VoIP is one of the hottest buzzwords surrounding communications technology. That's because it has the potential of revolutionizing business communications, says Brian Conboy, president of Advanticom Inc., a Duquesne company that produces customized communications solutions for commercial clients.
VoIP is gaining acceptance in the corporate world, especially in small- to medium-sized companies looking to save costs and wanting an edge over their competitors. A recent report, Conboy says, found that at the end of 2002, 2 percent of U.S. firms were using some sort of IP (Internet Protocol) telephony. By the end of 2007, VoIP access in the United States will rise from 6.5 million lines to 19.2 million lines, according to the Telecommunications Industry Association.
VoIP is the process of converting voice signals into data packets, using IP to transmit voice over a data network. There are distinct benefits that companies receive when utilizing IP telephony, the most widely publicized of which is the ability to save costs on long distance charges and to network multiple offices together.
Businesses that have a data connection between their offices can utilize VoIP technology to bypass long distance networks and provide more efficient communication between offices. In a traditional setting, someone would have to dial the telephone number to a branch office, possibly paying a long distance charge for the call, wait for a receptionist or automated system to answer, then be connected to the party they are trying to reach.
Using VoIP, a person can simply dial an extension number and be connected immediately to a party in another office, whether across town or around the world, avoiding costly long distance charges.
A second benefit is in the design of many telephone systems, often called IP-based systems. Rather than using traditional phone systems with their own wiring infrastructure, IP-based systems use a data network infrastructure. Additionally, IP utilizes data infrastructure that might already exist in many companies.
"This convergence of voice and data into a single platform has tremendous advantages in simplifying the administration of the communications network," Conboy says.
There are other benefits as well, such as the ability to have remote phones with a single telephone number. Consider an employee working out of his or her home in New York. He or she could have a phone number with a California area code. This enables companies to take advantage of having a virtual office and/or remote agents who could essentially work from any location.
When making the move to VoIP, it is critical to select the right network. Buying equipment and plugging it into the Internet is an extremely difficult task for IT departments, says Conboy. Simply turning voice into data and connecting to the Internet doesn't mean the call will be a success.
To communicate using VoIP from any location, whether in the United States or overseas, use of a private network is required to ensure connection. A provider's coverage is of particular importance, because if coverage is not available in specific areas, employees may not be able to make calls to customers, and vice versa.
Like other so-called "disruptive technologies," such as wireless communications, hand-held devices and GPS tracking systems, VoIP has the potential to dramatically transform the business world.
Says Conboy: "Soon, operating a business without VoIP will be like trying to market without a Web site."
How to reach: Advanticom, www.advanticom.com.