William Bumbernick

Friday, 25 February 2005 08:28

The business benefits of VoIP

Voice-over-Internet Protocol, or VoIP service, has been bantered about for years but it is just now being adopted by businesses in the mainstream. It offers the benefits of cost savings as well as powerful new capabilities. Recent product launches by the Baby Bells and long-distance carriers, as well as an onslaught of "network convergent" companies offering both voice and data services, are successfully penetrating a wide range of industry sectors.

By now, it is likely you have seen the terms "VoIP" and "convergence" in an article or heard them in a radio or TV spot. But why should this matter to your company? It comes down to economics. By combining voice calls over the same infrastructure that delivers data connectivity, businesses can save money.

Most businesses have high-speed Internet connections and separate phone lines. Consolidating data and voice communications over one data line permits substantial cost savings for businesses of all sizes -- 20 percent or more per month.

To achieve the benefits of VoIP, companies can purchase an on-premise VoIP phone system (IP PBX) or choose a hosted VoIP system, a program in which telecom equipment is housed by the supplier and features are delivered remotely. Hosted telecom services are gaining in popularity, because they require less capital and expense commitment, and little or no in-house technical expertise, they can be implemented quickly and are extremely scalable with your business.

Beyond cost savings, VoIP technology makes the most eye-catching features viable for both small and large businesses, transforming telecommunications in much the way Windows transformed your PC. Imagine arriving at the office and turning on your computer to read your e-mails -- and listen to your telephone voice messages.

With VoIP, you simply click on voice messages that have been delivered to your computer. You can listen to them (in the form of .wav files), forward, delete and respond to them, all with simple mouse-clicks. Furthermore, you can toss out your old phone system "cheat sheet" -- the one with all the asterisk-number combinations for saving, forwarding, replaying or deleting voice messages, invoking call transfer and three-way calling -- and use point-and-click commands from an intuitive Web interface on your computer.

You can also enable your business's phone system to screen calls according to your personal priorities. And, calls will follow you where ever you choose -- to your cell phone, to your home phone, to your home-office phone -- again, controlled by you through easy point-and-click commands. How about having your prospects and customers in Los Angeles call a local L.A. phone number that rings at your call center in Denver? These are just a few examples of what you can achieve with VoIP.

Many people still think there are quality concerns with VoIP technology. In reality, the technology has evolved dramatically. Early VoIP applications were focused on large volumes of international long-distance minutes. Since these international routes delivered immense savings, they became very popular.

With increased volumes, the international telecom marketplace gained first-hand experience engineering and designing VoIP networks to maximize call quality. Vendors also were able to test systems and evolve a more mature technology.

VoIP telephony is rapidly becoming a mainstream service, already in use by cost-savvy businesses in all sectors. Cost reduction is the driving force for this rapid adoption, with productivity-enhancing features as beneficial side effects. Most businesses will find substantial savings by making the switch, making the question of whether to switch to VoIP not if, but when.

William Bumbernick is the CEO of Altera Technology Solutions LLC, a Philadelphia-area technology services company providing advanced solutions to businesses around the globe. Reach him at wbumbernick@alteratech.com, (877) ALTERA2 or visit www.alteratech.com.