VoIP for Telecommuters and Remote Offices

By Gene Teglovic
Updated: February 08, 2011

VoIP for Telecommuters and Remote Offices

As companies expand adoption of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems, they continue to realize the benefits of reduced costs, improved features, and better overall communication across organizations.

A further extension of this growing trend is extending business VoIP system access to the remote worker. As with any change in a company’s communication and human resource strategy, leaders need to consider both positive impacts and potential challenges before, during, and after implementing access.

Pros and Benefits of Using Remote Business VoIP Facilities

  • Cost - The biggest benefit of allowing remote worker access to business VoIP systems is cost savings. Company office space use is minimized. Additional business phone lines are not needed. Most remote workers have Internet connectivity in their homes, so a VoIP-ready business phone is all a remote worker needs to add in most cases. In addition, VoIP cell phones are becoming less expensive and increasing in quality.
  • Mobility and Flexibility - A remote worker with a VoIP-ready business phone can connect to a business VoIP PBX from any location that has a broadband Internet connection. This allows access to the business VoIP PBX features, such as voicemail, extension dialing, on-hold, forwarding, transfer, and so forth. Calls from a single 800 number can be routed to a remote worker.
  • Oversight - Most business VoIP PBX solutions have call reporting and remote-use features that can track activity while a remote worker is telecommuting.

Cons and Challenges of Using Remote Business VoIP Facilities

  • Security Concerns - VoIP systems need to deal with all the regular Internet security threats (malware, phishing, denial of service attacks, etc.), in addition to some of their own unique threats (toll fraud, eavesdropping, spamming over Internet telephony, and call tampering). When extending a VoIP solution to remote users, these security concerns increase, since VoIP phone software is propagated to machines outside the company premise.
  • Creating, Maintaining and Enforcing New Policies - Policies regarding security safeguards on networks, individual PCs and VoIP phones are critical to a successful remote worker environment. Policies for use of firewalls, anti-malware software, secure user ID/password combinations, and encryption levels are critical. Also, policies regarding safeguarding of company proprietary and confidential information in an employee’s personal environment are needed. This takes time and adds costs.
  • Maintaining Quality of Service (QoS) - Use of a business VoIP system by a remote worker has more potential points of degradation and failure than one on a company premise. When the business VoIP system goes remote, call quality is at the mercy of the remote user’s ISP.
  • Privacy Issues - Call tracking and other monitoring of each telecommuting remote worker introduces privacy concerns. Depending on the nature of the job function, some companies may see the need to impose stricter controls, such as monitoring Internet traffic unrelated to the job function, recording sessions, or video surveillance. As with security, clearly communicated and understood policies regarding privacy are critical.

Bottom Line

Providing remote access to business VoIP systems can save money, provide convenience, and increase overall efficiency. Before proceeding down the path, organizations need to research risks, implement policies, and monitor progress while balancing employee privacy concerns.

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