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Is Business VoIP For You?

As with anything new, Voice Over Internet Protocol has gotten a lot of attention. It has been touted as being the wave of the future. It can save money and simplify your business operations. But VoIP isn't for every company. And does it deliver on its promises?

First, what is VoIP? Simply, it's Voice over Internet Protocol � using the Internet as a voice phone line and more. Second, why is it becoming so popular, and could your company use it? This answer is much less simple, because there are in fact a great many things that could influence your decision. Ask a business why they use the service and they will cite its features packages, and low costs, and very possibly its reliability. Let's take a look at just some of the reasons this service is used and a few pros and cons.

One reason it's popular has to do with the ease of installation. So long as a business has an Internet connection and computers - and they almost always will - the set up and use of this advanced technology shouldn't be at all difficult. Having regular phone service would mean a company would have to pay for phone lines and all the other lines connected to and within the business. With business VoIP, this is no longer a requirement. Most companies already have a broadband connection, and when using VoIP, they will use their broadband connection without paying the fees for another installed system. This is not always the case, though. When you put voice and data on the same network, it can be a complex situation.

Before you do anything, you have to make sure your infrastructure is up to the task of supporting IP based voice and data. If it isn't, going with VoIP will be a nightmare. If you are seriously thinking about VoIP, your company should do a pre-deployment assessment. If you have older or inadequate infrastructure, you may have to upgrade your network, which might cancel out any savings you might receive.

Another factor to take into consideration is the fact that with switching to VoIP service, your telecom personnel will need to become IT proficient and/or your IT personnel will need to become more familiar with the intricacies of telecom.

Probably the biggest single reason that providers promote for any company to switch over from their typical phone service to VoIP is the lower overall costs. They pitch that while small businesses might have to pay more for their scale than large ones comparatively, business VoIP leaves its predecessors in the dust.

However, these huge cost savings were more common in the initial days of VoIP solutions. Then, the service wasn't as reliable but the cost was much cheaper than traditional phone service. Today, the service offered by VoIP is nearly as good as basic phone service, but the price difference is not nearly as wide. If your company is looking at VoIP as a primary way to cut costs, you should take a hard look at all the costs involved to make sure it's right for you.

One last item that providers publicize about their VoIP service is the customization that was not previously available to them. No matter how big or small a business might be, VoIP providers are almost always willing to work with them on an individual basis, finding them the plan that works best for their size and all of their employees.

VoIP providers are also big fans of the perks companies can get, the number of which has grown hugely in recent years. Providers offer all sorts of things that might cost extra with traditional phone lines, including multi-line services, call waiting, caller ID, call return, call block and more - and with VoIP you can have them all.

It all comes down to figuring out why your company wants VoIP. Switching can be an expensive proposition. Not only in buying or upgrading equipment, but also with re-educating employees and time spent making the system work correctly. It has great potential and will provide some advantages to nearly any company, but not everyone should make the switch.

To truly take advantage of VoIP and the multimedia applications that come with it, your workforce should be distributed with branch offices or satellite offices, telecommuters and personnel out in the field.

As you can see, there are reasons for a company to consider getting rid of landlines in favor of VoIP phones. There are also reasons not to. With an economy where companies are looking to cut corners, it's not surprising that they are looking at switching to VoIP. VoIP can be a great thing, but it might not be a great thing for your company.

The reality is that if your organization is thinking about making the switch to VoIP, you should do your homework. You should know why you are switching and make sure to get a detailed costs/benefits analysis before making your decision.

Nermine Shaker is a Partner at THE SYGNAL GROUP, a telecom consulting firm that offers telecom expense management, telecom auditing and VoIP management to businesses of all sizes. Find out how to lower your telecom expenses at www.SygnalGroup.com/ or visit our blog at www.TelecomExpertise.com/

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