Everyone's talking about the VoIP these days. Despite mobiles are the go-to gadget for most of the users, desk phones still have a special place in the corporate world. And VoIP has pretty much got the upper hand in the communication industry, taking it by surprise. But, what IS VoIP?
WHAT IS VOIP?
Okay then let's start the day by understanding what Voice over Internet Protocol, better known as VoIP, is. In short, VoIP or IP telephony or internet telephony all refer to the process of sending audio and multimedia data over the internet. It's, in fact, a set of technologies that enables one to conduct a phone call using the broadband cables instead of the dedicated telephone lines.
Wait, but how come is it even possible? Let's break things down a bit to understand it better. As with the classical telephone system, the audio (and/or multimedia sessions) has to be sent to the receiver in IP telephony somehow. But instead of sending it over the dedicated telephone line which is used solely for the sake of transmitting and receiving telecommunication data, it is sent over the internet protocol network.
As we all know, the raw audio data is a type of analog signal (i.e. the signal values are continuous). So, the first step is to convert the analog signal to a digital signal. Why? Because our analog signal does not play very well with our equipment. So, it uses a codec, a piece of hardware or software, to compress and encapsulate the analog data into data packets. And finally, rather than sending the data packets over the traditional circuit-switched network (aka your telephone lines), it's sent over a packet-switched network (i.e. the Ethernet cables). Upon receiving the encapsulated packets, the receiver does the job of unpacking and gets back the original data.
We can already see one huge advantage of using the VoIP. By not using the dedicated PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network, the globally spread public telephone network) or PBX (Private Branch Exchange, a private telephone network), it reduces the network building and maintenance cost. Say, your office needs to install some telephone systems. So instead of investing tons of money for building the network, the VoIP can simply use the existing internet network. So convenient!
DISADVANTAGES OF LANDLINES
Okay, before we move on to see how IP telephony can prove to be more productive and cost effective let's take a look at some of the pitfalls of the old-school PSTN based phones - yep, the dirty old landlines.
- Cost - The associated cost of installing and maintaining a landline is steep, to say the least. The example is going to show how true it is. In almost any case, installing a new telephone handset is likely to cost you nearly a hundred bucks. Moreover, you also have the monthly associated charges which can be as high as $100 as well. Prices can vary a bit but not to the extent that it becomes cheap. And that's only for a single line! So, as you can see landlines are anything but cheap. And that was one of the top reasons for people to start looking for alternative ways.
- Audio communication only - Another very crucial limitation of the traditional landlines is that they are only capable of transmitting audio data. Nothing less, and certainly nothing more. But you might find video calling essential, especially if you're using it for business needs, which is straight-out impossible in the case of landlines.
- Scalability - Scalability is again another reason why the big players are reluctant to continue using the traditional telephone service. Here the network is limited by the number of lines that it allows. Trying to add even a single handset more would need you to drastically update and upgrade the whole system which would require both time and effort. And who doesn't know, time equals money.
- Manageability - More often than not, most of the businesses go for a PBX system which enables them to freely communicate with the in-house devices. But managing and maintaining your network can be bothersome for the less technically gifted persons.
- Additional features - Other than initiating, receiving and routing calls there are only so many things that you can do with a landline telephone, let alone for free. You would not, by any means, be able to take advantage of handy features like video calling and automatic integration with third-party business tools.
ADVANTAGES OF VOIP
Plagued severely by the shortcomings, the users were in need of a cheaper and more efficient solution than the PSTN. And IP telephony emerged as the saviour. Here are some of the reasons why millions of businesses and users are attracted to this relatively newer technology.
- Cost - As explained earlier, the associated high cost was one of the key shortcomings of the classic telephone service. The VoIP, on the flip side, is much cheaper which makes it an excellent choice for the small scale business owners. Roughly speaking, you can easily save up to 60 - 80% on the monthly charges by switching to VoIP.
- Reliability and quality - IP telephony is in a sense much more reliable than the landlines these days. Yes, you heard it right and no, that was not a mistake. In contrary to what you'd hear everywhere PSTN and POTS are dying technologies whereas VoIP is evolving, and it can only go in one direction from here - up! Yes, there might be some issues once in a while depending on the bandwidth of your network. But those are the rarest of the rare events considering the improvement in the internet speed.
- Ease of use - IP phones are easy to use. They are, in fact, in some ways even more convenient than their classical counterpart. Moreover, most of the service providers help the user in installing and setting up the system.
- Additional features - IP phones offer tons of facilities such as call forwarding, recording and rejection, auto call-attendance, voicemail to email messaging, and third-party software integration to name a few. These are either very hard or simply impossible to implement in your traditional telephone. And best of all, you usually do not need to pay a dime for availing most of the services.
- Scalability - Unlike the PSTN or PBX, the VoIP lets the user scale out much easily and comfortably should you ever need to add more lines. You can, in theory, add as many lines as you wish to the network and it is only limited by the amount of the bandwidth.
- Manageability - Management and maintenance are much straightforward compared to the PBX. Many providers even give you the opportunity to host your service in the cloud. You pay for only what you use, with no strings attached.
WHERE CAN YOU GET THEM?
There is no shortage of manufacturer producing IP phones - Polycom, Grandstream, Yealink, Cisco and VTech to name a few. But one company that is fast gaining ground, and in the next article we are going to see why in much more detail, is Panasonic. This Japanese conglomerate has become one of the most popular names in this industry in a very short period of time.
The traditional telephone service is arguably pretty much dead by now. Only a handful of organisations still uses it. Like it or not, IP telephony IS the future of corporate communication. Interested in availing the IP solution for your business? Don't hesitate and give us a call.