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What is VoIP?
A guide to understanding business VoIP
Good communication is at the heart of every relationship—and that includes business relationships. When you can communicate easily with employees, vendors, partners and customers, you can help your business stay ready to succeed.
There is a lot of technology out there that promises to make business communications easier. But for businesses that are just getting started —or for those that are eyeing growth opportunities—sifting through all of those options can be overwhelming. It might feel like the easiest choice is to just stick with traditional landline phone service, but can you really hope to succeed in a modern business world using legacy systems and outdated tools?
Many small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are coming to realize that being competitive means using the same tools that bigger businesses do. Which is why many SMBs are turning to software-based technology over the internet—also known as the cloud—to help even the playing field.
Deciding on what cloud-based technologies are best for you could have a huge impact on your business, so it’s important to make smart choices. When it comes to business communications, a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solution could be exactly what your business needs to deliver big results without breaking your budget.
What is VoIP?
VoIP is a cloud-based technology that transports high-quality voice calls over the internet instead of a traditional phone network. From a user perspective, it is just like using a typical phone service. The difference is that the calls are routed through your internet network instead of through a circuit-switched telephone network.
VoIP telephone service is a great blend of familiar and contemporary. Because it’s so similar to traditional phone service, it’s easy for users to make the transition to VoIP services. No extensive trainings or constant troubleshooting necessary. Plus, since it’s all in the cloud, VoIP service provides access to advanced communications features that can help you improve productivity and performance.
Three main ways to place VoIP calls:
Analog telephone adaptor (ATA)
This adaptor lets you connect a standard phone to a computer or internet connection to place VoIP calls.
These specialized phones look like typical desk phones, but have Ethernet connectors to connect directly to internet services.
All you need to place a computer-to-computer call is VoIP software, your computer’s microphone and speaker, and an internet connection.
The many benefits of VoIP
When you’re working with limited resources, you need to make sure you are getting the most out of all of your technologies and investments. Business VoIP services can do more than just improve how you communicate; their benefits can stretch across many aspects of your business. Here are just a few of the advantages of a VoIP solution:
VoIP is a cost-effective option because it lets you leverage the internet service you are already using. This means instead of paying for a separate service, you only need one network for both your voice calls and your data services. You get low setup fees, low maintenance fees and low call charges. Plus, rather than having to deal with multiple bills and plans, a VoIP solution can consolidate your voice and data into one efficient plan.
Quality and reliability
When you pair VoIP with a reliable network, you won’t need to worry about poor call clarity. Plus, the right VoIP solution will help maintain business continuity by forwarding calls to a preset number in the event of a power outage.
It’s critical for businesses to stay flexible and ready for whatever the day brings. Because it’s cloud-based, VoIP can help you do more than just voice calls—you can also integrate other critical communications tools, such as video conferencing, visual voicemail, collaboration tools and more. And because it can work seamlessly between desk phones and mobile devices, you can stay connected even when working remotely.
Your customers are your priority—and you should make sure they know it. Not only do you need to be able to pick up the phone when your customers call, you need to be able to answer their questions or get them to the person who can—quickly. When you choose a feature-rich VoIP solution, you’ll have access to many of the same tools that larger businesses typically use. For instance, our VoIP solution comes with more than 30 features, such as:
- Auto Attendant—A virtual receptionist that helps customers self-select who they need to talk to
- Hunt Group—Automatically transfers customers from line to line to find an available employee
- Announcements on Hold—Plays music, advertisements or personal recorded messages for customers while they’re on hold
With features like these, VoIP can help you give your customers the same level of service they have come to expect.
If you’re already getting pulled in a lot of different directions, you need tools that make your job easier. VoIP deployment and management is simple, so there is no need for highly trained or dedicated IT staff. VoIP interfaces are designed to be simple and user-friendly so that local administrators can customize the most common service modifications.
VoIP is highly scalable—a good thing if you have big plans for your business’ future. When you have VoIP service, it’s simple to move or add phones to new locations without having to reprogram or install new lines. So as your circumstances change, so can your phone system. Plus, with VoIP, virtual phone numbers can be assigned to multiple devices, helping you simplify telecommuting and remote working. Investing in VoIP service today is a first step toward moving your business forward.
Find the right VoIP service provider.
There are a lot of VoIP services out there to choose from, but they’re not all created equal. So it’s important that you get one that is right for your business. Here are a few steps to take when researching your VoIP options.
Assess your needs.
Before you can choose a VoIP solution, you first need to determine what your specific communications needs are.
- Do you have a remote workforce? Do you think you might in the future?
- Do your employees need the flexibility to switch between working at their desk and working on the road?
- What kind of calling features do you need to keep your teams collaborating and to give your customers great experiences?
- What’s your plan for keeping workers connected if there’s a power outage or if your ISP experiences an outage?
Types of VoIP solutions:
This is a hybrid approach to VoIP. Businesses that want to keep existing numbers and analog phones can use a specialized adaptor to connect their legacy equipment to the internet and then use VoIP software to make and receive calls.
Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Trunking is the digital equivalent of an analog phone line. It provides the same basic service as traditional landlines, only instead of using physical wires to make connections, it uses virtual lines to connect calls over the internet.
VoIP Private Branch Exchange (PBX) is a system that manages a business’ telephone network using a data network. It may be hosted, on premises or a hybrid of the two.
Once you know what you need from your business phone system, you can start looking for a solution that aligns with your long-term business goals.
Evaluate the network.
VoIP service is routed through the internet. So if you want to make sure you’re providing reliable communications, you’re going to need reliable network service. Make sure you look for a service provider that has proven reliability and coverage where you need it.
While VoIP can cost less than some other business phone systems, the costs between providers can still vary—especially since not all VoIP solutions provide the same features. Not only should you compare upfront equipment costs and deployment costs, but you’ll also want to see what your ongoing monthly costs will be and compare what you get with each solution. Knowing everything that is included in the cost of your VoIP solution helps you make sure you’re getting the best value for your money.
Verify support options.
VoIP services are simple and easy to manage—but that doesn’t mean you might not need a little extra help along the way. So you need a service provider that will be there for you when you need it. Make sure you ask questions like:
- Will I have 24/7/365 access to professional help?
- Do you provide comprehensive support services?
- What mechanisms are in place to make sure my VoIP system continues to work even if there’s a power outage or other unplanned disaster?
When it comes to choosing the best VoIP solution for you, we know that there’s a lot to consider, because these are the same things we considered when creating Verizon Business Digital Voice, our business VoIP offering. We have over 15 years’ experience supporting VoIP services for businesses of all sizes, and we applied all of our know-how in designing a comprehensive solution. With more than 30 advanced calling features, easy management, built-in business continuity options, professional support and more, Business Digital Voice* is a flexible and affordable solution for growing businesses.
There’s a reason there are so many varieties of VoIP solutions. Every business has unique requirements and goals, and needs a business phone system that aligns with both. So know your needs, know your options and make the choice that’s best for your business.
* Business Digital Voice is available in select areas of nine states and the District of Columbia.