When the Internet Ate the Phone

You’ve got five new hires coming in for their first day, a meeting about a new product planned for 2 p.m. and a prospective client who might call in any time. The problem? You had to leave the office unexpectedly first thing this morning to put out a fire at a remote office.

Scenarios like this one have been terrifying managers for decades. These days, though, they’re a lot less scary because of the increased prevalence of VoIP systems. Short for voice over internet protocol, VoIP covers a huge range of products from fairly simple phone systems to integrated tools that allow for video conferencing, seamless access to office lines from mobile phones and the ability to get detailed information about an office communications network from anywhere.

Aside from email, VoIP is probably one of the biggest factors in the rise in telecommuting among office workers in recent years. Yet occasional breakdowns and poor quality on VoIP systems—most notoriously Skype—have made some suspicious of the technology. Providers are responding to the issue with redundant networks and sometimes the ability to switch over to the regular phone network in the case of a network emergency. The systems require different phones than traditional networks, but they are also usually much less expensive.

A report last year said that 31 percent of installed business lines in North America were VoIP-based, and it predicted adoption would rise to more than 66 percent by 2015. If that turns out to be right, it could mean traditional landlines are on their way to extinction.

Just one example of the ways that modern VoIP systems can change the office landscape is found at California-based ShoreTel Communications. ShorTel can let companies run their own VoIP system internally or handle it for them in the cloud. A firm offering ShorTel consulting can help firms figure out which option works best for them. Either way, a sleek interface offers users a way to monitor employees’ use of the system and quickly plug new workers in. Even people working from a remote location can get immediate access to everything that’s available at the main location through either office or cell phones.

It could be enough to make managers find they don’t really need to go into the office, even on the fullest of days.

The Value of VOIP for Small Business – Part Two.

In today’s blog, we continue our look at VOIP, and how it can help Small Business.

The cost of VOIP:

Third party cost analysis has proven that VOIP is easily the most cost-effective phone solution for small business.  The reasons are simple: rather than a complex infrastructure, all phones run over the Internet, and are easily scaled up or down.  The ease of VOIP solutions also means there are not big personnel costs during the installation, maintenance or upgrades of the phone systems.

ShoreTel, in their marketing materials, report that most of their customers see return on investment in the first year of the purchase.

VOIP and reliability:

Many small business owners who don’t utilize VOIP cite reliability as a factor: If the Internet goes down, their perception is that your phones go down too – which would be catastrophic for any business.

While it’s true that Internet software solutions like Skype are vulnerable to outages, we’re glad to report that this perception is not reality with many VOIP providers.

For instance, ShoreTel’s systems offer 99.999% availability.  Furthermore, in the case of Internet failure, the phone system simply switches over to a regular Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) – the transfer is seamless, and business does not suffer.

In Conclusion:

VOIP has come a long way since its roots in the early 2000s.  Adoption is becoming very broad, and modern VOIP solutions are lauded by businesses for their flexibility, power, reliability – and impact on the bottom line.

The Value of VOIP for Small Business – Part One.

VOIP (or “Voice over Internet Protocol”) is a well-used buzzword, but many small businesses are left asking some basic questions: What EXACTLY is VOIP, and what impact can it make on my business?

What is VOIP?

VOIP, as we mentioned earlier, is short for “Voice over Internet Protocol”.  Put simply, it’s a telephone system that goes over the Internet, rather than traditional phone lines (a public switched telephone network or PSTN).

VOIP made its first big breakthroughs in 2004, as High Speed Internet became more prevalent.  Today, it is used in a number of different applications, from IP Phones (which are like regular phones, but work through the Internet rather than traditional phone lines), Software VoIP (programs like Skype which allow real-time calls over the Internet) and Mobile and Integrated VoIP (which allows mobile phones to make calls outside of the regular mobile network).

VOIP’s next step:

Now that VOIP has become a presence in the business world, companies are moving to consolidate business services under the banner of VOIP.  For instance, telecommunications company ShoreTel offers solutions designed to bring together many aspects of small business communication on one platform, such as:

  • Phone systems
  • Conferencing systems
  • Calendar systems
  • Workflow
  • Enterprise applications
  • And much more

Check back next week for part two of our article!