For more than 20 years, I’ve watched the evolution of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). I remember when it came to market and was first used commercially by a company called VocalTec – the makers of Magic Jack. At the beginning, the service was a bit unstable, and those who tried it early on may have left the idea behind, but the ability to connect lines of communication using the Internet was as good an idea as the invention of the telephone itself.
What is VoIP?
Earlier this month, telecom consulting firm, Software Advice, published the results of a survey they conducted to see what people really know about VoIP. Their survey focused on understanding consumer knowledge – with the assumption that business owners utilizing VoIP for business phone systems “act a lot like consumers.” There’s some evidence that business owners, especially small business owners often purchase the same technology as consumers and/or implement consumer-type solutions to run their businesses.
In their research, Hello Operator identified five main concerns about VoIP. I’d like to discuss each of those from a business phone system perspective.
Concern #1: Maintaining Dial Tone in a Power Outage
Survey: The largest group of consumers (11%) expressed concerns about losing VoIP service during a power outage.
Whether a business is using landline service or VoIP is not relevant if a power outage occurs. A traditional phone system still needs to be powered on to function. In our experience, most companies have battery backup systems in place that already supply power to the PBX in the case of a power outage. Businesses are more concerned with Internet outages caused by VoIP outages; these are a legitimate concern as they do happen on occasion. Plus, if the customer has only one circuit, they will lose both voice and data if they have VoIP. The concerns are easily addressed with multiple Internet connections.
Concern #2: Call Quality
Survey: The single largest cause of dissatisfaction with VoIP services is poor or inconsistent voice quality.
This is even more of an issue for business buyers. Voice is real time communications. One doesn’t notice if an email takes a second to send or a web page a bit longer to load. Delayed transmission in a phone call is very apparent to users. Anything over 150 milliseconds delay causes quality problems. Voice will provide the ultimate test on a network. If phone calls are good, the network is very good.
Over 95% of quality issues stem from a poor Internet connection. Unfortunately, most Internet connections were installed before the cloud became popular, so many customers have inadequate bandwidth today. Then, if you add VoIP service on top of that, users can experience real call quality problems.
Fortunately, prices for quality Internet bandwidth are tumbling and business owners have many options to secure the resources they need. A great solution to bandwidth and quality issues is to dedicate an internet connection to VoIP and segregate it from the data traffic.
Concern #3: The Need for Specialized Hardware
Survey: Some consumers remain concerned that VoIP telephony requires highly specialized analog equipment.
Author Daniel Harris, Ph. D. accurately squashes the notion that high-tech equipment is required. Harris states, “VoIP allows you to set up a fully featured office phone system with little more than a laptop and a few IP or SIP phones; the rest of your PBX can be hosted in the cloud.” This is absolutely true. There is no PBX purchase required.
The further notion that set up can be as easy as plug and play, well, we’re not so sure. While we agree that the process of getting up and running is straightforward enough for small and mid-sized businesses to do rather quickly, it is important to recognize that a network does need to meet certain parameters to be made voice-ready. However, it’s easy to do by a qualified VOIP vendor.
Concern #4: VoIP Security and Privacy
Survey: The privacy and security of voice traffic have become significant concerns as businesses [and households] transition away from the copper lines of the public switched telephone network to Internet connections.
While many are concerned about the privacy of transmitting voice over the public internet, we feel the need to add that traditional analog or PRI circuits have no encryption either. A few years ago I toured a major carrier’s central office. The technician at the location showed me how he could easily listen in on any of the tens of thousands of calls being handled by that carrier.
A good voice security strategy comes from good data security. A properly secured data network will not have voice security problems.
Concern #5: Mobile Compatibility with VoIP
Although listed as a concern on the multiple-choice list, it was least selected as a concern among telephony consumers – and there are no issues with using VoIP on mobile devices. Calls can be routed to mobile devices, making mobility and accessibility a piece of cake. The Digium Switchvox has this capability, allowing all the same features as the desktop PBX and offering users the ability to switch back and forth easily. Users have total flexibility to send and receive calls almost anywhere without borders.
Summing Up VoIP
These perceived concerns about VoIP for business seem to be somewhat dated as technology has enabled us to be so very efficient. Like I said at the beginning, allowing communication over the Internet is as grand an idea as the invention of the telephone itself. The advantages of VoIP for business are huge! What’s most important to address the above-mentioned VoIP concerns is to work with a local business communications provider who has the expertise to do cloud phone systems right.
Your business communications are important enough and the advantages of VoIP so large, that you should consult with a local cloud phone system provider. They can assess network, ensure you have the resources you need for quality communication, and be there to support the unique needs of your business.