What is VOIP?
VOIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, and as a general term refers to the process of making phone calls through an internet connection as opposed to regular landline or mobile. For many it can provide a suitable solution for inter-business communication as well as other communication purposes, and as a service has become more popular, as it has the ability to be augmented with various different applications, working with the user in mind.
VOIP also refers to the technology used to convert voice into a digital signal, allowing individuals to make a call directly from a computer, VOIP phone, or data-driven service.
VOIP calls can be made through various sources including a phone or VOIP adapter, within a computer, or through installations such as Skype, Google Hangouts and Facetime.
How Does VOIP Work?
VOIP technology works by configuring analogue signals into digital data.
The process of converting audio voice signals into digital packets is known as codecs. Audio voice signals are encoded as data and transmitted via IP, across a LAN (local area network) or online.
If the data needs to be decoded or decompressed, this is also handled by codecs. The process of actually making a VOIP call doesn’t have to be that much different to a standard phone call and to make the call, hardware (headset, microphone, etc) is used, or a software – based VOIP phone is used.
Most VOIP calls will also let you use voicemail, make internet calls, or transfer tasks. A traditional phone handset is replaced by the interface of software – based VOIP phones or programs.
- ATA – this utilises a device called an Analogue Telephone Adaptor, that allows users to connect a standard to phone to a computer/ internet connection, that then uses VOIP. The ATA is used to convert an analogue signal to digital data, enabling the call to be carried through the internet. Some ATAs may require additional software, loaded onto the host computer.
- Computer to computer – when using VOIP, this technique is the most straightforward as it transfers digital data from one source to another without the need to convert back into analogue. There is no charge for computer-to-computer calls, and you need minimal equipment to carry this out; the VOIP software itself, microphone, speakers, sound card, and internet connection. This would preferably be via ethernet cable to maintain a secure connection throughout the phone call.
- IP phones – these are a type of phone that connects directly to the router with all the necessary hardware and software required to carry out the call. This ethernet connector means there is no charge for the calls.
What You Need to Set Up VOIP
- Internet connection
- Wired ethernet router
- Computer – this will act as your PBX server
- PBX server software (PBX Private Branch Exchange is an on-premises physical piece of hardware, that connects many landline phones, and can cost a large amount of money) –
- VOIP provider
How to set up VOIP
Before you can set up VOIP within your business environment you need to check the bandwidth of your broadband is fast enough to provide the quality, as well as support the number of users you intend to have on the system.
Identify the VOIP system provider who offers all the services your business requires as well as the possibility to scale. It is essential the provider also has good customer service, as should something go wrong you want to ensure you are back online as quickly as possible.
Configuring the system may be as simple as plugging the phone into the ethernet, and then configure the settings on the device itself. A supplier like CiS will be able to do all the configuration for you.
Different types of VOIP
There are a number of different types of VOIP systems to choose from which all have different benefits to a small business. These include:
- Mobile applications – Most people use some of these regularly and include SKYPE, WhatsApp, Facetime, Microsoft Teams, Slack and other voice applications which are designed to run on mobile devices like mobile phones and tablets.
- IP PBX systems – This is a phone system that uses VOIP to send and receive calls. Rather than use an analogue system as a traditional PBX would they use the internet and SIP trunking.
- Hosted PBX systems – These are cloud-hosted systems meaning they are hosted by a third party who is responsible for all functionality, maintenance, and security of the system.
To find out which one would be ideal for you and your business, contact the team at CIS for some impartial advice on possible VOIP solutions for your business.
Features of VOIP
VOIP is a lot more than simply a phone system or even a video calling system. There are various features that will help improve the customer experience, as well as ensure communication between team members is also efficient. These features include:
- Call recording – Both incoming and outgoing calls can be recorded and linked to a CRM system.
- Custom hold music – When callers are on hold there is an option for customising the message or hold music.
- Intelligent call routing – By entering a set of ‘rules’ incoming calls can automatically be sent to the appropriate person.
- Virtual receptionist – Interactive Voice Response (IVR) allows callers to enter options using their voice or their keypad.
- Voicemail to email – Recordings of voicemails can be sent to emails which can be useful for mobile workforces.
- Multi device access – The virtual phone number is connected with a person and not a device, so can be accessed from multiple devices.
What are the benefits of VOIP?
VOIP technology can be a practical, time-saving, and cost-saving solution for businesses, regardless of the size of the business. With advancements allowing for high-quality connectivity and reliable service, more and more businesses are seeing the light and opting for VOIP systems as opposed to traditional phone calls.
And come 2025, when there will no longer be BT ISDN landlines VOIP will be the easier and most cost-efficient option for many. Although it is cheaper than legacy ISDN systems it should not be considered as an inferior option – in many ways, it is superior due to the flexibility of the system as well as all the additional features such as call recording and CRM compatibility. In the past few years, a VOIP connection has far surpassed the traditional landline connection in quality, meaning it is the more professional option for your business.
VOIP is also particularly useful for Disaster Recovery as everything is stored in the cloud, meaning if the in-house systems go down, it is still possible to gain remote access to cloud back-up and the rerouting systems ensuring your team and clients can still be connected whilst other repairs are ongoing.
As advancements and improvements only stand to make it even easier to use VOIP, businesses big and small can both benefit. Additionally, this enables business growth without having to change systems – your business can simply upgrade the system, the number of users, and features so it scales along with the business.
Benefits of VOIP technology
VoIP removes the need for a drawn-out installation. Rather than installing hefty hardware which could cut off your communications during the process, installing a VoIP phone system is as simple as downloading software onto an IP phone.
Maximises call features
As well as incorporating new features, a VoIP phone also considers the traditional communicative options such as call transfer, call hold, call hunt or conference calling.
Drives business costs down
Installing VoIP will help drive business costs down, as there are no hefty hardware installation costs. Additionally, international calls that would usually incur heavy fees can be made with no extra cost, a feature that international businesses can truly capitalise and benefit from.
VoIP integrates easily with existing systems, as it is internet-based. Calls and communications can be conducted with ease without the need for hardware, and users can switch between their VoIP phone and other features of their infrastructure quickly.
Flexibility for remote workers
One of the reasons that VoIP has grown in popularity is its ability to bring flexibility to a workplace, particularly for employees working at home or overseas. All that is required with VoIP is an internet connection, meaning teams can stay in contact and stay connected, for a low cost, wherever they are in the world.
More secure telephony network
VoIP networks are more secure than other telephone lines due to standardised encryption protocols. Working with a suitable VoIP provider will ensure all malicious calls and potential threats are monitored and addressed accordingly.
Flexibility to scale up resources
VoIP brings flexibility to your business, enabling and catering for growth and scalability. You can expand your VoIP network with ease, in accordance with your business growth and requirements.
How Businesses Can Use VOIP
Businesses need a high quality, reliable service for communications, both internally as well as externally. Client calls or enquiries will need a secure line, and businesses, meanwhile, won’t want to be slowed down by a phone network that’s unreliable, slow and difficult to navigate. VOIP systems can provide these services, which are externally managed by the provider, who is also available for support should issues occur.
VOIP is also able to provide virtual phone numbers which are tied to an individual rather than a device meaning, as long as there is an internet connection they can stay in contact. The type of numbers provided also depends on the business’ requirements and can be a free phone number, or even a specific location number meaning there can be a phone presence in a specific area even if there is no physical bricks and mortar presence.
When looking for a suitable VOIP provider, you should ensure your provider offers features that work for your business and internal processes. This may include:
- Instant messaging – VOIP is great for amalgamating traditional communication systems into one application including calls, video calls, conferencing calling and instant messaging – either for individuals or as group chats.
- Call queuing and call back feature – With a VOIP system calls can be queued with a custom message or hold music, or a call back feature can be activated where the caller will receive a call back once the staff member is free.
- Security and monitoring of suspicious third parties – The VOIP system has a list of suspicious numbers and denies them access by blocking the calls.
- CRM compatible – Calls can be recorded and synced with a CRM ensuring a much fuller record of client/staff communication.
- Office software compatible (Outlook, Skype) – This enables you to call from within other programmes like Outlook and Skype without having to deal with further logins.
- Recording calls – This can be invaluable for businesses as a way of training their staff, or as a more efficient way of ensuring communication records are accurate.
- Protection from malicious outbound calls – While toll fraud is still possible with VOIP, through regular patching and updating of the system and close monitoring of outbound (and incoming) calls malicious outbound calls from hackers hijacking the system can be avoided.
What’s more, as more business is conducted on the go, with many working remotely or needing to call others while on the road, VOIP systems can be a great choice. There is no need to rely on traditional phone lines, and if VOIP is set up with your computer or laptop, no matter where you are, a call can come through and it’s business as usual.
Internet telephony systems consider the user, and the technology is developed to keep up with the demands of day-to-day working life in 2020 and beyond, where a traditional single phone line to an office is, if anything, rarer than the far more popular alternative VOIP offers.
VOIP technology was developed to make business processes easier for those on the move, making connectivity easier than ever before.
There are various options of VOIP Telephony services for business, including the EVE VOIP software from CiS. Head to our business communications section to explore the full range of Telephony services, or get in touch to find out more.