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With the PSTN Switch-Off on the horizon, VoIP is the technology all businesses will need to switch to in order for their business communications to be operational going forward. However, an Ofcom report has revealed that SMEs have ‘had concerns on the sale and servicing of Voice over IP (VoIP) solutions’. These concerns are largely due to decision-makers within SMEs not possessing a clear understanding of what VoIP technology is and how it works, as well as the implications of using it within their business.
As VoIP is the technology that all business communication will be based upon in the very near future, it is vital that you have a clear idea of what it is. However, as a small business owner, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Who has the time to sift through complicated articles and explanations of VoIP technology when you’ve got a business to run? All you need to know is what it is, what it does and how to implement it within your business before the switch off. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do. Welcome to your crash course in VoIP business phone systems. We’ll take a look at what VoIP is and how to pick the best business phone system that utilises this technology. Class is now in session – let’s get down to what you really need to know about VoIP telephony.
We mentioned the PSTN switch-off in the introduction, which is the key reason businesses need to understand VoIP technology, so it’s important that we explore what it is and the effects it will have. The PSTN switch off is the shutting down of the traditional analogue lines that have powered both domestic and business landline phones for decades and still powers many business phone systems today. As technology has progressed, the technology that powers the PSTN has been overtaken and it no longer serves modern communication. The deadline for the switch-off is 2025, but if your phone system still relies on the PSTN, don’t be fooled into thinking you still have a couple of years to make the move to VoIP. This is more of a rolling process over the next couple of years than an immediate cutting-off as soon as we hit 2025 and the PSTN has already been shut down in a few parts of the UK.
All businesses that still rely on the PSTN will need to make the move to VoIP. The sooner you do, the less chance you’ll have of experiencing disruption when the PSTN is switched off in your area and you are also more likely to find a better deal on their new solutions. The key is finding out as much as you can about this technology and how to implement it within your business sooner rather than later.
Let’s start with the basics. VoIP is short for Voice over Internet Protocol and it does exactly what it says on the tin – it delivers calls using an internet connection. Chances are you will have already used some form of VoIP solution before, such as Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Whatsapp. Through using the internet rather than traditional telephone lines, VoIP telephony provides far more communication options, such as supporting video calls, instant message and more.
This is probably the information you’re most interested in, right? After all, if you have to invest in this technology at some point (which you will), you’ll want to know what return you’re going to see on this investment. So, let’s take a look!
The first, obvious benefit is that your business won’t face disruption when the PSTN Switch Off happens, as you will have moved away from traditional landline telephony, which relies on the PSTN network, to a VoIP business phone system. VoIP technology won’t become outdated quickly, so your business phone system is future-proofed and ready for any upcoming communications technology that emerges in the future.
From lengthy, complicated and disruptive installation periods to expensive hardware and complicated scaling processes, traditional landline is expensive. Further to this, business calls, especially international calls can rack up hefty bills. With VoIP telephony, there are no extortionate upfront costs. There’s no complicated wiring or installation and making the switch is easy and relatively quick. As it uses your existing broadband connection, there’s no need to pay for installation of new lines either.
Connect your VoIP business phone system to your business broadband via its dedicated application and away you go. There’s also no need to buy new hardware, if your current deskphones have the ability to be adapted into VoIP phones, you can continue to use them and you can utilise your VoIP phone system across a range of devices including mobiles, tablets and using PCs and laptops as softphones.
When it comes to call costs, VoIP calls will generally work out cheaper than traditional landline telephony. With VoIP business phone systems, you will usually pay a monthly subscription that covers the licences you use, minutes and other allowances, rather than a cost per call. When it comes to calling internationally, VoIP telephony, is far cheaper than traditional landline telephony. No more surprise charges showing up on your bill or expensive cost-per-minute fees racking up every month.
Access a Range of Features
From call recording to unifying multiple communication channels, such as instant messaging, video and more within one platform, a VoIP business phone system provides so much more than your PSTN-reliant system. Boost productivity with collaboration tools, such as file sharing and live document editing. Provide the best experience for your customers with omni-channel contact centre built-in to your VoIP solution. Safeguard your business with disaster recovery features, such as re-routing calls to mobiles, should you experience disruption within your premises.
Another key question that may be on your mind when considering VoIP technology is how secure is it? Cybersecurity, is a big factor when it comes to choosing any solution, as the risks to your business, should your security be compromised can be incredibly damaging. When using online technology, security is always a major concern. Whether it’s online banking or entering personal details within online forms, for many of us, the risks of using the internet and how it can compromise our security are very real fears. The same can be said for businesses.
However, using VoIP telephony is no more risky than using any other internet-based technology within your business. VoIP calls are made using your business broadband, therefore you are placing calls within your internal IT infrastructure. As long as you’re following best practices and have the correct measures in place to keep your existing infrastructure secure, you shouldn’t have any issues with making the move to VoIP calls. If your internet connections are insecure or there are security vulnerabilities within your existing infrastructure, then this is what can put your data at risks, rather than VoIP technology itself. Take care of your infrastructure, keep your team informed and educated on cybersecurity best practice and ensure you are investing in suitable cybersecurity safeguarding measures and the rest will take care of itself.
VoIP phone systems allow users to access your business phone system, remotely, from any location. This could pose risks if they are accessing it through unprotected Wi-Fi connections or public Wi-Fi. It is vital that you have processes in place when implementing VoIP phone systems within your business so your users are aware of best practices when accessing your phone system when out of the office. Ideally, you would want to provide a business mobile to those who will need to access your VoIP phone system from a mobile phone whilst away from the office. This way you can ensure that the phone is equipped with safety features, such as multi-factor authentication and anti-malware protection, as well as mobile device management solutions. Furthermore, it is important that employees are educated on safe practices when accessing your VoIP phone system via personal or public Wi-Fi or on personal devices too.
Yes, is the short answer. If your current phone system is relying on the PSTN, this is no longer going to work in the near future, as this network will be switched off by 2025. This might sound a long way off, but this is just a deadline. There isn’t somebody waiting with a big red switch to turn off the PSTN on the stroke of midnight on 1st January 2025 – although that would be quite cool. This is a gradual process where the network will be switched off by location all over the country and it’s already started with some businesses already losing access to this network. To prevent disruption and avoid overspending, it’s better to switch sooner rather than later.
The first key consideration before implementing a VoIP system is your business broadband. For a VoIP phone system to work at its best, it will require suitable bandwidth to ensure crystal clear voice, effective messaging and video calls without buffering. If your broadband doesn’t have suitable bandwidth to support a VoIP telephony solution then swapping to a better broadband solution or purchasing an additional broadband line may need to happen before you make the switch to VoIP. Although this will incur an extra cost, it’s still going to be cheaper than traditional analogue systems anyway.
The next consideration is the phone itself. Will you be converting your existing desk phones into VoIP phones using an adaptor or will you be investing in a new fleet of desk phones? Alternatively, would you rather utilise an application that allows your team to access your business phone system across a range of devices, including laptops, mobiles and tablets? The answer to this question will be dependent on how your team utilise your business phone system and your budget. If you’re looking to save money, the application route is a good solution, as it enables you to use your business devices as a ‘softphone’ and allows your team to use your business phone system on the go and when working from home.
In the long run, VoIP phone systems are easier to install, manage and troubleshoot compared with analogue phone systems. For starters, there’s no complicated installation process involving loads of wires and extensive downtime when implementing a VoIP system. It will be a case of either hooking up the VoIP platform to your broadband or installing a solution, such as a SIP trunk to convert your existing communications infrastructure.
When it comes to managing users, features and scaling/reducing the amount of users you have within your system, it is simple! PSTN-reliant phone systems, required physical connections to be added/removed when needed and features where limited. In comparison, with VoIP you can easily implement features, such as video calls, conferencing, CRM integration and more, as well as add or remove users for limitless scalability and flexibility by simply calling your provider and adding them within your system. All your team needs to do is plug in their phone or headset or link up their device and away they go.
In order for businesses to utilise VoIP they need three things – the VoIP platform, a phone or device that can access the platform and an internet connection. The wonderful thing about this technology is that your team can tap into it from anywhere with an application and a strong enough internet connection. It’s the latter that can cause a bit of an issue when trying to access a VoIP solution away from the office. If the network connection isn’t strong enough, this is going to result in muffly call quality, drop-outs, buffering video calls and other inconveniences.
However, the mass adoption of VoIP has conveniently coincided with the rollout of superfast 5G technology. With incredibly fast speeds and increased bandwidth, 5G will enable users to tap in to your business phone system on the go, with the same (if not better) network connection as they would have in the office, that will enable conference calls, video calls, voice, instant message and more. Just as 5G has and will continue to open doors to new innovations, solutions and business opportunities, so will it open doors for better communication. From creating new ways to video conference that will further unite employees working from multiple locations to implementing AR and VR into communications, we don’t fully know the extent of opportunities 5G can provide to communications, but moving to a VoIP system is the first key step to take advantage of whatever comes next.
A big decision that needs to be made when making the move to VoIP is who is going to host the phone system itself. When it comes to traditional telephony, you don’t really have a choice but to install the system within your premises. With VoIP you have two choices:
For businesses who are looking for simple management and streamlined implementation, hosted VoIP systems are probably the best choice. The provider will handle the installation of the new solution, ensuring you have all of the users signed up and the features implemented that you require. Then you pay a simple monthly fee for the provider to look after your phone system, similar to your old analogue phone system, but with much cheaper fees! If you run into an issue or need to change your solution, all you need to do is get in touch with your provider and they will take care of the rest. When it comes to costs, alongside cheaper monthly bills, you won’t need to worry about expensive up front costs as it requires less investment in on-site hardware compared with non-hosted solutions. However you will have less control over a hosted system, as you are limited by solutions your provider has to offer.
For businesses who want more control over their communications solutions, non-hosted systems may be a better option. This choice will come with more up front costs, especially for hardware that will be required to store and run your solution. Furthermore, with no support from a provider to rely on, businesses will require dedicated IT support within their business to look after the management of your solution. However, alongside direct administrative control over your phone systems, you can take advantage of having the freedom to pick and customise exact systems and hardware that your business requires, rather than being limited to solutions a provider can supply.
Whether you move to VoIP now or in the near future, you will need to make the switch by 2025 at the very, very latest. We’ve already said that, in the grand scheme of things, it is a better idea to move to VoIP sooner rather than later to avoid disruption and potentially overspending on your new solution. However, we understand that you may be wondering if you will lose out in any way if you make the move now rather than later. It’s a fair consideration, as it will be a large investment, despite the cost savings VoIP will bring, so let’s explore it.
One potential drawback of switching early is not having the infrastructure in place to support VoIP telephony. Whether it’s an insufficient broadband service or lack of budget for new hardware, if you implement VoIP technology before acquiring the resources that supports it, you may run into costly issues, so it’s important to take the time to sort this out first. When it comes to issues like broadband, most businesses are now equipped with superfast broadband connections and if yours isn’t, it’s an issue that is usually easy to fix with the right provider.
Another potential downside to switching to VoIP early is not having the support network available to troubleshoot issues, should they arise. This is especially important for businesses who are looking to host their own system. It is vital that you have team members who are there to take care of this solution, whether it’s troubleshooting an issue with the broadband that is causing a problem with your communications or figuring out a glitch within the communications platform itself, these problems can cause costly downtime if you don’t have a support team in place to deal with them. Taking the time to evaluate which solution is best for you and either checking the SLAs of your provider (if you are choosing a hosted solution) or hiring a team of IT professionals (if choosing a non-hosted solution).
Now, you’ve completed your crash course in VoIP telephony, it’s time to put this knowledge to good use and start looking for the best VoIP phone system for your business. The best place to start is engaging with a knowledgeable provider. Elite Group have over 20 years’ experience in the communications industry. We take the hassle out of finding the right solution for your business. When you work with us, our specialists will take the time to get to know you, your business and its needs to find the VoIP office phone system that’s perfect for you. Our dedicated account managers will take care of your contract to ensure you’re always receiving the best value. Finally, our partnerships with the biggest brands in the industry allows access to the best solutions. Contact us today and let’s work together to implement VoIP within your business, today!