VoIP is one of the latest technologies creating a buzz…
What can VoIP Do for Me?
The biggest question facing anyone who’s interested in upgrading to newer technology is this – what’s in it for me? Or in other words, what do I get for my investment? When the technology is new and untested, the benefits and costs can be pretty unclear. However even though VoIP has been around for the better part of a decade, quite a lot of people are still curious and ask “What can VoIP do for me?”
VoIP deployments have come a long way since the early days when they were considered just an experiment or a toy for tech savvy people. While the primary reason to use VoIP was to make cheaper phone calls, there are plenty of other benefits for consumers and enterprises alike today. Whether you are an individual looking for a landline replacement or a large corporation interested in utilizing advanced telephony features, VoIP has something for you.
VoIP technology has matured to the point where it can fulfill many requirements, be it for a small local business or an online website. The technology is scalable and flexible which means it can work just as well for one person or 1000. Someone who is looking for just bare-bones calling and messaging functionality can benefit just as much as a business that wants digital faxing and ERP integration.
Let’s have a look at how VoIP can benefit people and businesses in different circumstances.
The individual consumer
For households looking to replace their landline with VoIP, service providers offer a variety of subscription plans. Vendors like MagicJack and Ooma offer a hardware box for purchase and bundle unlimited calling or a prescribed number of free minutes with it. Others offer pay-as-you-go plans for people who are not sure about their calling volume.
VoIP plans are often cheaper than equivalent plans from carriers, especially since most of them bundle Internet and TV along with the landline. In many cases, local calls to the US and/or Canada may be completely free. International calls to many countries are very inexpensive, which is a boon for those with friends and family abroad. Purchasing a local number in another city (say London or Paris) even allows others to call you at local rates instead of paying international charges.
VoIP can help freelancers just as well. With the growth of the knowledge economy, more and more individuals are starting to do freelance work instead of a regular 9-to-5 job. Self-employed people usually cannot afford enterprise-level equipment or services but at the same time, consumer plans cannot fulfill their requirements. VoIP is perfect for such situations and many vendors offer plans tailored to the needs of tiny businesses with only a single or handful of employees.
Services like Vonage include business level plans that are suitable for one or two people. You can make calls from multiple devices using the same number and forward them to specific numbers based on certain rules. Features like voicemail to email functionality and automated holiday responses may also be included for free or at a small price. It allows you to present a professional image to clients and compete with other businesses effectively.
The Small Business
The term small business covers a wide variety of enterprises. A local bakery, a professional accounting firm, a technology startup or a housekeeping service may all fall under the umbrella of small business but their requirements can be very different. For such businesses, hosted VoIP is often the best solution as it does not require any expertise or technical knowledge. Advanced enterprise functionality that is crucial for any business can be had for very low prices compared to traditional operators.
Hosted VoIP services are delivered over the Internet and the business does not have to purchase or maintain any hardware of their own. In the majority of cases, the only investment is in a handful of IP phones and employees can also use their mobile devices to make and receive business calls. Automated receptionist, IVR, find me follow me, call hunt groups etc. make it possible for smaller organizations to offer excellent service to their customers without breaking the bank. What was once considered a luxury for a small business is now eminently affordable.
The Large Corporation
Many people find it difficult to believe that VoIP can serve the needs of individuals and multinational corporations with equal ease but it is certainly true. Larger companies may opt for hosted services or their own on premise SIP deployments for better control and lower costs per call. Some vendors even enable clients to mix-and-match so that the central office may have its own SIP trunks while smaller branches are connected via hosted VoIP.
Many organizations use VoIP as a foundation for implementing unified communication further down the line. UC is a suite of tools, software and hardware that allows integration between different communication channels through a common interface. Companies can manage email, voicemail, voice calls, conference calling, instant messaging and other forms of communication in one case. In all of this VoIP plays an important role since it powers the crucial voice component.
Upgrading to a newer technology can be expensive, scary and utterly bewildering. But the VoIP industry has matured to the point where anyone can get started without technical knowledge, considerable investment or even the need to purchase special equipment (other than a few phones). VoIP is certainly the future for voice communication and the sooner you switch, the more benefits you will reap by staying ahead of the curve.
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