Effective communication plays an integral part in facilitating smooth workplace collaboration while also helping businesses maintain strong relationships with their client base. However, the problem comes when you need to manage multiple conversations across different channels – the whole process can be incredibly time-consuming and a big hassle, especially if your business is still grappling with limited resources.
The good thing though is that it doesn’t always have to be this way.
With effective tools and latest technologies such as Hosted VoIP systems, streamlining communications becomes a breeze.
Are you looking for simple ways to improve the way you communicate with your team internally or your customers/partners?
We’ve created this comprehensive resource for you where we cover everything you need to know about VoIP. This includes showing you how your small business can leverage the power of this tech for successful collaborations and communication.
Before we can delve deeper into this topic, let’s begin with the basics…
VoIP is an acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol. Put simply, this is the transmission of voice and other communication media over the internet, as opposed to using the conventional telephone network. Since its invention, VOIP has seen a series of advancements to get to where it is today – a commodity service that is competing with and in some cases, replacing circuit-switched telephony. VoIP was not that efficient until the mid-2000s when the world started welcoming broadband networks into homes and offices. At this point, the bandwidth was strong enough and the quality of VoIP matched that of regular telephone calls.
As technology continued to grow and internet speeds increased, VoIP rode on this wave to become a more reliable option for business communications. With time, more businesses switched to VoIP and this meant developers had more capital to invest, launch better hardware, and make their services more efficient. From humble beginnings, we can now enjoy features like video conferencing, virtual faxing, unlimited calling, ID blocking, call forwarding, 3D calling, and more. Without a doubt, VoIP technology is a game changer that has allowed businesses to reinvigorate their communications.
VoIP is a highly scalable communications solution that is streamlining the way businesses interact with their customers. However, while this tech enhances workplace collaboration and improves productivity, its way of working remains a mystery particularly to the less tech-savvy group of business owners and employees. This section will help you understand how VOIP works.
VOIP works much like emails or any other type of data you send over the internet. For starters, it converts analogue voice into data packets that are sent over a public or private IP network. Most VoIP systems will allow you to make calls to a landline or regular cell phone using your internet connection. Besides, you can also make computer-to-computer calls, where both parties speak into a microphone and listen through headsets or computer speakers using this tech.
VOIP services also allow you to receive or make calls using landline telephony. In this case, you need to connect an analogue telephone adapter (ATA) to your network. Put simply, VoIP’s flexibility allows you to use nearly all standard communication devices to connect with others.
VoIP systems run over an IP network and therefore, store user data (contact list, phone numbers, client information, etc.) in the cloud. This means you can access your data as well as VOIP settings through a universal online dashboard, whether you’re in the office or not. Of course, there’s much more that we haven’t gone into detail on how VoIP services work, but worth noting is that virtually everything happens in the cloud. Here at Metrotech, we highly recommend using VoIP communications service on a private network. Not only will this improve the voice quality, but also ensure data security.
Through VoIP technology, it is possible to use a single service for both voice and internet communications. The tech also eliminates the need for an on-site server or other expensive networking infrastructure. This coupled with the fact that users can access their office lines remotely means that businesses are rapidly adopting this technology to ensure all teams stay connected even when out of office.
Landlines have been serving businesses for quite a long time – way before the introduction of hosted VoIP systems. However, their future now looks bleaker than ever. This follows BT’s announcement in 2015 on its plans to phase out the legacy PSTN and ISDN telephone systems. The communication giant said that it will cease supply of these technologies in 2020 while a full migration is expected to be completed in 2025.
The main reason that BT cited for this move was to cut down on the high cost of running these old-fashioned PSTN and ISDN networks.
What this implies is that businesses which still rely on these technologies need to start preparing for the imminent BT ISDN switch off. A good place to begin is to upgrade their telephony services to more modern and convenient alternatives like the hosted VoIP tech.
In this section, we explain the differences between VoIP and landline services based on four key areas – features, technology, cost, and reliability.
Landline phones are limited to the most basic feature – making standard phone calls. When using these telephony services, employees have to be on their designated desks, and this makes them unsuitable for remote workers or any other environment where remote teams collaborate. On the other hand, VoIP systems offer unmatched flexibility and a wide range of features. Some handy features of VoIP include automatic call forwarding, voicemail-to-email, virtual receptionists, auto-attendants and many more. VoIP systems also support video calling and conferencing without the need to set up dedicated equipment.
Here are a few more tasks you can do with VoIP, but not possible with landline telephony:
If you want a feature-rich service that works on multiple devices across multiple locations, then VoIP is the most feasible tech to turn to. It’s incredibly versatile and integrates seamlessly with a myriad of services, giving the user more control over their communication.
While landline systems are likely to continue serving businesses for a few more years, we cannot ignore the fact that many telecommunication providers are no longer interested in upgrading this legacy system. As earlier seen, most of them including BT now plan to stop offering PSTN and ISDN services soon, and are therefore advising users to switch to newer, more efficient technologies.
Digital communication through VoIP systems is becoming the standard mode of communication in both the business and consumer environments. Indeed, tech giants are showing a lot of commitment to improving the digital infrastructure. We can only expect to see more advancements in the hosted VoIP service industry as the technology continues to mature.
Let’s admit it, internet service providers (ISP’s) have invested heavily in the past decade to improve their bandwidth and internet speeds. Today, you will hardly face any major challenges on VoIP connections due to poor internet connectivity – at least not with the numerous internet providers available to you now. With high-speed internet and modern hosted systems, VoIP is a far more reliable and superior communication platform compared to ISDN and PSTN.
There’s a significant difference in the cost of installing and maintaining landline and VoIP systems, with the latter being 40-80 per cent cheaper than the ISDN and PSTN. If you are to install multiple landline phones in a single station, then a PBX, which normally costs thousands of dollars, is required.
Considering the initial outlay for setting up the service, alongside the maintenance costs, VoIP is by far, the most economical option. It works even better for start-ups or small businesses that require a few lines.
Businesses that take advantage of VoIP products and services find themselves offering better communication options while reducing their overall operating costs.
If your business has upgraded to VoIP technology and you’re unsure about the kind of calling device to use, we’re about to show you the several alternatives available for you. Each of the following phones is designed to serve a specific purpose or allow a particular action. Some are large units for making conference calls, while others are wireless pieces built for mobility.
The four main types of VoIP phones are:
These are the standard VoIP phones designed for office environments. They use Ethernet cables to connect to your VoIP system. As dedicated VoIP calling devices, they provide the basic features in a typical phone. Most have an LCD screen for display, dedicated microphone, speakers, and programmable buttons. Some desktop VoIP phones can go for as low as £50 while others are worth several hundred pounds. The highly-priced models have better speakers, bigger screens, greater reliability and support advanced functionalities.
Also known as wireless VoIP phones, these cordless phones combine the functionalities of typical desk phones with the mobility that comes with smaller devices. Most of them come with a built-in DECT or Wi-Fi transceiver unit that connects the phone to a base station or access point. The best base units can handle multiple VoIP phones and still offer a broader range. This means that provided you are connected to a hotspot, you can move around your office or home while on a call, or even make and receive VoIP calls. Although they deliver great functionality, most people prefer to use their smartphones over cordless VoIP phones.
You can still make and receive VoIP calls without a dedicated piece of VoIP hardware using softphones. These are VoIP software applications installed on desktop computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. If you are using softphones on a laptop or desktop, you will need audio headsets for making and receiving calls. Softphones are ideal for call centres, road workers and mobile professionals.
An ATA adaptor connects your analogue telephone handsets to the router to allow you to make VOIP calls. So, if you are short of funds and cannot upgrade all your phones at a go, you can use ATA adaptors as a stopgap solution. These devices allow your employees to access VoIP services even when using landlines. However, we recommend that you continue upgrading the units until you gradually terminate adapter usage.
A router is an internetworking device that acts as a gateway to the internet. It handles message transfer between devices on the internet. A router forwards the messages or data packets to their destination in the network.
Every telephone line is assigned a DDI or phone number. With VoIP, you can assign multiple DDIs (phone numbers) to a single line. People can reach you through all the DDIs you have assigned to your phone line.
Also known as Cloud PBX, Hosted PBX (Private Branch Exchange) is a telephone exchange system that is usually developed, delivered, and managed by a telephone service provider. The provider then handles all the operations like call routing and call switching from their own base. They are also responsible for servicing the equipment and updating the software any time need arises.
Hosted PBX technology can function over both the internet (as Hosted IP PBX via VoIP or Internet telephony) and over PSTN.
The IP address in a unique number assigned to every device in the network. It serves two basic functions: as a host or network interface identification and location addressing.
A VoIP phone, also known as an IP phone or a SIP phone converts voice data into packets and routes them across the internet. These phones have built-in IP signalling protocols that help forward data packets to the right destination. VoIP software applications installed in PC’s are also types of VoIP phones, but in this case, they are known as softphones.
This is a small hardware device that connects traditional telephone handsets to the internet, thus allowing you to use VoIP services. The ATA also converts analogue voice signals into packets and manages the call setup.
A packet is a unit of data containing the information to be transmitted over a network, source information, destination and synchronising details. Packets are assembled at the source and reassembled at the destination based on the addressing information contained in each packet. Routers store and forward data packets along the most optimal route in the network.
Bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted between two points in a specified time window. It is measured in kilobits per second (kbps).
Latency or lag is the length of time a voice packet takes to reach its destination. The lower the latency, the higher the quality of VoIP calls.
A software or device used to manipulate a data stream. For example, at the source, codecs can encode a piece of audio or video data stream for easy encryption, transmission or storage. At the destination, codecs decode the signal for listening or viewing. Codecs are ideal for audio, media-streaming and video conferencing solutions.
Sometimes referred to as Private Business Exchange, this is a telephone switching system belonging to a private business. It connects multiple telephone extensions to allow businesses route calls to specific employees. While traditional PBX systems are big pieces of hardware that are deployed onsite, modern VoIP systems have a cloud-based PBX that is hosted on a remote server. A PBX system also controls for functions like call forwarding, least cost routing, and conference calling.
This is the technology behind VirtualPBX Web Phones. The cutting edge technology runs on web browsers, which makes it is very promising. Do not be surprised if you won’t have to download apps or buy desk phones for VoIP calling, all thanks to WebRTC.
At Metrotech, we are often asked to explain the benefits of using VoIP telephony services, particularly for small businesses. Below, we explain the top five reasons you should consider switching to VoIP today.
As we mentioned earlier, VoIP systems use the internet to facilitate the transfer of all communication data including the human voice. In the case of voice services, it does this by modifying the voice into tiny data packets which are then sent over the IP network. Considering that almost all IP networks are able to handle huge amounts of data packets at a go, numerous calls can be made simultaneously using the VoIP telephone system.
This is different from traditional phone systems which normally support calls between two parties only. What’s more, users have to pay for each minute of call time unlike VoIP where the costs are included in the periodic data charges that the ISP bills your business.
Additionally, VoIP saves small businesses the costs of acquiring a range of communication devices and other infrastructure that are synonymous with traditional telephone systems. For example, business can now install VoIP software in their devices and use them for a majority of basic VoIP functions.
Today, some VoIP software come with voice compression features to help utilise bandwidth more efficiently. In most conversations that businesses have with customers, it is not uncommon to find large parts of them are made of silent moments where no one is talking. Take a look at this example – your customer wants some clarifications on a service/product your business is offering, but you have no immediate answer. The time you spend on hold while looking for what to say or consulting with a colleague is chargeable on traditional phone lines. This is not the case with most modern VoIP software which can now cut bandwidth usage automatically until voice is detected.
Let’s face it, traditional phone lines are one of the most expensive methods of making international calls. Couple this with the fact that you may need to memorise different regional codes or keys, and you’ll see why more businesses are switching to the more convenient VoIP systems.
VoIP tech place no geographical limitations when making calls, as long as your new location has access to the internet. This means that you can move freely as your business demands and yet communicate smoothly with customers regardless of where they live.
Dedicated VoIP phone systems offer a major upgrade for analogue communication systems. Some of the advanced functions that these tech tools come with include the multi-tasking feature that allows you to attend to other business functions even while you’re on a call. Others worth noting are call reporting and recording, flexible telephone hunt group support, and conference bridge among others.
Looking to add more privacy to your company’s internal and external exchanges? VoIP tech is a good place to start. For starters, you can incorporate standardised encryption protocols which secure data systems. Besides, you can also easily configure the VoIP service to work with a Virtual Private Network software as follows:
The best part? This entire process is almost instant, and you won’t even notice any changes in the speed of voice transfer.
With more and more businesses now embracing Voice over Internet Protocol technology (VoIP), the switch from traditional phone lines is becoming inevitable. Here’s how to prepare and transition smoothly to VoIP.
Although VoIP is resourceful and efficient, its true potential is only realised when a stable and fast internet connection is available. As such, it’s important that you first test your internet connection speed and ensure that it can handle your business call volumes. There are plenty of VoIP readiness testing applications online to help you with this.
In addition, you can create a virtual local area network to keep voice and data traffic separate especially if your business setup often experience fluctuating data usages. This helps to ensure that the call quality is unaffected by other network activities after VoIP integration.
If you intend to use a dedicated VoIP phone system, having a reliable power supply is key to keep your devices fully functional at all times. You can use Power over Ethernet (PoE) cables and additionally install a backup power supply system such as a fuel generator. PoE cables are capable of supplying both the electric power and network connectivity that your VoIP phone systems need. For setups where the Ethernet switch is incompatible with PoE, solutions such as PoE injectors will prove beneficial.
It is vital to train employees to handle the shift from traditional phone lines to VoIP. You can begin by introducing them to the VoIP concept to learn how it works and why they need to adopt the change. At this point, the tutorials provided by your ISP can also be of assistance especially in troubleshooting future challenges.
In addition to network cables and power systems, you’ll need actual communication devices. These can include computers, smartphones, voice headsets, media gateways (routers), and portable VoIP gizmos. Ensure that the devices support VoIP services by default to reduce the overall operational costs.
When it comes to VoIP services, the provider you choose plays a key role in determining the quality of calls, customer experience, and overall costs. Here, we explain what to prioritise when looking for an ideal VoIP service provider.
As a business owner, one of your roles is setting budgets and determining the amount of money you can spend on services like VoIP. Obviously, there will be lots of VoIP providers at your disposal including Metrotech, each with varying features and pricing. Consider the value which you’re getting for a particular package and its relevance to the productivity of your business.
Technical problems are inevitable, especially when you’re switching to and using modern technology like VoIP. As such, it’s critical to choose a provider that can be reached easily whenever you need help resolving an issue. Some of the factors to consider here include availability of chat boxes, functional email support, FAQ pages, and social media pages that are updated periodically with valuable information. Some VoIP companies will even provide case studies to show how they’ve handled specific issues in the past – this can be a good indicator too.
Some of the key features to look for here include telephone services like call waiting, voicemail, 3-way calling, caller identification, and international call packages. The voices on calls must also be audible and recordable especially when they’re to be used for future references. Moreover, the VoIP system should be flexible enough to accommodate existing phone systems.
Explore the available VoIP plans offered by your preferred provider to ensure they are flexible and relevant to your business. If you want to keep your data intact, avoid switching every so often from one provider to the other. Conduct prior research to find out exactly the kind of VoIP services that a provider offers before committing your budget and other resources.
A reliable service provider should guarantee security and privacy of data sent over its network. Considering that communication is done over the internet, it’s a no-brainer that potential security threats are aplenty.
How is a VoIP provider rated by companies and individuals who’ve used its services before? Reviews are excellent for determining the authenticity and reliability of a particular provider. While at it, remember that reviews do not always reflect the true image of the provider. Sometimes customers are unsatisfied by a service because of the fault of their own infrastructure and not the provider’s.
After you’re convinced that the prices, features, reviews, and plans are right for you, take a look at your preferred provider’s terms and conditions. Here, explore all the legal clauses, redress actions, and other compensatory options available to users of the VoIP service.
There are two main types of VoIP services namely the phone-based VoIP and computer-based VoIP. Phone-based VoIP allow you to receive calls from traditional phone lines and VoIP software of other providers. On the other hand, computer-based VoIP are mostly limited to subscribers and users of the same VoIP service or software. For example, if you’re using Skype, traditional phone lines will not be able to reach your number unless the caller installs the software and uses it to reach you.
Not necessarily. The majority of VoIP service providers train users on how to use the telephone system. Also, in most cases, they will provide all the prerequisites that you need to get started, including the renewal costs of your subscriptions. Where hardware equipment is needed, the service provider will provide it as part of the installation process. Since dedicated VoIP systems are plug and play, no tech expertise will be needed to use the service. While at it, ensure that you’re well versed with at least the internet basics to conduct speed tests, troubleshoot minor connection problems, etc.
First, you need a high-speed internet connection which can be provided by an ISP or cable company. An internet connection attracts a periodic charge that can range from daily, weekly, or monthly depending on your preference. You also need devices that can access the internet like computers, smartphones, or tablets. If you decide to use analogue phones that have no access to the internet, ask your service provider to supply a VoIP adapter. Ensure that the adapter is compatible with your internet sources including the routers.
The main factor that determines how fast your internet should be to support VoIP services is the amount of calls you need to make (call volumes). For purposes of approximations, a dedicated connection speed of 4MBPs should be sufficient to handle up to 10 simultaneous quality voice calls. For video calls, a higher bandwidth is required preferably a 10MBPs connection speed. As earlier stated, you can use VoIP readiness testers to find out whether your current internet connection can sustain video and voice calls using VoIP.
Yes, it’s possible to record VoIP calls even when using basic tech tools. Some more advanced VoIP tech will even begin recording automatically when you or your audience mention certain words. Most modern devices can now record both voice and video calls which is particularly helpful when teleconferencing. The storage device is by default the device running the VoIP service. However, some modern devices are allowing for synchronisation of voice and video data to cloud storages including emails.
Metrotech offers you two main VoIP service packages:
Designed for all sizes of businesses, this package aims at cutting down monthly call costs using modern, cost-friendly communication equipment. Here, we offer you a phone system that is capable of recording phone calls, providing call reports, facilitating call waiting, and caller identification.
IP-Talk allows you to transition easily from traditional ISDN PBX to VoIP by retaining your current business phone numbers. What’s more, our knowledgeable Metrotech team walks you through installation, configuration, and maintenance of the VoIP phone system. The communication channel features an end-to-end encryption protocol that keeps voice calls secure across all devices.
The IP-Talk Hosted Telephony infrastructure is fully managed by Metrotech’s support staff. What this means is that the company handles all the hard work from setup, integrity of the voice system, to security all which are most critical to any business. We also offer you 24-hour support services and network availability guarantee of 99.95% with a maximum 4-hour fix time.
Other features included in the Hosted Telephony Solution
Metrotech installs all the infrastructural prerequisites of the VoIP service almost immediately upon request. It assesses your current telephone system and instead of replacing it, provides VoIP infrastructure that’s compatible with it.
You can view and manage all the devices connected to the VoIP via the web-based user portal. This offers more control over your VoIP devices and enhances security by notifying you when new ones are added to the list.
Metrotech offers you the software, hardware and phone numbers you need to engage in a large conference call. This facilitates teleconferencing as well as virtual hot-desking to communicate effectively with your employees, business partners, and clients.
By definition, the Session Initial Protocol Trunk is a telephony design that involves connecting an organisation’s phone system to traditional public phone networks. This tech uses various broadband services including wireless leased lines, fibre, or Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) to consolidate all exchanges taking place within a business.
Designed to save up to 60% of your calling costs, this service package involves moving your ISDN line to Metrotech’s IP-Talk SIP Trunks. The immediate benefit is increased flexibility of businesses which are constantly on the move. By centralising your contact data in a single location, you are able to communicate efficiently with customers even when outside the office.
For organisations operating multiple sites, Metrotech incorporates the VoIP phone units in the existing Wide Area Network to facilitate inter calls. Moreover, the design channels voice, data, and video communications into a single line to reduce the operational costs of dedicated phone lines.
With this package, small businesses get the following benefits:
Are you looking for a reliable VoIP service provider for your business? We’d love to know your specific needs and preferences. Contact us today to get you connected with your customers and team using our modern VoIP infrastructure.