Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is not necessarily new — the basic concept has been around for about 20 years, with widespread use in business settings since 2004. However, as with most kinds of technology, it has been through a series of advancements since its early years.
Early VoIP systems essentially mirrored traditional phone systems, with proprietary licensing and network configurations. New technology enables modern VoIP systems to work on a virtualized platform with a very different licensing and cost structure, as well as other enhancements.
“The power is now in the cloud, not in the telephone closet,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. “If the premise-based phone system has to stay, we can work with that, too. Using traditional Private Branch Exchange (PBX) or IP-based phone systems, we can create the same geographically agnostic dialing.”
Smart Business spoke with Desberg to find out what the major benefits of updated VoIP systems are for businesses, and how to seamlessly update an older VoIP system.
What were the features of early VoIP systems?
Early generation VoIP is very software intensive, but it’s not much different than a traditional phone system, other than the features that it provides. Early VoIP systems mostly worked internally as IP, and not connected to the public switch telephone network in an IP-based way. You still had to call up your local phone company and plug in these phone lines to the PBX.
When VoIP technology was just coming out, there were major players that were using computer networks to allow phone systems to do things that they couldn’t traditionally do, including remote calling, multiple locations that are hooked together with the same phone system, integration to computer systems for basic call reporting and some software integration. The old way was very proprietary, meaning, you had to have one company’s handsets, phone system and their large PBX equipment in house, and you were essentially using new technology just like the old telephone systems. It just happened to be new hardware.
How can you work with an older system that is already in place?
There are plenty of organizations that have made a long-term investment in a phone system, whether it is IP-based or a traditional phone system, so it’s not easy to throw out the old system and buy everything new. There’s a way to take baby steps toward that.
Sometimes the company keeps the old phone system while it capitalizes on a better pricing structure for dial tone with a VoIP provider. That allows it to budget and plan and get a few years of savings under its belt. Then, the company plans for this capital expenditure and a hardware investment and moves when it’s time.
What enhancements do modern VoIP systems offer?
VoIP as we know it today is virtually managed; you don’t need somebody on-site and if you do require additions or changes, all you have to do is pick up the phone and ask somebody to do it without coming out. You don’t have to buy the brains of the unit — the PBX — for on-site installation, and modern VoIP systems are not nearly as proprietary as early systems.
In the VoIP world now, you could choose any number of providers to be your dial-tone provider, and that’s delivered virtually. The system lives on the cloud, which gives you some great abilities. It gives you disaster recovery capability, it allows you to put phones wherever you want geographically and they all operate like they’re connected. It gives you options to pick different or updated hardware so the phones on your desk can be up to date, and it changes the licensing model to more of a subscriber model. And it’s non-contractual, so you are not contracting with the local phone provider to get a dial tone — all of it is delivered through the service to the desktop, wherever that may be.
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