savings, flexibility and futureproofing our chosen 3CX platform gives. Like all technology projects though, it does require planning and expertise. If you’d like to talk to us about how we could help, please get in touch