VoIP is one of the latest technologies creating a buzz…
How is Voice over IP used?
In an increasingly digital and networked enterprise environment, voice communication over the PSTN remains woefully out of date. The typical enterprise phone system does not integrate with other software nor does it offer many of the features that we take for granted in other communication channels such as presence information. The traditional enterprise PBX system is also inflexible and cannot adapt to the way business functions today.
Employees often have no fixed desk and may travel extensively, some people may work from home or from remote locations and yet others have flexible schedules. Meanwhile the phone system still operates on the assumption that everybody comes to the same office from 9 to 5, has a desk and the phone attached to it. To top it off, enterprise features are often expensive and considered a luxury by most small businesses and startups.
Voice over IP or VoIP as it is commonly abbreviated, bridges many of these gaps and brings a lot of functionality to the table. In addition to being a step up in terms of technology, it actually enables businesses to save on their monthly bills as well. There are many types of VoIP deployments and these systems can be useful for both consumers and enterprises.
How is VoIP used by consumers?
Some of the early adopters in the consumer segment were mostly those individuals who had the technical knowledge to understand the latest innovations. Nowadays VoIP is pervasive and most households have switched to it – whether it is from a new company or their existing operator. Though landlines still have their place, especially in rural areas with inadequate Internet access or for senior citizens who are resistant to change, the pace of adoption in VoIP has far outstripped the PSTN.
The biggest reason for this is pretty simple – VoIP calls are extremely inexpensive. Voice over IP enables tremendous cost savings in terms of charges for local and international calls, when compared to POTS. Most vendors even offer unlimited calling to specific countries, within the United States and Canada and plenty of other options as well. With some services like Skype, free calls are limited to other users on the same service regardless of their location.
Quite a few households nowadays have friends and family scattered across the world and VoIP gives them the opportunity to stay in touch without racking up huge phone bills every month. Consumers can even get local numbers in a variety of cities and countries enabling relatives to call them at a fraction of the price of international calls.
How businesses use VoIP
Enterprises can choose to purchase hosted services from an external vendor or deploy their own on premise solution via SIP trunks. There are benefits and disadvantages to both approaches and some companies even choose to blend the two alternatives according to their own needs.
Hosted VoIP services
This is an extremely attractive option for freelancers, startups, small and medium organizations and even larger corporations. With hosted VoIP, capital expenditure becomes operational expenditure. Instead of investing huge amounts of capital in expensive PBX boxes, companies can pay smaller monthly amounts to have the same – and in many cases better – services delivered to them over the Internet.
It frees up enterprises from the hassle of periodic upgrades, maintenance, repairs, software updates and all the constant configuration changes needed to keep the system up to date with business requirements. All of these processes are taken care of by the external contractor. This means the organization does not have to specifically higher those with the technical knowledge to maintain PBX systems and existing personnel can be reassigned to more productive tasks.
VoIP via SIP trunks
This alternative is favored by organizations that already have the expertise and experience to manage their own systems and those who desire the control and customization options. The total cost of ownership is considerably less than paying the monthly or annual substitution charges for hosted VoIP. The cost per call also decreases as the volume of calls made increases. The company remains in full control of key decisions including when to upgrade the system, introducing new services that can be useful to the enterprise or make any other changes as needed.
Quite often this requires considerable investment as the organization will have to purchase IP PBX boxes, SIP trunks from an ITSP and other hardware to deploy the system. This is the main obstacle preventing smaller organizations from utilizing SIP trunks although further innovation in the industry may drive down costs in the future.
VoIP as part of Unified Communication
Increasingly organizations view VoIP as an essential part of their Unified Communication deployments. The UC system mainly brings together different communication channels and protocols in an integrated suite that offers a common interface and seamless interoperability. This means instant messaging, voice calling, conferencing, video chat and other forms of enterprise communication are consolidated into a single suite.
Since VoIP integrate easily with other enterprise applications, it often becomes the backbone of the new UC suite. Establishing unified communication within an enterprise is generally a multiyear project and takes place in several phases. Generally speaking, a company does not start off with UC from scratch. As the enterprise use of VoIP becomes widespread, organizations usually want to improve the experience and view UC as the logical next step.
Even though VoIP is a relatively new technology when compared to older systems, the clear benefits have persuaded consumers and enterprises alike to switch. VoIP is clearly the future of voice communication and the day is not far when the PSTN is abandoned completely.
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