Yes, indeed, VoIP technology is for real. It is sometimes called “network voice,” a term that describes what the technology is all about. The idea is that your company computer network can carry telephone conversations as an application if they are compatible with other network equipment. This is possible when telephones are turned into network peripherals called IP telephones or SIP telephones.
This sounds like a clever tech trick, but just where does the cost savings come in? For VoIP to make any difference, you need to be able to get rid of your old telephone wiring, PBX system and analog lines. Then the phones and the computers share the remaining company LAN and broadband connection to the outside world.
Here’s where it gets tricky. All VoIP isn’t the same. Voice and data packets might look similar, but they have very different needs. Voice is a real time streaming service. Anything that interferes with the smooth and continuous transfer of packets from one phone to another without delay is going to make the conversation sound crummy. Network congestion, latency and packet loss that doesn’t faze data transfers will destroy phone calls. There is no plug-and-play for VoIP. The network, including any outside telecom lines, have to be specially set up to support voice services or they won’t work very well.
The best VoIP providers take measures to insure that your phone service works as well as it does now or even better. In general, this means that you need a private line connecting you to your service provider. That line must be specially conditioned so that voice packets have priority over data packets. You won’t notice fractions of a second delays in data downloads, but you sure will if they affect the phone calls. Voice needs a guarantee of bandwidth, latency, jitter and congestion so it can work perfectly.
For most companies, the ideal approach is to let your VoIP service provider also be your bandwidth provider... at least for any lines transporting VoIP phone calls. This way you can be sure that those lines will be optimized for best VoIP performance. This is especially important for smaller companies that will save money by using a single integrated T1 line or SIP trunk to provide both dedicated Internet access and VoIP telephone service.
Larger companies may have dedicated SIP trunks that transport only phone conversations. Like ISDN PRI, each SIP trunk can transport a certain number of calls within its bandwidth capacity. How many simultaneous calls depend on the CODEC (Coder/Decoder) that does the conversion between analog and digital. The universal standard is G.711 which is the same standard used in T1 telephone and ISDN PRI. Other codecs offer HD voice that is more understandable than standard telephone audio or they use less bandwidth to cram more conversations per trunk. Be careful here, though, the lowest bandwidth CODECS gain their efficiency at the expense of voice quality.
Perhaps the most popular business VoIP service right now is called hosted VoIP, hosted PBX or telephony in the cloud. You have only SIP telephones in-house. All switching and connections to outside lines is done at the service provider. Cost savings of 60% or more are being promoted for this type of service.
There are other arrangements you may also be interested in. Some VoIP companies offer an “analog handoff” so you can use regular telephone sets with VoIP service. You don’t get as many features with this hybrid arrangement, but you may save the cost of upgrading all your phones and wiring. Note: Some VoIP providers may include new SIP phones with your service agreement to sweeten the deal. That can make the upgrade well worth your while.
Still other VoIP providers work with your in-house PBX telephone system and only replace the trunk lines that would otherwise go to the local telephone company or competitive carrier. If you are happy with your current phone system but just want the opportunity to save on your monthly phone bill, this can be a good solution. When it comes time to replace or upgrade your PBX, you can review the situation and see if going with a hosted PBX makes more sense than paying for a new system.
Even if you only have a single telephone or a few desk phones in your company, you may be able to save substantially with service from one of the best VoIP providers for business. Get competitive quotes and features now.