One of the questions we regularly get asked in meetings with clients, or when discussing telecoms, is “do you do VoIP?” Whilst the answer is yes, the general reason behind asking the question seems to be because it is a current buzzword – and because of the common misconception that “all calls are free;” and therefore the more appropriate question might be, “would VoIP benefit us?”
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is the term used to describe the transmission of voice over the public internet (generally through a telephone system), in comparison to standard telephone systems (analogue or ISDN) which use the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). Whilst the technology used for both of these are different, the telephone handsets on desks look identical, and the actual telephone system required is no different; the telephone systems that Time supplies are all ‘Hybrid’ systems and can therefore run both technologies.
The differences of VoIP are significant in many areas:
As calls are routed through the internet, this can potentially be done over existing data networks and avoid additional cabling costs. Line rental is often cheaper than for standard analogue or digital lines, and calls to other VoIP users on the same network are free. However, calls to other landlines numbers and mobiles can surprisingly be more expensive than over standard phone lines.
For a standard system, phone numbers are generally a fixed group of numbers depending on your location; however for a VoIP system, you have access to numbers from any location, including overseas numbers and non-geographic numbers. Calls to your number can be connected anywhere with an internet connection, and therefore moving office or hot-desking can be very simple.A potential negative to the fact that VoIP runs from an IP address rather than a geographical location is for emergency calling, which is often overlooked, and whilst may be irrelevant to most, must still be considered. As an IP address is used and this cannot be geographically located by the emergency services, the call may not be routed to the correct geographical area, particularly if the caller can’t tell the department where they are.
The standard PTSN network is a ‘bulletproof’ system which just works, we expect to be able to pick up a phone and made a call and this successfully does that. However, if we look at computers, we have all experienced the network being down for a certain period of time; whilst this may be acceptable but frustrating, if this was for the telephones in addition to internet, then this problem may be more severe.Power is another issue which may be overlooked; a standard telephone uses power from the phone line and therefore does not need to be plugged into a power socket in the wall, VoIP phones are dependent on power from the wall and so additional power sources may be needed and additional backups are highly recommended.The major downsides to VoIP which MUST be considered before implementing a system are the call quality and security. In my previous blog I discussed video conferencing and explained some of the downsides to this in terms of the bandwidth used; voice is no different in that a high quality business broadband is highly recommended. A number of options can be discussed, and a separate broadband, or combined broadband may be recommended, although a Leased Line is always the best option, particularly because there are guaranteed service level agreements in place.Security is an issue in the same way that security is an issue for computers, with viruses and hackers, and there must be relevant firewalls and additional protocols in place. I found http://eandt.theiet.org/magazine/2011/07/voicing-security-concerns.cfm to be a very useful article detailing the security concerns of VoIP if you wish to delve into this further.
Also, services such as fax, alarms, and card machines, were designed to be integrated into analogue/digital phone lines, and have not yet successfully migrated to IP; therefore if moving to VoIP don’t expect to cut all ties to standard phone lines!
At Time, as I mentioned before, our systems are ‘Hybrid,’ hence we are completely neutral in that we cater for both technologies; and if you would like to talk to us about whether or not to implement VoIP within your business then feel free to get in touch.
Although I for one am keen to stay at the forefront of technology, and VoIP is a fantastic technology, the limitations mean that it is not yet suitable for everybody and under all circumstances – I believe that VoIP should be used as well as digital, and not as a complete replacement, and the pros and cons should be considered carefully in each scenario before implementation into a business.