If you want the cost savings and flexibility offered by VoIP but have been put off by talk of bad call quality or unreliable service, this myth-busting list is for you.
Basic communication solutions such as phone and internet services are vital to the success of any small business. Traditionally, telecommunications has been viewed as a necessary evil but with a new generation of sophisticated, alternative voice and data solutions this is changing with offers of simplicity, flexibility, advanced features and importantly, affordability.
Indeed, with the NBN on the horizon, there has been an increase in businesses looking to take the virtual leap towards high quality, feature-rich IP voice solutions, commonly called VoIP (Voice over IP) or hosted/virtual PBX. Instead of using a traditional landline, VoIP delivers your calls over an internet connection and is a more affordable alternative with lower rental, negligible call costs and lower set-up fees. Already, 21 percent of Australian SMEs use a VoIP service, with many more aware of VoIP and considering moving to a VoIP system in the future, according to a recent ACMA survey.
However, as with any relatively new technology, there are a few myths and misconceptions that need to be cleared up for anyone considering making the switch to a business VoIP system.
MYTH #1: The savings are only between two similar VoIP systems
FACT: Software applications such as Skype allowing users to make Internet calls have helped popularise VoIP. It’s no surprise therefore that many believe the savings from VoIP are only realised when calling between two similar VoIP systems.
While many VoIP providers offer free calls between users on their service, VoIP also allows you to call any number, landline, mobile or overseas, just like any other phone system. However, because calls go through your internet connection, they are often charged at much lower rates than traditional calls. Many businesses report savings of up to 60 percent by switching to a VoIP-based system such as Virtual PBX thanks to the lower line rental, negligible call rates, low setup and monthly fees.
MYTH #2: The voice quality is bad compared to traditional landlines
FACT: The main factor that affects voice quality is your internet connection. VoIP typically requires at least a broadband connection (DSL, cable or Ethernet). The bandwidth you have for VoIP is the key for voice quality. If you have a good internet connection, the voice quality will actually be better than a traditional landline.
Another factor that can greatly impact on your call quality is the right VoIP hardware. Look for IP enabled handsets or VoIP adaptors that include a ‘Quality of Service’ feature from a credible supplier to ensure superior quality and range.
MYTH #3: The system is unreliable
FACT: The stability and reliability of the system depends largely on that of your broadband connection. VoIP technology has improved in leaps and bounds over the years and there are now more features to ensure that you don’t miss a call, such as voicemail, voicemail to email and call forwarding. For extra peace of mind, most reliable VoIP providers offer service guarantees ensuring virtually no downtime.
MYTH #4: VoIP is not secure
FACT: On the contrary, VoIP is actually more secure than traditional systems where your voice goes by a ‘clear channel’ down the copper line. Anyone with basic equipment can listen in to a conversation on this line. VoIP however, is encoded and modulated, making it more difficult to tap into your conversation. For the right level of protection, make sure that your voice provider has a proper firewall running; reliable authentication technologies in place; and provides encryption for voice transmission.
MYTH #5: Changing providers means you lose your phone number
FACT: Keeping a consistent phone number is vital for your business – it’s on your business cards, brochures, website, outdoor advertising and even saved in customers’ mobile phones. So it’s understandable that you might have some reservations about changing providers, however tempting the great VoIP call rates and other benefits might be.
But here’s the good news: You can actually keep your number with some VoIP providers. By porting your local number into the cloud, you can easily transfer your existing number to your new provider. Even complex landline numbers such as 1300 and 1800 numbers can be ported, and reputable providers can also give you additional landline or 1300 numbers as your business grows.
MYTH #6: VoIP doesn’t support fax
FACT: With electronic signatures not recognised in many countries, fax is still the medium of choice for many businesses, especially when dealing with customers and suppliers. However, traditional faxing as we know it uses an analogue transmission. Does that mean you’re still stuck with fixed line rental for fax, despite having a VoIP system for your phone needs? Of course not. Fax is possible even without a traditional phone line. Simply by connecting your existing fax machine via a VoIP adaptor, it’s business as usual for your fax machine while saving money on the monthly line rental.
Alternatively, embrace IP technology and move to a Virtual Fax service that delivers faxes to your email address as PDF documents and lets you send faxes directly from your computer. An estimated 90 per cent of documents are now created on a computer, so why not simplify the process? Eliminate the time-consuming cycle involved with traditional faxing. Send faxes in just a few quick clicks and store them electronically with Virtual Fax as part of your VoIP service. A virtual fax line is also ‘never busy’ meaning you can receive multiple faxes simultaneously and because they go straight to your email, this means you can also receive faxes on your smartphone!
Once you have the facts, VoIP isn’t really as scary or complicated as you might think. So what’s the next step? To reap the benefits of VoIP for your business, it is important to find a reputable provider that specialises in business VoIP services, such a virtual (or hosted) PBXs and SIP Trunks. There are many providers offering residential plans, but only a few main players that offer the feature-rich, flexibly VoIP phone systems designed specifically for business use. You’ll know a good Virtual PBX system by its features. It will do everything a regular PBX does. Another important feature to look out for is an Online Portal; it allows you to manage your virtual PBX online in real time, which means you can say goodbye to unnecessary maintenance costs and the need to call a technician every time you want to make a change to your system. Find a reliable provider that gives your business the flexibility, features and simplicity it needs and you could cut up to 60 percent off your telephony costs.