By Bahar Ferguson
As a business leader, you need to ensure that your team can effectively communicate with one another as needed. Getting in touch with other members of your team should be a streamlined, smooth process. When it’s difficult to contact anyone on your staff, that can lead to a disconnect that stifles creativity, communication and growth. In some cases, that team member might as well not be there at all.
One of the best ways that you can communicate is to utilize Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP. It is also sometimes referred to as Internet telephony, IP telephony or Internet calling. This type of technology is not new — it has been used for the past two decades by businesses and government entities alike. However, it has recently spiked in use, particularly with the significant increase in employees working from home.
With VoIP, you are essentially using the Internet to make and receive telephone calls. There is no landline or even a traditional phone system required. Instead, you only need an Internet connection and a microphone. Some of the basic systems require a computer, but you can also find more advanced systems that operate without a computer. You may just need a telephone headset or cell phone.
Why Would I Need a VoIP System?
As a business owner, you need a communication method that is both cost-effective and efficient. Reliability and security are also huge issues that you should consider, as well.
Requiring your team to use their own cell phones or landlines can create problems that you might not anticipate, specifically issues with reliability. For example, you cannot force your employees to pay their phone bills, but you can ensure that you have a phone system to get in touch with them by implementing your own. Having a VoIP system in place to get in touch with your team allows you to create that reliability cost-effectively.
Working from Home with Internet Calling
Internet calling easily allows virtually any employee who needs to maintain connectivity to work from home. If a business already has an office phone, for example, VoIP makes it easy to transfer those calls to another phone system at home.
Alternatively, employees who work from home can use Internet calling on their Smartphone, computer, tablet or any other “smart” device. You can use this “smart” calling even if you do not already have a landline that you use at a physical office.
Four Benefits of Having a VoIP System
The benefits of a VoIP system are extensive. A few examples are included below:
1. It is Affordable. When compared to setting up a landline with a physical phone for each member of your team, VoIP is extremely cost-effective. There are many free programs that you can utilize, but even if you want to ensure extra reliability and security, paid-for systems are inexpensive, as well.
There is no additional equipment necessary to implement a VoIP system, as it utilizes computers and smart devices that you are likely already using. The chances are that your company is already paying for a suitable Internet connection that supports VoIP, too.
2. Multiple-Person and Group Calls. Unlike a traditional phone system, you can have several people on the same line, calling at the same time. VoIP also allows for conference calling and group calling, too. All of these easy-to-use features make collaboration very easy.
3. Advanced Features. VoIP allows for some of the more technical features of a traditional phone system. In some situations, you should have to pay extra for these features, but that is often not the case with a VoIP set-up. Examples of these features include fax, voicemail, call waiting, caller ID, call blocking, call forwarding and last number redials. Some systems also offer things like SMS (text messaging) capabilities and call transferring.
4. Outstanding Mobility. Not only can employees work from home, but they can often work from anywhere that there is Internet service. You, as the business owner, are free to take your company on the road, too. This type of mobility allows you to visit your team in the field on projects, for example, or actually go to sites to do work yourself without losing office connectivity that can potentially bring in new business.
Technical Requirements for a VoIP System
Although your particular VoIP system’s requirements will vary, you can get a general idea of what type of technology you will need to support a VoIP system by reviewing the requirements below.
Internet Service and Bandwidth. You will need an Internet service that has enough bandwidth to support VoIP calling. Thankfully, most Internet connections will be more than sufficient to satisfy their requirements for Internet calling. Having 90Kbits/second per phone call is a good rule of thumb. That means that if you expect that you could have up to three phone calls at once, you should ensure that you have at least 270Kbit/second available to use.
Most Internet service providers will give you information about bandwidth in terms of speed, such as 60Mbs. Because 1Mb is equal to 8000Kbit, a 60Mb connection, for example, is going to be significantly more than what you need to make calls.
You also need to be sure that you have a consistent service that is reliable wherever you are located. Having spotty Internet service is going to make your VoIP system inefficient, and it may be ineffective when you need it.
You will need basic hardware to have an Internet connection, such as a modem and a router. Again, if you already have an Internet connection, then you likely do not need to add any additional hardware for your internet service.
Phones can vary widely. You may want a specific type of phone for your team, or they can use their existing smart devices. What kind of phone you will want varies based on your needs, the size of your team and how much control you want over the phones.
Bahar Ferguson is the president of Wasatch I.T., a Utah provider of outsourced IT services for small and medium-sized businesses.