Telecommunications is a critical part of the business environment and always has been. As analog-based telecommunications become obsolete, the evolution of Internet protocol is the next long-term — and unavoidable — solution.
“Voice over IP (VoIP) has come a long way, improving call control and quality immensely since its infancy,” says Michael Louden, director of enterprise sales at Comcast. “As Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) technology matures, it has created a revolutionary ripple effect, setting universal adoption of IP Voice in motion.”
Smart Business spoke with Louden about how VoIP works, its advantages and what to consider before adopting it at your business.
What is the difference between analog voice and VoIP?
For analog voice, POTS (plain old telephone service) uses a dedicated path through the public switched telephone network and enables a connection as long as circuits are available. The network was designed to maintain a stable, high level of voice quality that is available nearly anywhere. POTS is still based mostly on a copper medium and one line handles one call at a time.
Voice over IP uses SIP in much the same way as the public switched telephone network and has similar clarity and consistency. However, there are fewer infrastructure concerns, as IP can run over multiple physical mediums, including copper, fiber or collective forms of wireless technology. As long as you can route IP traffic, you can use VoIP, and you can technically utilize any Internet connection to place calls. There is no limit to your call capacity, as long as the Internet protocol-private branch exchange (IP-PBX) and network bandwidth can support it. Another advantage is that restrictions and surcharges on long distance calling are minimized or eliminated.
How does a business know when to adopt VoIP?
There are a few key questions to ask that will give you a place to start when considering VoIP.
- Step back and take a holistic look at how the current phone system complements your business, specifically how it is utilized and what the critical functions are. Ask what employees like and dislike about the current system, as receptionist needs, executive management requirements and inbound/outbound call flow are important to consider.
- Look at the physical networking and switching. Most IP phones have two ports so you can connect both a computer and phone through the same wall jack. However, this limits the port speed of your computer workstations.
- Are your switches able to provide Power over Ethernet? PoE-capable phones conserve space by eliminating the need for AC power adapters. If not, then AC powered PoE injectors are options.
- If multiple offices are part of this equation, review interoffice communication, as the ability to extension dial between locations is sometimes overlooked.
- Are there field personnel who work from smaller satellite offices or remote locations? Teleworkers also impact call capacity. It might be worth having a phone system that allows IP or virtual private network connectivity, giving remote workers the ability to access the system as if they were on site.
- Consider whether to get a locally managed or hosted private branch exchange. The locally managed PBX is managed within your own organization by a telecom administrator or outsourced IT consultant. It’s a good solution for mid-sized to larger organizations because of scalability and control over provisions, features, handsets and ingress/egress call processing. It takes more initial capital investment but has lower operating expenses in the long run.
- Hosted PBX is a product powered by a cloud-based software phone switch, often good for small and mid-sized businesses, or businesses with multiple locations. Features are available to unite desktops, mobiles and telephones, and disaster recovery capability is possible. Hosted PBX is an operating expense with predictable costs per user.
- There are some core considerations when looking also at a service provider, including call quality control because voice quality and stability are directly affected by poor network performance, causing dropped calls, poor quality audio and loss of in or outbound audio. When considering price, look at the value of the provider as a whole and ask about network infrastructure and ownership, reputation with VoIP, how the implement/installation process works, equipment requirements and package options.
What is Metro Ethernet, and how would it impact a business?
A Metro Ethernet network, loosely defined as a regional extension of your Ethernet-based LAN, connects geographically separate sites as if they were offices in the same building. You no longer have to traverse the public Internet for interoffice communication with VoIP. Metro Ethernet also has no special interfaces because most networking equipment has at least one Ethernet interface. It uses network divergence rather than converging voice and data over a single network, which can help with bandwidth availability for both voice and data.
Fiber-based Metro Ethernet enhances business continuity, performance and stability for all types of VoIP communication. The networks are scalable, resilient and built to meet the needs of demanding networking applications.
Why is VoIP the future of telecommunications?
VoIP carries most of the world’s voice traffic today. A vast majority of the advanced services you appreciate now are enabled using VoIP such as voicemail to email, click to dial, find-me-follow-me, web-based PBX administration and more. With VoIP, telephone calls can be made anywhere an Internet connection is available.
Michael Louden is Director of Enterprise Sales at Comcast. Reach him at (610) 499-2331 or Michael_Louden@cable.comcast.com.
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