Setting Up Your Small Business VoIP

Setting up a small business phone system has become a necessity for companies that wish to enjoy continued success. Instead of investing in traditional telephone systems, companies are moving towards more advanced technology that offers increasing benefits over it’s predecessors.

These technological advances are giving small businesses the benefit of improved customer service and higher levels of productivity. Although the newer systems can work out to be more expensive than their older cousins, the long-term benefits often make up for the higher cost. All crucial factors to bear in mind when deciding where you want your business telecommunications to take you in the future.

VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol, spearheads the advances in this area and is fast becoming one of the most tried and tested technological developments when small businesses look to employ new communication systems. Instead of using circuit switched technology where a dedicated path is used for the entirety of a call, VoIP technology treats voices as data that are sent as tiny parcels of information over data networks. This information, or data, is then converted back to audio when it reaches its destination.

There are several components needed when setting up a VoIP system. A central device is required to manage calls and data in much the same way as a conventional exchange unit works in regular telephone systems. This can be a dedicated piece of hardware that performs the function alone or as software running from a specialised server.

Also needed is a data network and, of course, telephones.

The biggest advantage for the use of VoIP is for business with multiple locations where all offices with LAN or WAN capability share the benefits of using just one telephone system. Most importantly, calls to other locations within the network are free and can offset the cost of the initial set up.

Also, employees on the road can phone into the network using a virtual private network which dramatically reduces the cost of other areas on the company phone bills. These advantages also pass over to the small business, who can keep communication at a completely internet and low-cost level as well.

VoIP can be set up independently and that may be a good solution for someone looking to integrate the system into a home office situation but even a small business should really look towards taking on external help.

There are already many experts in this new dawn in telecommunication technology. These experts not only take care of the complicated installation procedure, but also offer friendly, informal advice as well as ongoing customer support and the provision of training company personnel in how to use the VoIP system.

Using experienced VoIP technicians should ensure a smooth, problem fee transition form your existing system. Although self-installation is an effective cost cutting exercise, losing your phone lines for a week then having to hire a specialist will only cost more in the long run anyway!

The cost effective nature of VoIP is sure to see more and more companies taking this new technology on board as conventional exchange systems become more outdated.

Calculating Your Business Telecom Expenses

In the current economic climate, it has become absolutely vital that expenditure in all areas be addressed to ensure a smooth, consistent and ultimately profitable business operation.

Costs continue to rise in all areas even though the world recession continues to bite. The price of crude oil means logistical expenses are at an all time high while the cost of raw products, outside services and employee wages continue to have a dramatic effect on company outgoings.

One area that needs constant supervision is the accountability of business telecommunications. It is vital that costs are correctly calculated and usage is efficiently monitored.

Costs themselves are essentially easy to calculate. There is always going to be the need to make outgoing calls to customers, suppliers, outside service providers and associated companies. These costs will be coupled with the staff you employ and you will need to rent a sufficient amount of telephone lines to cater for the demands of your business.

Additional costs can be added for logistical reasons, such as mobile phone services to stay in contact with employees who are not confined to a particular site or office. Calculations in this area will include incoming calls as well as outgoing.

For a small business that operates in a home office scenario, it is incredibly important to monitor all usage and separate calls from those that are made for social or domestic purposes. Keeping stringent accounts, no matter what size your business is, will help in monitoring, calculating and reducing costs.

Maintaining control over telephone expense is accentuated by the fact that certain areas of business telecommunications are tax deduct able.

Costs can be controlled by selecting a package from your telephone service provider that offers a competitive price on a combination of factors including line rental, call costs, Internet accessibility and mobile phone facilities.

The advent of the Internet also means that using e-mails instead of a telephone makes for an effective cost cutting exercise. There’s also the benefit of using free services such as Skype which allow you to make calls for free.

Ensuring that all company mobile phones are on the same network will also save significant sums, especially as network-to-network calls for business purposes are often free of charge.

It’s also important that business lines are used solely for that purpose and employees shouldn’t be using company facilities for personal use unless agreed beforehand.

With a vigilant nature, comprehensive budget and some sensible shopping there’s significant amounts of money to be saved for any business that’s prepared to work a little harder to cut back on unnecessary expenditure.

Don’t Skimp on a Phone System for Business

When choosing a business phone system, remember the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’. If you put in the effort to start and grow your business, cutting back and using a free phone service will only cause you problems.

So you have a growing company, and you currently pay very little for your phone calls because you are using a free service. It might seem like a good idea now but what about as your business grows? Do you want people to continue to view your business as a one man shop? If not, then you need to upgrade to a professional phone system. And with all the inexpensive VoIP hosted PBX options out there (telecom in the cloud) you not only set yourself up as a professional business but are ready for growth.

VoIP hosted PBX systems normally offer many features that free phone systems do not offer like: call queues, call reporting, call recording, and transcribed voicemails (voicemail to text).

Now, don’t get me wrong, those free phone systems a lot of fans who rave about the features it gives them. But, it’s simply not a professional phone system that any size business should utilize for their day to day operations.

Here are the reasons why you should NOT use a free phone system as a business phone system:

1. It Isn’t a Phone System

No admin login, no separate user logins, no call reporting, no call queues, no unlimited phone numbers, no toll free numbers, no logs for different users, no logs for different numbers, no e911, no dial by name directory, no web faxing, no music on hold etc. etc. It’s just NOT a phone system.

But… if you need more reasons:

2. Most free phone systems are not Based on SIP (Session Internet Protocol) and therefore Lacks Features

Systems that use SIP have many advantages over a POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) in that they can utilize many of the programmable features that only calls sent over SIP can provide. As an example, Asterisk is a programming language based on SIP and is constantly coming out with new features for VoIP providers. Asterisk is an open source software and therefore available for free. Some of the features free services are lacking that a business will need include: Call Queues, Conference Bridges with a Pin Number and email reminders, Call Reports, Administration and User level logins for managing lines/extensions, web faxing, a dial by name directory, music on hold, e911, and much, much more.

3. You Cannot Use Free Services on a Soft Phone

Since most free phone systems are not based on SIP, users of the system cannot use a SIP based client like a soft phone. Soft phones are software programs that run on a computer that enable users to make/receive calls over the internet. An example of a soft phone is Skype. Soft Phones are used by many companies for call centers and in place of a company phone. Soft phones are free to start and then can cost a small one-time cost for a lot of extra features. One company that sells soft phones is Counterpath.

4. Most Free Phone Systems Only Offer One Local Number

With most of these free phone services you are only given one local number. With the advent of VoIP, businesses can finally get local business numbers for any location in the U.S. without having to have a physical location there. So, many businesses are seeing the benefit of maintaining multiple local phone numbers. For example, if your business is located in Austin, Texas but you have vendors in New Orleans, Louisiana, you may want to give them a local number that they can call instead of having to make long distance calls or using your toll-free minutes on your toll-free number. If you have a VoIP hosted PBX system, you can purchase as many local numbers from as many local U.S. destinations as you want. And, you can forward these numbers to any location you want including your cell phone, an extension at your business, or your VoIP phone (wherever that might be located).

5. Free Phone Services Usually Do Not Work with Powerful VoIP Phones

Many of the features that are making businesses more successful when using VoIP are only accessible using a VoIP phone. Polycom, for example, has a entire line of VoIP phones used just for conference rooms. There are also phones used by secretaries that show who is on the phone, as well as basic VoIP phones with buttons like ‘hold’, ‘mute’, ‘headsets’, ‘conference’, ‘forward’, ‘Contact Directory’, ‘Call Lists’, ‘Messages’ and much more. And with a VoIP phone, you can use your phone anywhere in the world you have a dedicated internet connection.

6. HD Voice (wideband audio) is Not Available with Free Phone Services

Wideband audio is an audio technology used in telephony. It extends the frequency range of audio signals transmitted over telephone lines, resulting in higher quality speech. With HD, Voice calls sound clear and crisp, almost like the person is standing right next to you. HD Voice is available with most VoIP hosted PBX providers and with most VoIP phone providers but not with free phone services.

7. Free Phone Services – Voicemail to Text Service is Crummy at Best

Perhaps one of the free phone services coolest features is also currently among its weakest. The transcription service can give you some less-than-literal translations. Voicemails may or may not come through perfectly when transcribed to text. “I hope to see you soon” may come through as “I love your friend June.” Ouch.

8. Privacy Can Be An Issue for Free Phone System Users

Preston Gralla of Computer World says “Lost in all the hooplah about the release of — is this disturbing fact: The service will give (Internet Browser Company) — enormous amounts of information about the intimate details of your everyday life, including recordings of your voice mail and possibly your phone calls. Combined with what (Internet Browser Company) — already knows about you, it could mean your privacy is at an end.” Gralla goes on to say: “— will be offered for free. (Internet Browsing Company) —, though, will certainly be looking for ways to make money from it. One of the most obvious ways is via targeted advertising, particularly because the company recently announced that it’s going to figure out new ways to target ads based on your interests. It already does this with — So don’t be surprised to see ad targeted based on who calls you.”

9. Free Phone Services Do Not Offer Phone Support

Okay, this has to be the biggest problem with relying on a free phone service for your companies phone system needs. Have you, or anyone you know, ever been able to actually talk to their support for anything? I doubt it. Go with a provider you can talk to any time since having a working phone system is most likely a crucial factor in your businesses success.

10 Free Phone Services Do Not Look Professional

Bottom line is, when you are trying to get a new customer to trust you, the fact that you are using free phone services instead of paying for a better phone system shows that you just don’t care. You don’t care that your phone calls are possibly being monitored, don’t care that your phone calls are breaking up and sound terrible, and you don’t care about having reliable business telecommunications.

Conclusion

Free phone systems are not meant to be used to run a business’s telecommunications system. The “fun” little features that they tout are just that, fun. They won’t help you run your business more efficiently and in fact will most likely slow you down. I mean who has time to set up different voicemail greetings for different callers when you are trying to run a business?? And do you really need that?? So stick with what works and grow your business without having to worry that your phone system will drag you down. Choose a VoIP hosted PBX system and you can’t go wrong.