One of the hot items in the business world in recent years has been the acceptance of VoIP as a viable technology to use in communications. Bolstered by the fact that it is a product that has matured since its introduction, it is not uncommon for companies to now consider VoIP as an alternative to traditional phone systems. Its price and the features that it offers make it very attractive.
The answer to the question of what can VoIP business phone systems do can be broken into two categories. The first is its cost and the features offered as part of the VoIP package. The second is what it brings to the business in terms of installation, ease of use, etc.
Cost alone is enough for any business to take a serious look at VoIP. A contract with AT&T or other traditional providers can run you thousands of dollars. Most VoIP vendors offer a low monthly fee that is not bound by a contract. If you’re not happy with the service, you can exit easily at any time. That’s a luxury you don’t have with the big telecommunication companies.
The features offered by VoIP providers, combined with the low cost, only serve to enhance VoIP’s attractiveness. Most providers offer features like unlimited calling, free long distance, and unified message, just to name a few. Some providers may even include faxing. The point is that you’ll be getting quite a bit of bang for your buck.
Installing a VoIP system is relatively easy. You may be able to adjust your current equipment to work with the system, or you may need to make an initial investment in VoIP hardware. That investment will pay itself back pretty quickly, as the ease of installing a VoIP phone in your office will make your IT department or phone guy smile. If you want, you can skip the investment and go with a hosted solution. Either way, you can still run an Ethernet cable to the phone, program it in the phone system, and you’re good to go. Even better, once the phone is programmed, you can move it to other connections in the office and it will still be recognized correctly on the network without any sort of reconfiguration.
The features you’ve grown accustomed to in traditional phone systems are still there with VoIP, along with enhancements to make life easier. You can still send calls to voice-mail and forward them to co-workers. You can take advantage of three way calling. Voice-mails can be configured to route to your e-mail in-box so you don’t have to worry about being onsite to access them. All of this is done with an eye towards making life easier for employees of the business, allowing them to be connected no matter where they might go.
Cisco is probably the most popular VoIP vendor currently out there. The company offers a full suite of VoIP products, from its Unified Communications Manager to its Unified IP Phones. If you’re going to go with an in-house solution, investigating the Cisco product line is well worth your while. The products are relatively easy to install and use, and are backed by the Cisco name.
Inter-Tel was a company that was heavily involved in traditional phone systems. It merged with Mitel, which now offers a suite of VoIP products that rivals that of Cisco. It offers various controllers for building out a communications infrastructure, as well as a variety of full featured IP phones.
The point here is not to give a rundown of each VoIP vendor out there, but to simply give a sampling of a few vendors and what you can expect from them. Cisco should be looked at by every business investigating VoIP. There are viable alternatives out there, however, that should be looked at as well.
VoIP is here to stay, and will only become more of a player in the not too distant future. The product has matured enough in recent years to now be seriously configured as a telecommunications option for business. Use the primers offered in this article to help you in your VoIP search.
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