7 November 2018

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Business VoIP Service: 6 Things You Need to Know

Business Phone Service by Tom Collins

Voice-over-IP (VoIP) has become the most popular approach to business telephone service for business in the United States. Phone service is the fastest growing part of our business and in almost all engagements with customers, VoIP is what they are choosing. 

36% of businesses have made the switch to cloud phones, according to a recent survey. That means though many have switched, many more customers remain to migrate from analog or PRI phone systems to a VoIP-based system. 

Internet-based phone technology is now 20 years old. In fact, the first time Atlantech Online offered VoIP service to a customer was way back in 2002! That's over 15 years ago! Though progress was slow at first, it is now common knowledge that VoIP offers more potential benefits to businesses than ever before. Topping the list of benefits is cost savings, but in more and more cases, I see customers switching because of the greater flexibility in meeting the needs of their mobile and remote workforce.

While there are clear benefits to VoIP for many businesses, there is a lot of mis-information out there and I come across customers who are dissatisfied with the initial VoIP engagement. Even customers who have been with another VoIP carrier don't know the difference between Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) or Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) and still aren't clear how their VoIP actually works. To prepare you to select the best phone system for your businesses’ needs, we’ve addressed six of the most important things to know about the business VoIP landscape.

6 Crucial Things To Know About Business VoIP Service

Is VoIP right for my company? How does it compare to the other options? How do I find a great provider? We'll answer these questions and more in this business VoIP service guide.

1. VoIP vs. SIP

When researching business phone system options, it’s common to encounter references to “SIP Trunking,” or sometimes just “SIP.” I frequently hear from the customer that the difference between VoIP and SIP isn’t always clear, and understanding what each is and how it fits into how their telephone services works can be confusing.

VoIP is a term used to describe any application of Internet Protocol-based phone service. VoIP services use data connectivity for the transmission of voice packets. VoIP is an alternative to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). For instance, I have customer who have a legacy digital PBX and we handoff a PRI to their PBX from an IAD (Integrated Access Device) but their phone service is carried back to our voice switch using IP. Therefore, the customer is using VoIP.

SIP is a set of technological standards which are used to initiate, maintain, and terminate voice, video, and messaging communications in instances of VoIP and UCaaS. Business communications providers may use SIP trunking technology to deliver VoIP and Unified Communications (UC) service to clients. So, as opposed to using PRI or analog service to a PBX, SIP is the protocol that is used for the voice signaling and transmission. 

The right question, in this case, isn't "VoIP vs. SIP" because these two technologies aren't alternatives. SIP Trunking is used in some applications of VoIP, but not all vendors rely on it. A more useful question to ask is whether your organization already has a PBX that you wish to continue to use, or if you are ready to take advantage of multimedia Unified Communications services based on SIP.

Opting for VoIP service with SIP can allow your organization to make the immediate switch to UCaaS, or add multimedia communications at a later date. SIP can provide tremendous flexibility and scalability to businesses to purchase add-on services and integrate with cloud applications. Understanding your organization’s need for services such as video conferencing and unified messaging is the best way to evaluate the pros and cons of voice-only VoIP vs. VoIP with SIP.

For an in-depth look at this topic, we recommend SIP vs. VoIP: What’s the Difference and Which is Best?

2. VoIP vs. Landline

Over the next four years, the VoIP marketplace is projected to expand by 10%. A significant percentage of organizations of all sizes have already switched to IP-based phones, and many more are preparing to make the transition. For many organizations, adopting VoIP means shifting away from landline phone service delivered by a traditional phone vendor. Something else to keep in mind is the slowly, but surely, the ILECs are retiring the copper-based landline service. For good. 

If you are moving your business, starting a new business or have a legacy PBX system that has already been amortized on your books, you should be looking a VoIP system rather than one that takes advantage of traditional telephone service or landlines. 

Quality phone service is a necessity for your organization. However, the relative pros and cons of VoIP vs. landlines can vary depending on an organization’s requirements. Consider the following when understanding the impact on your organization.

VoIP vs. Landline Pros

  • Lower costs, especially on long distance and international calls
  • Multimedia features are available as add-ons
  • Offers seamless, user-friendly mobility
  • Can be scaled to include new lines and features on-demand
  • Automatic failover to mobile devices in case of service unavailability

VoIP vs. Landline Cons

  • Requires reliable internet connectivity and a power source
  • Sound quality on calls requires a reputable vendor
  • Limited up-front investments may be necessary, such as new handsets are your legacy PBX handsets likely don't work with VoIP service

Landline vs. VoIP Pros

  • Does not require internet connectivity or power to operate
  • Predictable service quality
  • Landlines may be needed to support alarm systems, elevators, or fax machines

Landline vs. VoIP Cons

  • Higher monthly service costs
  • Adding phone lines may require expensive installations
  • No mobility or multimedia communication features
  • Limited scalability and interoperability

Learn more in VoIP vs. Landline for Business Phone Service: Which is Best?

The financial and flexibility benefits of VoIP guide many organizations to switch to IP phones instead of landlines. In some cases, organizations opt for a hybrid implementation and maintain a limited number of landlines to support alarm systems and elevators while using VoIP for voice communications. To inform your decision, we recommend you collect quotes from business VoIP service providers.

To learn how VoIP could impact your organization, get a phone service quote from Atlantech Online today.

3. VoIP vs. UCaaS

Increasingly, organizations are adopting VoIP as part of a suite of cloud-based, Unified Communications tools. However, the lines of distinction between these two types of service can be confusing.

UCaaS, also known as Unified Cloud Communications, is an approach to delivering business communications through a single, streamlined platform which provides services such as VoIP, video conferencing, collaboration, file sharing, messaging, and more. The features included in UCaaS can vary depending on an organization's needs, but Unified Cloud Communications is distinguished by the cloud delivery method and a streamlined user experience.

VoIP and UCaaS aren't strict alternatives. UCaaS includes VoIP service. Phone calls are carried over the network using IP. The right question to ask about VoIP vs. UCaaS is whether your organization needs voice-only communications or a full suite of cloud communications tools. UCaaS may best serve your organization if you have:

  • Use cases for video conferencing tools
  • Employee reliance on collaboration apps
  • Use cases for integrating with Microsoft Office, Salesforce, and other apps
  • A desire to rapidly scale cloud apps and services
  • The potential benefit from consolidating communications into a single-vendor relationship

The flexibility and streamlined user experience of UCaaS is the best fit for many organizations. Opting for Unified Cloud Communications can provide flexibility for organizations to evolve technologically in real-time. However, other organizations with limited tech adoption or a centralized team find that opting for voice-only VoIP service is the right fit.

Learn more in UCaaS vs. VoIP: What’s the Difference?

4. The Pros & Cons of Moving to VoIP

The majority of potential VoIP cons can be avoided with a careful approach to vendor selection. Understanding these risks can allow your organization to take an informed approach to select the right business VoIP service and vendor.

Pros of Moving to VoIP

  • Immediately lower costs-per-call
  • Service mobility features
  • Access to productivity features and add-on services
  • Simple, cost-effective conference call features
  • Flexible, efficient call routing options
  • Resilience during service outages due to mobile-failover

Read more in The Top 6 Benefits of Moving to a VoIP Telephone System.

Cons and Pitfalls of Moving to VoIP

  • Service quality can suffer from insufficient bandwidth
  • Failing to purchase add-on features can reduce satisfaction
  • You will need to buy handsets and may need a new/different router
  • Not all vendors have industry expertise or excellent customer support
  • Vendor commitment to resiliency and information security can vary

The majority of organizations are surprised at how simple it is to transition to IP voice services. However, there are some pitfalls which you should work to avoid. Make sure you keep your phone list up-to-date. This will help when making a transition. Listing all your names/common are phones, their respective DIDs and extensions will help smooth the process. You will likely need to share your current phone will with your new vendor. Porting your phone numbers from one carrier to another is often the part of the process that is longest in duration. In short, the most effective way to dodge potential cons is to work with an experienced VoIP vendor with reliable customer support. The right provider can guide your organization through securing enough bandwidth to support an excellent quality of service, selecting handsets, choosing add-on features, and other vital aspects of the process.

Get more insight in 11 Common Mistakes Companies Make in Adopting VoIP Technology.

5. How to Prepare for a Switch to VoIP

If your business decides to switch to VoIP, what can you expect?

No two organizations are the same, and it’s important that your vendor takes a customized approach to implementations. Many companies complete the process of switching to VoIP in a single day. Other large enterprises, such as Montgomery College, find that a “phased migration” is the best way to accommodate multiple sites and switching to new UCaaS tools.

Ultimately, the specifics of how your vendor approaches your VoIP switch should be designed to serve your business’s unique needs. While these can vary, all organizations need to hit a few basic requirements to support VoIP. The following steps are a necessity for a successful transition to VoIP service:

  • Secure a high-quality internet connection with sufficient bandwidth
  • Verify the network infrastructure can support VoIP
  • Obtain VoIP-compatible handsets for the business
  • Train employees on how to use the new system
  • Create an extension tree and  and automated attendant announcements

Migrating to VoIP doesn't have to be difficult. With the right vendor on your side, it can be a painless switch. While the process of preparing your business and infrastructure for successful VoIP adoption is not complicated, making sure you've met each of these requirements can shape success.

Learn more about what to expect in 6 Things You Must Do Before Switching to VoIP Phone Service.

6. How To Find the Best VoIP Provider

The single most important step your organization can take before switching to VoIP is carefully screening prospective vendors.

There is an abundance of options for IP phone providers. Your choices likely range from multinational corporations to small local vendors. Service options can range from voice service only, to vendors who offer an advanced suite of cloud communications. Regardless of your industry or budget, it's critical to fast-track providers that:

  • Understand your technology goals and budget
  • Offer redundancy and reliability
  • Provide quality-of-service (QoS)
  • Guarantee availability with service-level-agreements (SLAs)
  • Offer vendor references
  • Deliver 24/7/365 expert customer support

More insight in 9 Keys to Finding the Best VoIP Service Provider for Your Business.

Reliable, high-quality voice communications are a necessity for your organization to maintain brand reputation and client relationships. While it's critical to ensure vendors have the technological infrastructure and expertise to keep your VoIP phones running, it's just as essential to research customer support offerings carefully.

The right VoIP provider for your organization is most likely committed to offering best-of-breed technology backed by SLAs and a strong record of uptime. The best vendor is also the one that exhibits all the characteristics of excellent VoIP customer service and support:

  • Live, domestic, and expert customer service representatives
  • A commitment to going the extra mile to exceed client expectations
  • Proactive network monitoring and maintenance support
  • Simplified customer support for first-call resolution
  • A comprehensive range of business communications solutions
  • Enterprise-grade software and technology for superior quality

Unlocking the Potential of Business VoIP Service

For many companies, the decision to switch to VoIP service for business is relatively simple. Understanding which type of IP phone system your organization needs and finding the right vendor can be more complicated. By understanding your options for voice service, Unified Communications, and the process ahead, you'll be best prepared to maximize your opportunities. Working with the right vendor for your needs can ensure a smooth implementation and exceptional support.

To help you make a successful selection, the experts at Atlantech Online have compiled answers to common questions about technology, vendors, and systems.

To access your free copy of this comprehensive guide, download 10 Questions to Ask Before Buying Phone Service for Your Business.





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About the author:

Tom Collins (Twitter, LinkedIn) - is the Director of Enterprise Sales & Marketing for Atlantech Online. He has over 20 years of professional experience in the Internet Service Provider industry and is known for translating technology into positive results for business. A native of Washington, DC, a graduate from University of Maryland (degrees in Government & Politics and Secondary Education), Tom is also a five-time Ironman finisher.

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