VoIP – Benefits and Tradeoffs

The evolution from traditional phone lines to Voice-Over-IP technology is well underway. However, the benefits and drawbacks of this technology are not always well understood, especially by the businesses and users most affected by this transition.A well executed VoIP solution should deliver many if not all of the following benefits:

Improved Capacity/Remove Line Limits
Unlike traditional “Line” based telephone service, VoIP is a “Data” service, which means there no physical lines that get tied up when people make or receive calls. As a result, traditional limits on the number of lines purchased no longer apply. VoIP service should only be limited by the capacity of your desktop phone and the bandwidth (speed) of the data connection providing the service.

Better handsets, including options for computer based phones and mobile apps
VoIP handsets provide better audio quality (Wide-Band or HD Audio), speaker phones, color displays and touch screens, providing a much better and user-friendly end-user experience.
VoIP Solutions can also integrate with computer based phones (soft phones) or mobile apps to provide additional options for users to interact with the phone system.

Unlimited Long Distance Calling
VoIP services should be priced to include unlimited long-distance calling, for standard business use (exempting call centers). Per-minute charges or long-distance blocks are a legacy of traditional land line service.

Flexible system configuration and integration options
VoIP Systems are designed to be flexible – select providers can tailor the system to work the way your business operates, and seamlessly integrate remote workers, multiple sites or even multiple companies. For example, users can have multiple physical phones tied to the same extension at different locations, or a sales ring group could hunt through sales people across different sites.

Call Recording & Reporting
VoIP solutions should offer both call recording for compliance/training, and an easy way to pull reports or actual call record data. Extracting data from the phone system allows businesses to integrate phone data into their existing dashboards and to track this data for historic trends.

VoIP is not all “sunshine & roses” – with it’s many benefits, it does carry several tradeoffs:

Connection Quality
This is the single most important aspect of a migration to VoIP, and the cause of most problems. As noted earlier, VoIP is a data service and is easily affected by connectivity problems. While land lines offer a dedicated, direct path for a phone call, VoIP uses a shared path to communicate. Depending on the type of solution and your local infrastructure, this path can also be shared by office server traffic, email, Internet etc.
A well designed solution needs to ensure that the VoIP path is prioritized and protected from interference, and is monitored to quickly detect problems.

Complexity
VoIP solutions encompass many components – a phone system, VoIP phones network switches, network routers, gateways, adapters, etc. Many of these components, including the end-user phones run sophisticated software. Your VoIP experience is directly affected by the quality and reliability of these components – any instability will compromise your service.

A second consequence of VoIP’s complexity is that problems are often difficult to isolate. Vendors might identify internal network issues that then need to be worked by an IT team, delaying problem resolution. It is important to work with a vendor that monitors the service and can clearly identify the location of a problem.

Land line dependent services
Some business critical services may not operate at all over a VoIP connection. For example, businesses that depend on modem lines must retain a land line for this service.

Other components that might need to be analyzed are alarm systems, door entry systems, paging systems, credit card machines and postage machines. A VoIP transition should identify and plan for any of these items that are in active use.

Switching to VoIP can improve the efficiency of your business and deliver significant cost savings, but it’s important to consider the tradeoffs and work with your vendor to mitigate these concerns.

At 4Voice, we leverage over 80 years of experience in traditional phone systems and VoIP to help our clients maximize the benefits of a VoIP migration.

Amruth Laxman
President & CEO
4Voice, LLC

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Amruth Laxman

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