3 types of VoIP technology as they relate to businesses
1. IP Telephones
IP Telephones allow you to use any LAN/WAN/INTERNET connection to connect to your phone system. LAN connections are those network locations within your office. WAN connections include connecting through linked multi-office systems. Internet connections include any hi-speed internet connection anywhere in the world.
LAN (Local Area Network)
When setup for your LAN, you can place your phone at any computer location in your office. This can be a bit of a waste, because a conventional phone can do the same thing for a fraction of the price.
WAN (Wide Area Network)
IP Phones on your WAN (i.e. a satellite office with a linked computer network to the main office) is pretty cost effective for very small applications. However, once you go above a handful of IP phones in the satellite office, you will probably have to increase your internet bandwidth in both locations, which means a bigger monthly bill. Bigger applications have a better solution: "Networking Phone Systems" (See #2 below). Also consider that if that satellite office wishes to make an outside call, that call will use the main office's phone lines to call out.
When using the internet, you can place your phone at any external location with high-speed internet. It is easy to see the advantage of being able to travel around the world, plug in your phone, and talk to your main office via intercom and place telephone calls from your main office.
Affordable Telephone Systems offers this technology. It can be added to our current line of telephone systems. At Affordable Telephone Systems, we strongly believe that having a conventional phone system with IP phones added as an option is the best balance of price and reliability.
For years, telecommunications manufacturers have found ways to network
multiple phone systems together. The basic technology is not new. Only recently
has VoIP been used to extend the distances and reduce the costs. In the same
way Wide Area Networks (WAN) link computer servers together, VoIP can be used
to link phone systems together. For example, a main office is located in
The only disadvantage is price, but in most cases, this can be fully offset by the advantages listed above.
Affordable Telephone Systems offers this technology. It can be added to our current line of telephone systems. It is recommended for any company that has multiple sites (or even multiple buildings on a single site).
3. VoIP Phone Lines (SIP Trunks)
Most people know VoIP phone lines as a way to make cheap long-distance phone calls, using providers like Skype and Vonage. These types of lines are sometimes called SIP Trunks (SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol). They are lines delivered to you using your internet connection. All providers offer this type of trunk as an option (for many it is the only option because they can’t bring them in over regular copper wires). In many cases, the providers use the internet to deliver your phone lines so they can “bundle” your services together under the assumption that you will save money. There are many providers to choose from, and many mistakes that can be made.
With VoIP lines, sometimes you compromise reliability
We would love to tell you that VoIP lines are just as reliable as regular copper lines, but sometimes that is just not true (you won’t hear this from very many telecommunication companies). You should realize that because you are getting your lines through your internet connection, when your internet goes down so do all your phone lines. Copper lines are delivered to you on individual wires, so unless someone or something severs all the wires, you usually have problems with one line at a time and you can still do business.
All providers are not created equal
Choose a provider that has their servers mirrored in different parts of the country. You would hate to have a localized natural disaster or even a power outage somewhere kill your phone lines. Another rule is to choose a provider that has been in the “commercial business lines” genre for a while (we have seen providers who cannot make lines rollover/hunt when busy!). Visit the provider’s site and research them. I found a provider that was bragging about achieving uninterrupted service for 6 months. Wow…
SIP Trunking in your Phone System
Most people know that they can save money with VoIP lines, but what most people don’t know is that they can also emulate the features of expensive PRI/T1 lines. If you order SIP Trunks and have them registered (connected) directly to your phone system, you get two important features: Caller ID and Direct Inward Dialing (DID). You know what Caller ID is, but what is DID? If you have ever worked at a large company with a big phone system and everybody seems to have private lines (individual phone numbers for each employee), this is done most effectively with DID. When a telephone number that your company pays for is called, the call comes into the phone system on any available trunk, then the phone system reads the number dialed and routes it accordingly. This means that all the lines on your system are not associated with their own phone numbers, they all function as general trunks, ready to accept a call to any phone number your company pays for.
PRI and T1 trunks are expensive, because you usually have to order a large number of them. SIP trunks can be ordered individually, or even on demand (some providers just charge for minutes, not number of trunks, and will expand your trunks as needed). A PRI/T1 card that you have to have installed in your phone system is very expensive. Using SIP trunks, our current small business systems have SIP trunk equipment embedded, often just waiting for you to pay for a relatively cheap one-time license to activate it.
The solution to the only drawback
So reliability is the only drawback, but steps can be taken to minimize the issues with reliability. As stated above, selecting the right provider is important, but what about your internet connection reliability? Well, like most problems this issue can be resolved with more money: you can always get another internet connection. Redundancy of internet connections is what most medium and large enterprises use, simply because they can’t function without internet. The best way to handle it is to use a different provider and/or a different type. For example, if you have a T1, get a DSL as backup. Another, less effective thing to do is make sure you can forward your main number to somewhere else, like a cell phone or other location.
Like any other technology, you should switch to VoIP because you need to, not simply because someone says the old way is archaic. These older technologies are not going anywhere within the next several years because nothing beats the reliability of analog phone lines paired with a digital phone system, and because the majority of businesses don’t need VoIP. In fact, there are many businesses that would need to spend a lot of money to get VoIP because the infrastructure is not there. In the future, once technology delivers reliable internet connections to the farthest reaches of the world, I can see a phasing out of analog phone lines. That technology is so far away, that anything you could buy today and tomorrow will be obsolete, so you can feel free to buy any phone system you want, as long as it is VoIP compatible. As an example, during the “dot com” bubble of the 90’s, email was supposed to completely get rid of fax machines, but judges and lawyers knew different.