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Tech Tip: The Big Tool for Small Business PDF Print E-mail

Voice Over IP or VoIP brings great value and functionality to small business with a small price tag. For the skinny, VoIP is just a somewhat new way to do telephone systems with a complete laundry list of functions and features at a very small price. We'll cover the basics of what this technology is and does compared to traditional phone systems.

VoIP is a very general term, and covers two different elements of business telephony. VoIP is a service, such as your local telco service provides phone lines. It is also a phone system that provides desk phones, call management and virtual extensions to complete the package.

VoIP service is just like your local telco service that provides voice services, however the service is over your network line rather than using a dedicated copper line to your business. In comparison however, the core functionality is the same for both. What VoIP brings in addition is substantial cost savings, a huge list of additional features, and superior flexibility.

Cost Savings: VoIP plans come in two general types of service, each with their own benefits and cost savings.

Pay per Line: this is just like your traditional land line and will handle a single call, but includes all the features you'd normally pay more for with traditional phone lines. All of this with a $20 to $30 a month cost verses $40 to $70 for a traditional land line.

Pay per Minute: For business that don't spend a great deal of time on the phone, or have need of many simultaneous calls, the pay per minute plan provides great flexibility since there are an unlimited number of phone lines available for a small rate.

In both pay per line or per minute, long distance costs are a part of the past and bring additional savings monthly.  

Features: VoIP includes all the basic features you'd normally expect like call forwarding, call waiting and voicemail, but a lot more at little or no additional cost. For example, VoIP allows for call failure rerouting to another phone or system. Online providers and phone systems provide a web-based management console that allows you to make changes instantly to your phone service. Further, due to the high competitive nature of the VoIP service industry, the features keep growing and customer service is at its best.

Flexibility: VoIP services allows for a great deal of flexibility on where your phones are located. You're not limited to a physical location, only that you need network access to make and receive calls. Traveling on business, you can take your phone with you. Another great feature is that area codes are portable. For example, if you do a lot of business in various areas around the country, you can have a local area code number for each of those locations. The list goes on…

A VoIP Server or System is the other side of the equation that is used to add features and functionality. A VoIP server or system comes in two forms.

A Phone Server: This system is similar to the traditional phone system that many large business utilize to handle many desks, helpdesk calls queues, and call menus, etc. The big difference again is cost. A traditional phone system typically start at around $30K, whereas a VoIP system starts around $2K or less including phones and installation.

Cloud Based Phones: If you don't want to manage your own phone system, you can utilize a web based version that only requires you have desk phones. The phones are managed remotely over the internet. This system is essentially the same as running your own server (features vary), but does require more network resources and is generally more costly.

A VoIP system is where the real features list comes in to play. Here, calls can be managed in a completely automated way with auto attendants and call queues, to very direct customer oriented call handling. Other features include specialized voicemail handing; for example, one message is used if you're on the phone, and another message is used if you're out of the office. Calls can be made to ring both your extension and your cell phone at the same time, allowing you complete flexibility to receive calls anywhere you are.

A phone system can be configured to handle one or many numbers simultaneously, and can even manage fax lines. VoIP service providers are more generic geologically, so you can order specialized numbers from around the country, including toll free numbers. Ultimately, the feature list is so large, that most businesses use only a fraction of what is available.

When comparing a VoIP server to a traditional phone system for business, VoIP brings substantial cost savings and a number of features unavailable on traditional systems. For example, traditional phone systems begin at around $30,000 for 10 phones, 10 lines, with installation and configuration. The same system utilizing VoIP technology can be achieved for less than $2,500.

If you believe you could benefit from a VoIP system, contact us today for a review and comparison to your existing system.