VoIP for Small Businesses
For years, small businesses have eyed larger companies’ advanced telephony capabilities with envy. Call centers with features that integrate with customer account information systems, leverage time-based call flows and use shortened numbers for internal dialing have been reserved for only the biggest companies. The small guys can’t afford it, and customer service often suffers.
This doesn’t have to be true!
An affordable option for small companies to “look big” and behave responsively is to embrace Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. VoIP is a good way to cut costs and add flexibility to your business’s telephony capabilities. It also can free your workforce from the confines of an office with its roaming capabilities.
VoIP bridges the gap between landlines and cell phones and lays the foundation for Unified Communications. Imagine the productivity increase workers obtain simply by being able to route important calls to a specific device they are using at the time and directing others to voicemail. You can be anywhere, plug your cell phone into your laptop, and it’s like you’re sitting in your office.
So why isn’t everyone doing this already? As with many transformative technologies, there are a couple of compelling downsides to consider.
The Dark Side of VoIP
A major downside of VoIP is the migration of dial tone reliability into the scary realm of the data network, and all that comes with it. Suddenly, your phone is subject to the security threats associated with networked PCs, servers, and the Internet. The simple fact is that the proprietary nature of traditionally expensive private branch exchanges (PBXs) and the protocols PBXs run make them harder to penetrate. But when voice runs over the same network as data, a little hacking knowledge can go a long way for customer information exposure, industrial espionage, service disruption and more.
Another downside of VoIP is the unpredictable latency associated with traffic flowing across the network. The Internet is a shared network. Traffic ebbs and surges make consistent latency values almost impossible to guarantee. This variability can be detrimental to voice quality and possibly not allow calls to connect, which is enough to cause at least a little trepidation when considering it for your critical customer interactions.
So Why Does Anyone Do It?
Small businesses must weigh VoIPs security risks and voice quality issues against its tremendous upside. There are ways to minimize these risks and call quality issues. The most important thing is to do your homework and set realistic expectations. With VoIP, the key is properly deploying the technology. The next articles in this series will describe ways to mitigate the security risks and improve voice quality with proper configuration to ensure your VoIP implementation is 100% successful.
Fear of the unknown and a lack of knowledge have kept many small businesses from adopting VoIP. But times are changing. Service providers who understand the pitfalls bring immense value for a fraction of the price. These companies specialize in implementing converged network solutions allowing a small business to take full advantage of the savings and features associated with VoIP while protecting them from security risks and ensuring good voice quality.
For small businesses, properly implemented VoIP is undoubtedly worth it. They usually have little or no existing telephone infrastructure. Those that have it are usually subject to very expensive and outdated telco calling plans. VoIP would save them money from day one. Add to that the modern call routing and handling features mentioned above, and you have a no-brainer. Often the ROI for deploying a VoIP system is less than 12 months. The increase in productivity and flexibility will be realized immediately.