In the early days of the internet, using a VoIP phone for business was a bit of an adventure. Lags, choppy lines and inability to hear the other person all added to the frustrations of daily calling. Also, there was the problem of insufficient WiFi connectivity across the country and utterly atrocious speeds and bandwidth limits on mobile data plans to make calling via the internet viable.
The emergence of high-speed WiFi, broad connectivity as well as 4G (and now, 5G) changed all that. It’s hard to travel anywhere in the UK where there isn’t a WiFi hotspot for you to connect to, except in the most remote areas. Data plans allow for enormous amounts of data transfer, and mobile phone data speeds can sometimes be better than WiFi!
Such an ecosystem makes using an internet-enabled business phone a tremendously viable option, as well as a much more cost-effective one.
VoIP is an acronym for “Voice over Internet Protocol”.
Internet Protocol is the series of communication agreements between machines which make communication via the internet possible.
By “communication” is meant the transfer of signals, not chit-chat.
When two devices communicate over the internet, they do so by exchanging certain underlying signals to ensure that a package of data (“communication”) is sent or received.
Using this protocol, it is possible to then send data in the form of images (video) or sound, or a combination of the two.
Traditional phone lines work off an entirely different protocol. Mobile phones use radio waves to transmit sound, and landline phones transmit “digitised sound” down an actual physical wire.
For many years, VoIP was carried out via one’s computer or one’s mobile phone’s internet connection. To make a VoIP call, it was necessary to install additional VoIP-specific software on the device, such as Skype.
More recently, as the popularity of VoIP has grown and technology has advanced, it became possible to build phone units which themselves provide VoIP functionality out-of-the-box. Such phones look and feel like traditional phones. Without knowing that the phone is a VoIP phone, you would never guess that it is sending your communication over the internet instead of over the radio.
Historically, the main drawback of using a VoIP-line to make your calls has always been the speed and quality of your internet connection. This problem was doubled when wanting to call while travelling.
If you live in an area with a sketchy internet connection — whether via mobile data or WiFi — then VoIP is probably not for you yet.
Some professionals opt for a hybrid solution, utilising VoIP when they are on the go, in airports, or in big cities where internet connectivity is usually very good.
Another drawback is that emergency calls cannot be traced. In a traditional phone line, the phone can be traced because it is physically connected to a line, or is within reach of a particular radio tower. It is advisable to have a separate, available phone for emergency calls which is connected to a traditional phone line.
The advantages of using VoIP in your business far outweigh the cons (again, provided you have a decent internet connection).
Cost-saving is the top benefit. VoIP calls are far cheaper than traditional phones — especially international calls.
This is particularly true when roaming. Despite efforts to reduce roaming costs in Europe, these costs can still be crippling if you need to make a lot of calls. Let’s not even mention calling outside of Europe to countries with a weaker infrastructure. The phone costs of one business trip can easily outweigh the entire cost of the trip itself!
Because VoIP works off the internet, a ton of nifty apps exist which can enhance the functionality and features of your VoIP phone. These apps and tools can do things such as offer insight into which numbers you call most often or which ones you spend the most time on. Various analytics features can be integrated into your CRM through VoIP-integrated tools. Data can be transferred from your VoIP system into your CRM to offer insights into your sales processes.
A VoIP system also means you can have a telephone number almost anywhere in the world, regardless of where you are physically located. This allows you to give clients a local number, so they are more likely to call you.
Yealink and Polycom are popular VoIP-enabled phone brands in the UK.
As for VoIP providers (independent of the phone unit itself), some popular choices in the UK are 4com, Lily Comms, Vonage and RingCentral.
Start My Business also offers a full-featured Business Phone Solution based on VoIP, both for the UK and international clients.
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