VoIP is one of the latest technologies creating a buzz…
Voice over IP Advantages and Disadvantages
Voice over IP has become a quick and effective way of keeping in touch with friends and family around the world without having to pay the exorbitant rates charged for international calls by phone carriers. Enterprises have not been far behind consumers when it comes to VoIP adoption.
That is not to say that VoIP has become as ubiquitous as the humble landline was for much of the previous century. Some organizations with unique needs and circumstances may find that VoIP is not the best solution for them, specifically companies operating in highly regulated industries or those for whom data privacy and security concerns span the globe.
Quite a few people still assume – wrongly – that upgrading to VoIP involves expensive hardware, contracts, the hassle of switching from the old system to the new and hiring new people who understand the phone system. In general, this is true of upgrading any technology or business process. But not for VoIP.
VoIP offers many advantages not the least of which is a hassle free migration path from analog systems. Hosted VoIP – the preferred VoIP deployment for the majority of organizations – enables clients to benefit from the latest and best features without paying through the roof for them. So what is it about VoIP that has enterprise scrambling to switch?
Some of the key benefits for businesses offered by voice over IP include:
High quality calls at low cost
The earliest implementations of voice over IP suffered from poor quality audio, frequent disconnections and general unreliability. The latest versions suffer no such problems. Most hosted VoIP vendors offer HD quality audio with rock solid reliability in the form of reliable failovers and multiple data centers. And all this comes at a very reasonable price point, especially when you compare it to PSTN rates. The cost savings are not just from calling charges though – everything from periodic maintenance, cost of hardware, initial investment to premium features are either zero or very close to it!
Combine multiple networks into one
With the traditional PSTN, the organization would have had to maintain two separate networks that both so communication needs – one for voice and one for all other forms of data. Because VoIP operates on IP protocols and standards, all it needs is the same data network as the enterprise uses for other functions such as email or transmitting files. This reduces the hassle of maintaining two networks, the need to hire experts with the requisite knowledge as well as the probability of things going wrong.
Laying the foundation for unified communication – UC
Unified Communication is not a specific standard or protocol, rather it is the suite of integrated applications and services that serve the communication needs of the entire organization with a similar interface and design. Deploying a full-fledged UC suite is often a multiyear project but VoIP is usually the starting foundation or stepping stone for organizations.
Enable a level playing field – for both small and large businesses
With analog telephony, small businesses have always suffered as advanced features like auto attendant, IVR or support capabilities were generally cost prohibitive. But most of these features are offered for free or included in the basic plans with hosted VoIP, allowing them to present a professional image to their clients and partners. That doesn’t mean large businesses cannot benefit from VoIP. On the contrary, corporations are able to reduce their costs per call significantly with the newer technology. Thus VoIP benefits every business regardless of its size or type.
Improve employee productivity, collaboration and efficiency
Voice over IP was incubated in the digital age and the pace of innovation demonstrates that. VoIP can be integrated into a host of applications ranging from CRM software to company websites. It improves employee productivity and collaboration since team communication is no longer restricted by location, device or access. Office workers, sales agents and tech support reps can all work on the go, on the road or from a hotel room. They can be always accessible to bosses, clients or team members regardless of time zones and schedules.
Nevertheless VoIP is not perfect. There are a few weaknesses at present (most of which will be solved sooner or later) that organizations should be aware of before jumping in with both feet.
Lack of comprehensive emergency access
Although quite a few VoIP vendors offer E911 which provides emergency dialing services ( provided users have specify the location), it is by no means universal. Most organizations will have a backup landline or expect employees to use mobile devices to call emergency services but it may not be sufficient for some companies. Even those vendors who offer emergency access may not be able to do so in every country they operate.
Requires power backup & internet
Unlike traditional landlines which draw power through the outlet, VoIP devices need power to function. Generally speaking this is not really a major obstacles since organizations prefer to connect their phones to the existing power backup system anyway. However this is something to keep in mind when deploying VoIP.
The more serious issue is what happens to the phones if/when the Internet goes down. Without data, VoIP cannot function. Again some organizations prefer to maintain a backup landline or expect mobile devices will pick up the slack. Other companies even prefer to have a separate Internet connection for VoIP or other failover options in case of issues.
Ensuring high levels of quality and reliability takes a bit of work
Technically speaking VoIP offers high-quality calls and reliability but getting them to work smoothly – especially in a custom/on premise deployment – can take some tinkering and configuration. Even with hosted VoIP services, the organization is at the mercy of the vendor when it comes to upgrading to the latest technology and offering innovative services.
Only time can solve some of these obstacles but eventually they will no longer be issues. Organizations will have to switch as VoIP becomes more ubiquitous and older enterprise solutions become harder to source and/or maintain.
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