Almost everyone is familiar with the two main reasons for adopting VoIP: cost (low to none) and simplicity. But more recent developments make an even stronger case for making the switch from the PSTN (publicly switched telephone network) to a VoIP-based system right now.
1. One ring to rule them all: Services like Google Voice offer you a single number that rings all your phone numbers (VoIP, cell or PSTN), plus a single voice-mail box to which all those phones' messages. Google Voice treats calls differently depending on whether you want specific callers to ring through to you or go straight to voice mail. It also lists voice messages in an email-like format on your mobile, allowing you to listen to the one you really want to hear first.
2. Cool factor: Companies that want to be seen as leading-edge don't have to install a foosball table in the lobby or hire a CEO who sails high-tech yachts around the world. VoIP adoption makes a quieter, more professional statement about how your company has its finger on the tech world's pulse, because it's using the most state-of-the-art communications technology. It also shows you're fiscally responsible.
3. Future-proofing: As opposed to PSTN phones, VoIP phones and software are planned with flexibility and upgrading not just in mind, but expected as a matter of course. As chip and transmission speeds become faster and new features are developed, the savings from using hardware and software that are designed to adapt to new technologies and protocols only increase.
4. Clear as a bell: VoIP call quality used to be sub-par compared with PSTN calls that sampled 8 kHz of voice frequency, but services like Skype and Iristel now sample voice at 16 kHz and feature ever-better compression algorithms. Phone equipment being equal, you can now hear a pin drop more clearly through a VoIP line than via PSTN lines.
5. Payback time: You can recoup your investment in a VoIP installation in as little as six months, particularly in cases where you make a lot of international calls.
6. Free conferencing: Conference calls via PSTN services are invariably expensive and usually require participants to call in. Most VoIP services offer conference-calling from between 2 to 50 people for little or nothing, usually as part of an inexpensive package of business VoIP services to which you're already subscribed. With these services in place, there's no sense in continuing to pay for PSTN-based services a moment longer.
7. Free PBX via open-standards projects: The VoIP world's premier open-source project, Asterisk, is an open-air laboratory for some of the best thinking about how to execute and improve VoIP at every level. You can take advantage of the Asterisk community's hard work and dedication by downloading the free Asterisk IP PBX (see our Asterisk Crash Course for easy instructions on how to get started). your company can start using VoIP via existing PCs and laptops shortly thereafter, with more VoIP-specific devices to come later.
8. Simplicity: Rather than hire telecom specialists to figure out or expand your PSTN system, you can maintain and improve your company's VoIP system using the IT specialists you already have on hand.
9. Support that scales: IP PBXs have historically handled dozens of users, but now there are PBXes that can handle hundreds of users simultaneously. For telecom providers, this means an opportunity to provide managed VoIP PBX hosting to businesses, but for the businesses themselves, it means that ever-larger groups of workers and entire companies can easily go to an open-source VoIP product and not look back.
10. It works (almost) anywhere: Although they're not everywhere yet, wifi hotspots are rapidly increasing in density and power, a trend that's getting a boost from the rise of hotspot-sharing services such as Fon. The day is not far off when you can be positively bathed in wifi as you walk the streets of any reasonably dense city; services like WeFi can show you where the hotspots are, phones that can use wifi for VoIP calling are already on the market from companies like BroadVoice and Net2Phone, and VoIP/cell hybrids like the Nokia N80 Internet Edition are also expected to be popular. While I despise tech writing that breathlessly promises "a new era" of anything, these technologies and services do herald a much-anticipated period of truly free, truly mobile calling, and it would pay you and your company to be ready to take advantage of it.
Now that the benefits of VoIP are clear, it's time for you to identify the best solution for your business. Focus' in-depth research can help you with this task. Read our Buyer's Guide: SMB Phone Systems before comparing the leading VoIP players in our Comparison Guide: Hosted VoIP PBX. Get more information from community-contributed content.
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