Technology has advanced at a rapid pace over the past 30 years, with many devices moving from physical systems to digital versions, including one of the most useful: the telephone. While the use of landlines is still prevalent among some businesses, many have started to turn to the digital version, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.
VoIP has become the main backbone of voice communication for a growing majority of companies, offering numerous benefits including potentially large cost savings, and decreased maintenance costs. When it was first introduced, the technology needed to run a VoIP system was expensive, limiting it to MNCs and other large organizations. However, over the past few years, the technology has come down in price and is now available for next to nothing, allowing SMEs to make the switch to VoIP. If your company is thinking of ringing the changes, there are some necessary requirements you should meet before you migrate.
A solid foundation for VoIP is key, as without a good foundation you’ll find that network speed and call quality are poor during heavy use. Most SMEs aim for a VoIP system that can handle around 10 employees on the phone at any given time. Before you start the integration, you should track your current call volume by keeping a note of the number of calls in and out, while paying close attention to call volume during peak hours and days.
You should also investigate the speed and stability of your current Internet connection. While a fast DSL or cable connection is good for browsing, it may not be robust enough to handle VoIP communications, which need a connection that is both quick and stable. Look at your downstream (traffic into your network) and upstream (traffic out of your network) connection speed during a time when the network is experiencing heavy data use. Anything over 1.5 Mbps in both directions should be enough to handle the majority of VoIP systems. Most Internet service providers offer a connection speed well above that, but it’s important to check it out first.
When you have a solid foundation that will support your needs, the next step is building the frame for VoIP. You should determine exactly what’s required from your new system. Some good questions to ask include: Am I going to need to make international calls? How many VoIP connections am I going to need? Am I going to want to make video calls? What’s my budget?
Once you’ve determined your needs you can move on to picking equipment. If you’re a business that typically sticks to local, and some long distance calls, you shouldn’t require much in the way of equipment. The vast majority of companies use a device called a media gateway that allows normal phones to interface with an Internet connection - essentially turning a regular phone into a VoIP phone. If you’re a business that would like to take advantage of the more advanced features of VoIP, like portability, you’ll need more state-of-the-art equipment.
The final issue you need to address is security. On its own, VoIP is not the most secure of connections, as it’s open to all the same types of security breaches that computers and networks can fall prey to. To combat this, many good VoIP service providers will have security measures in place to protect VoIP calls on their network. On your end, it also helps to keep your Internet security up-to-date and conduct regular system scans.
Once you’ve addressed the internal requirements it’s time to start looking for a VoIP service provider. Take your time, shop around, ask competitors and other businesses what service they use. One question to ask a prospective provider is if they will be able to migrate your current number onto their system? While most can switch over your existing numbers, it can take a while, depending on your location and local legislation. So be sure to check if the provider can migrate your numbers and how long it will take.
From there, you should be ready to switch over to VoIP. If you’re still unsure of the process, there are consultants available who can help with the preparation, selection and integration. Good luck, and if you need more information about VoIP, we are here to help you.