Are some VoIP systems ‘more equal than others?’

Over the last few years, Voice over IP (VoIP) as a technology has become much more prevalent in the world of telecoms (put simply it is the running of telephone calls over an internet connection) – but many times we have spoken with people that think VoIP systems in general are the same, and put simply will all do the same job, and will save money because it makes use of an existing internet connection, and allow for free calling. To an extent this is correct, but it is important to look into a few factors before jumping into a new system.

  1. What type of system do you want?

A VoIP based system is often used to refer to both a system in the traditional sense which is based on site but connects to the outside world by SIP, (the term for the lines over which calls are made); and a ‘hosted’ system where there is still a phone system – however this is based off site and held somewhere in ‘the cloud.’ Whilst hosted systems are often priced per user per month, an actual system when leased can work out at a very similar cost per month, then once the initial lease period ends, the cost savings are far more significant and become much less than a hosted solution! There are various differences between these two solutions and these should be fully investigated and considered before investing.

  1. Is there ever ‘a free lunch?’

Many VoIP solutions offer free calls and in some circumstances free calls are a brilliant option and can save a lot of money. However, ask your selected provider to look at your current call spend and check that you are on their best ‘plan’ – Remember that nothing is ever free! Call rates now are so cheap that for some of our clients that are not heavy users of their phones, paying by the second can work out more cost effective. In addition, ask about the T&Cs and what specific rates are included, and make sure if you buy bundles (e.g 1000 UK minutes) to ask what the out of bundle rates are.

  1. To share or not to share?

To make calls on a VoIP based system an internet connection is required, so with most companies already having an internet connection does this mean your existing connection can be utilised? Well…yes it can, but we would certainly not recommend it! When sharing a voice and data connection (even though voice prioritisation can be set), with more and more companies using more bandwidth, for example with cloud computing, any drop in connection will cause calls to cut out. Although using a separate connection will incur additional expense, it is highly recommended.

  1. Finally – Is VoIP the right solution?

Whilst there is no doubt that all phone systems will utilise VoIP technology in the future, is it a simple case of whatever system is sold from now will be on VoIP? In my opinion the answer is no. Whilst I believe it is important that any system sold is capable of connecting to VoIP lines, there are some circumstances where it is just not ready. A great example of this is that we have a client on the outskirts of Leeds that currently has 4 x ISDN2 lines, they do most of their business over the phone but very little via their website and online. They have no access to Fibre and can only get a 2Meg Broadband connection, which would be fine if it were not for the upload speeds which are less than 500Kbs. Whilst voice calls do not use much bandwidth, 8 channels would require 800Kbs download and upload speed, and whilst a product called Annex M would help stabilise the connection, there is no guarantee that this would increase the upload speed enough.

The other option is to get in a dedicated connection via a Leased Line – the reason this was ruled out was due to the costs; which would be in the hundreds of pounds per month. If the client had substantially more than 8 channels, or needed more bandwidth for their IT, this would have been a good option, but not in this case.

As such, if you are looking to purchase or upgrade telephony, make sure to research the options available, speak with your current provider, or we would be happy to offer any help or advice.

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