Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), or Internet calling, is set to become as mainstream and essential for business viability and efficiency as e-mail communication has in the past decade. That’s because VoIP makes it possible to make local or long distance telephone voice calls over the Internet without going through a traditional landline telephone company.
There are many different calling options, ranging from microphones plugged directly into the computer to VoIP handsets that look like regular phones but connect to the Internet via broadband. They work the same as traditional landline phones but cost significantly less. A technology consultant can help you figure out the most affordable option for your business calling needs.
VoIP sounds intimidating, doesn’t it? But it has the potential to drastically improve the quality of business calls. Businesses of your size are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this new technology rather than starting up with older, traditional telephone technology. And businesses that are using VoIP are taking advantage of the low calling rates, clear reception and technology integration opportunities that aren’t available with traditional landline calling services.
As with any Internet-based technology, it is important to establish a security program that includes passwords, firewalls and protected networks to ensure that VoIP calls and your standard Internet service are protected from unauthorized users and uncontrolled access.
Tips for Getting Started: A quick guide from ITSPA to setting up VoIP services:
- Evaluate your needs. Take stock of your calling habits including how many hours your business spends on the phone over a given time period, how many of the calls are long-distance or international, and what kinds of work functions the callers are performing while on the phone. A small call center or retailer will have significantly different needs than a construction company or an insurance office. It’s important to know which features will be most beneficial to your business and how much bandwidth you will require.
- Choose a provider. A few years ago there were only a few companies providing VoIP services. Now there are many to choose from with a variety of calling plans and configuration options. Smaller start-up providers may have lower rates, but choosing a more established company may increase service reliability.
- Establish a plan. With the competitive Internet calling market, most providers are offering very low rates and many encourage consumers to try the service during a trial period for even further reduced rates. Always ask to try the service before committing to a contracted calling plan.
- Integrate your technology. A unique benefit of VoIP is the ability to integrate call databases, contact management tools and other business computer programs for improved efficiency. Make sure you work with your technology consultant to take full advantage of the opportunities for computer system integration as well as cell phone service compatibility and Wi-Fi calling capabilities.
- Monitor your service. As more carriers offer Internet calling, the competition will continue to drive quality. Communicate with your solution provider regularly to make sure you are working with the best VoIP service provider for your needs.
You can get quite a bit of help finding a local solution provider who knows your business and can help you select and install a VoIP system in your business. Contact ITSPA at FindAPartner@itspa.net.
Russell Morgan is president of Information Technology Solution Providers Alliance (ITSPA), a group of consultants and resellers serving the small business community.