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VoIP Technology in Business
In the early days of the Internet, VoIP started out as a hobby for those who are technically inclined or a means to bypass international call charges – usually exorbitant – charged by phone operators. Over time however, helped by the penetration of broadband Internet as well as innovations in the VoIP industry and has now become the most widely used voice communication standard around the world.
Although VoIP has not yet completely replaced the PSTN, it is well on its way there. VoIP belongs to that category of technology that caters to both consumers and businesses, similar to the Internet. Although VoIP first started becoming popular among consumers, enterprises have also wholeheartedly embraced it. Naturally the prices, feature set and service offerings differ between the two segments. For instance many businesses opt for digital faxing, a feature that is practically useless for the vast majority of consumers.
How is VoIP technology used in business?
VoIP is not just a modest upgrade to the PSTN. It offers more powerful features, flexibility and scalability which means that businesses tend to utilize the technology in various ways and different purposes. This is very different from the old PSTN system which was basically a conduit for voice calls and not much else. Of course some businesses to continue to use a VoIP service just like the PSTN replacement but there are many other companies that will utilize the more advanced features as a competitive edge.
VoIP as a cheaper replacement for the PSTN
While it may be nice to be able to access the most powerful features offered by a technology, sometimes it is just not needed for a business. A small, family-run restaurant may not care about integration with ERP systems or unified communications. What they do care – and get – with VoIP is that it offers significant cost savings over their current business plan voice.
Nobody likes to pay for features that they don’t use or need and so there are many organizations that use VoIP services as a straight up replacement for landlines. There are many operators that offer services tailored to suit the requirements of this segment, often bridging the gap between consumer centric and enterprise solutions. Such services will usually cost very little to get started with and offer extremely competitive rates for local/international calls.
Such no-frills VoIP services are ideally suited for small businesses, entrepreneurs, startups and freelance contractors that only a handful of users need calling capabilities.
VoIP as a productivity powerhouse
This may sound funny to those who are used to landlines but VoIP systems can actually enhance productivity for many organizations. Some of the advantages of VoIP benefit the business as a whole while others help to improve productivity at an individual level. For instance, the time to get started with a new VoIP hosted service can be as short as a few minutes or hours. This means there is no disruption to employees, no downtime for the office systems or lost revenue for the business.
On the other hand, the ability to send faxes from a computer – where they might otherwise have to go to a different floor or office – may save a particular employee many hours a week. This is not the only way in which the business can save time. The ability to forward to and answer calls on any device allows managers, technicians or sales people to never miss a call. Automatic voice transcription of a few or all calls, preconfigured forwarding of calls or voicemails to group inboxes, interactive voice response systems and automated receptionist are some of the other features that can drastically reduce the time wasted in meaningless tasks.
VoIP as a part of UC
Even as some companies are finding out the advantages of VoIP, others are stepping beyond it. VoIP is often used as the cornerstone for unified communication systems which aim to integrate as many enterprise communication channels as possible with a common interface. Unified communication does not refer to a particular application or software. Even though it is often viewed as nothing more than a marketing term, it brings real and tangible benefits to enterprises in today’s hyper connected business environment.
There are many UC vendors that offer deployments which integrate voice calling, video conferencing, presence information, instant messaging, screen sharing and many other services that were previously independent of each other. UC systems can facilitate data sharing, enhances collaboration and tears down the walls between different products.
For instance, an employee may be able to view presence information for their colleagues on their smartphone via a mobile VoIP app. Then they can decide to call, text or start a videoconference based on the data. A project team that is having a conference call can seamlessly add video or broadcast a particular user’s screen to the rest with the press of a button. These are just a few situations that can benefit from unified communication systems.
As an industry, VoIP has not had a very long history but it is already a robust and mature technology. In spite of the impressive growth of the VoIP market, there are still many consumers and organizations who are yet to make the switch. Due to this vast, untapped market, the growth rate for VoIP shows no signs of slowing down over the next few years. Paired with the innovations still coming from providers and developers, there is no doubt that VoIP will replace the PSTN completely sooner or later.