VoIP Service for Small Businesses
You’ve done your research and you know that your business can save money on local and long distance calls by switching from a traditional telephony service to voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). You’ve also learned that you’ll be able to easily add a range of voice services without installing new equipment, have a number outside of your area code and save a bundle on combined Internet and voice packages.
The only trouble is you don’t know where to start when it comes to finding the right VoIP solution for your business.
First off, if you don’t already have a private telephone exchange (PBX), you’ll need to install one. A PBX is a piece of equipment that switches calls between enterprise users, allowing a group of people (at a company or campus, for example) to share a specific number of external phone lines, saving the added cost of having an external phone line for each user.
End-to-End VoIP or Combination?
The most important considerations in your VoIP system selection are how to setup your VoIP system and what combination of equipment and services you require. Once you have a PBX (private telephone network) installed you can either go for an end-to-end VoIP solution or use the PBX with a combination of traditional telephony services.
End-to-end VoIP solutions are cheaper but less reliable than traditional services. If the Internet Telephony Service Provider’s (ITSP) system goes down, you can be left without service for hours or possibly days at a time. However, the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) has what the industry calls ”five 9’s” of reliability, meaning the network is up 99.99 percent of the time. Through certain configurations, you can tap into this reliability and still benefit from the advantages of VoIP, but it may cost you more. To learn about some of the advantages of VoIP services, be sure to read What Is VoIP and What Are Its Advantages?
If you decide to go for the cost savings of an end-to-end solution, there are multiple ways to route your communications. One option is to bring phone calls into your PBX from an ITSP. Most ITSPs can port the current phone numbers on your existing analog lines or T1 service (E1 in Europe) from the local phone company to their service. The ITSP will send the calls over the Internet. The calls will either go directly to your PBX or to some type of gateway device or server (which will decode the call and send it on to your PBX).
Make sure that the ITSP will send the phone calls in a protocol your PBX or Gateway device will recognize (for example, Session Initiation Protocol or Media Gateway Control Protocol are two common industry protocols used to send calls).
Options for Integrating VoIP
If business disruption is a major concern, you can take advantage of the reliability of the public switched network by bringing analog lines or T1/E1 lines in from the local phone company to your PBX. Because your line to the outside world has ”five 9’s,” the only problems you would conceivably have to plan for would be any local power outages, or on-site network and equipment failure.
If you’re concerned about the inbound calls completing reliably, but want to save money on long distance and international calling, another solution is to setup a connection to the PSTN for inbound calls, and route outbound long distance and international calls over an ITSP.
To protect your system against the case where your Internet service provider goes down, you can also setup your system to reroute calls to the public telephone network, offering a layer of security. If this happens, it may cost you more to make calls, but at least you won’t risk losing business due to a service outage.
Finally, if you’re migrating from a legacy phone system to a VoIP system, you may want to consider keeping your current PSTN connection and simply replacing the PBX. The advantage of this is that you can keep the reliable voice circuit you already have to route calls while reducing the amount of time you need to test and put the new PBX into production. It can be time-consuming and frustrating to install a new data or voice circuit, so if you already have resources up and running, it’s best to stick with them.
For other tips concerning a possible VoIP purchase, check out Necessary Considerations for VoIP Installation and Vendor Support.