Why VoIP is Essential for Today’s Distributed Workforces
VoIP solutions have come a long way in the past few years to the point that they have become essential for today’s distributed work environments
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has long been heralded as the death of the landline phone. That being said, many businesses, despite recognizing its enormous value, continue to have difficulties implementing it. Problems persist with quality of service and integration with legacy PTSN systems, but there are now many proven ways to overcome these issues.
Having the right VoIP deployment for your business provides practically all the advantages of traditional landlines, plus a whole lot more. Most importantly, a VoIP system provides flexibility to scale across hybrid workforces by eliminating reliance on fixed lines and specific hardware. In fact, you can use virtually any device equipped with a microphone to make or receive calls.
How does VoIP work?
Whereas traditional landlines and cellphones are hardware-based solutions, VoIP is entirely software-defined. Calls are routed across the internet, which may or may not use the landline infrastructure, using software-based phones (softphones).
A softphone is a software program, such as Skype, for making and receiving phone calls over the internet. These programs are available for almost any mobile or desktop device. Moreover, there are also web-based softphones that should work with any modern browser, regardless of the underlying device or operating system.
Most business-grade VoIP platforms use the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which is used for initiating, maintaining, and terminating real-time communication sessions. These sessions need not be restricted to voice either, since the protocol also works with video and messaging, making it an all-in-one solution. The SIP can also serve as a gateway between VoIP networks and the traditional Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). This means it is possible to use a softphone for calls to or from landlines or cellphones.
What is a VoIP phone number?
Traditionally, voice calls were tied to a specific landline or the conventional cellphone network. One of the most important components of a business-grade VoIP platform is the virtual phone number. A VoIP number is a lot like a regular telephone number, albeit one that is assigned to a user account rather than a specific phone line. These numbers look and function the same as any other phone number, so there is no learning curve required to use them.
Unlike regular phone numbers, the area codes of VoIP numbers do not bear any relevance to the actual system, since they work independently of the location. For example, you might have a VoIP number with a US area code, but callers will still be able to reach you using the same number, regardless of where you are in the world.
Moreover, VoIP numbers can support multiple devices, since you can use your VoIP account on any internet-connected device. For example, you can make a call from a typical deskphone or an app on your smartphone or desktop device. This provides a great deal of flexibility for users, since their phone numbers travel with them. To that end, it works rather like a cellphone number, albeit without being limited to costly cellular networks or high roaming charges when abroad.
What are the business benefits of VoIP?
One of the main selling points of VoIP systems is that they can save businesses a lot of money. This is because they can bypass traditional phone operators around the world. Calls between internet-connected devices are completely free, and calls to landlines or cellphones are often significantly cheaper, especially if you are calling aboard.
Business-grade VoIP platforms can also integrate seamlessly with your existing infrastructure, so you do not need to buy any costly extra hardware. Employees can use their own devices for making or receiving calls, rendering the need for traditional deskphones obsolete in many situations. This makes VoIP highly scalable, especially in the case of busy call centers, sales departments, and customer support teams.
For the same reasons and more, VoIP can lead to a significant increase in productivity. The greatly improved accessibility allows employees to use any internet-connected device, instead of being restricted to the deskphone. The fact that they can also use their own devices, with which they will be entirely familiar, also negates the need for additional training. Softphones themselves are typically highly intuitive, so the learning curve is minimal too.
VoIP is also exceptional in its ability to achieve greater collaboration and persistent customer relationships. No longer will there be any need to use separate services to connect different departments and branches, since all members of a company can stay connected over a single network. Whether you are holding private video conferences with your team or important sales calls with prospects on the other side of the world, VoIP offers that flexibility.
Many enterprise-grade VoIP systems go even further. For example, integration with existing software systems, such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM), makes it possible to instantly dial numbers just by clicking on an entry in your customer database. There is no need to use a separate device or manually enter the number, which saves time and eliminates the risk of accidentally calling the wrong number.
As a digital, software-based solution, VoIP also provides opportunities to monitor productivity and usage across the entire network. For example, it can automatically record and archive all calls for training, accountability, and other purposes. End-to-end encryption ensures that your communications are safe from eavesdroppers and other threats as well.
Furthermore, admins will have a complete overview of who has access to their VoIP accounts, allowing them to provision new numbers and accounts as required and deactivate ones that belonged to employees who have left the company.
Business-grade VoIP solutions tend to be highly configurable. You can set up and customize autoresponders and use the find-me/follow-me feature to automatically reroute calls between different users and devices. For example, if a particular employee is unavailable, the call might be automatically rerouted to another. The same can also work on a device level, in which the call might be routed to a deskphone first, and then to the employee’s smartphone if there is no answer.
The built-in training features of VoIP are also very useful for businesses, especially large call centers, where it is hardly practical to watch over new hires in person. With VoIP, managers can easily intercept difficult calls, monitor them for training purposes, and even ‘whisper’ to employees to provide advice without interrupting the call itself.
How does VoIP call quality compare to landlines?
One of the most common concerns business leaders have about migrating to VoIP solutions is that call quality will suffer. The truth is that call quality can vary widely depending on several factors, such as the service provider, the speed and reliability of your internet connection, and the device used to make or receive the call itself. For example, even the best services around cannot overcome the issues associated with using a poor-quality microphone, just as using a top-quality microphone will not overcome a poor service.
In general, VoIP call quality is far greater than that of landlines or cellphones. After all, even the slowest broadband connections should be able to support several full high-definition audio calls concurrently, whereas a single landline can only support one call of rather modest quality.
However, VoIP call quality will suffer if there is not enough available bandwidth to handle the required number of concurrent calls. A single voice call of sufficient quality requires a paltry internet speed of around 100 Kbps, so bandwidth should not be an issue unless something else is consuming all available bandwidth. To prevent that from happening, most businesses dedicate a portion of their internet bandwidth for VoIP.
Video calls require far more bandwidth, with an ideal upstream/downstream speed of at least 2 Mbps per call.
Are there any drawbacks of VoIP?
VoIP is certainly not perfect, but the technology has evolved over the years to the point it has greatly improved upon the traditional landline or cellular networks. That being said, VoIP call quality will only ever be as good as your internet connection allows. While this should not be an issue for most conventional office spaces, it may be for remote employees using slower home internet connections.
Most issues with VoIP can be remedied by working with a dependable service provider that offers 24/7 support and proactively maintains their systems. Smart Choice Communications, for example, boasts a 99.999% service uptime, which equates to an annual downtime of only 5.26 minutes. We also use the latest protocols and quality of service (QoS) systems to ensure supreme call quality for all our clients.
When it comes to general use, the case for landlines continues to wane. In most cases, they remain, as they still should, for emergency use only. After all, they do have the advantage of working if the internet connection is down, and even during power outages.
Why VoIP is the future of the hybrid workplace
If the unprecedented events of the past year have taught us anything, it is that hybrid work is here to stay. Even as people start returning to the offices after the pandemic, the advantages of remote work will not be going away. Businesses the world over are now reducing costs on office space by giving their employees the freedom and flexibility to work from home or on the move. Since VoIP does not tie users to a specific location or device, it has become a necessity for today’s distributed workforces.
Smart Choice Communications offers VoIP solutions that integrate seamlessly with your CRM software and provide unparalleled call quality with a 99.999% uptime. We can serve as one provider for all your business communication needs. Get in touch today to find out more.