Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is growing in popularity with businesses across all sectors, although it has been around in one form or another since the 1970s.
The technology enables people to make and receive calls over the internet instead of using more traditional phone systems. The biggest advantage is the ability to make calls anywhere in the world, regardless of what phone systems are in place, or the quality of available phone signals. In this new world of coronavirus-related lockdowns and restrictions, such versatility advantage and ease of communications is more important than ever.
There are, however, disadvantages to using VoIP, as with any system of this kind. It’s all about weighing these drawbacks up and comparing them to the benefits to decide whether it is the right system for your specific business or individual circumstances.
VoIP voice calls are made via Local Area Networks (LANs) that convert analog voice signals into digital data that is transferred via the internet in the same way as emails or website data. It can take the place of a traditional telephone system, or work alongside one to enhance commercial or domestic phone capabilities and boost communications anywhere in the world for all business types.
Advantages of VoIP
The first piece of good news when it comes to comparing VoIP advantages and disadvantages is the costs involved. Where data used to be very expensive in the early days of internet communications, the costs have plummeted as it became more and more ubiquitous.
Once the system has been set up and installed, calls between two or more VoIP set-ups are free. There can be costs involved in calling between VoIP and a landline, but these are normally much lower than between two landlines.
Additionally, there is also no separate line rental that you would need to pay with a traditional phone, as the VoIP system links to your existing internet connection as part of your contract. You have one account and one bill for your internet services.
Some comparisons put the potential cost-savings you could achieve as high as more than half an existing landline or private branch exchange (PBX) phone system invoice.
VoIP offers a great deal of flexibility. The only limit is your available bandwidth when it comes to the length and frequency of your calls. You can also add far more phones to the system to connect an entire business and its employees easily through a private internal phone network.
For organisations that need to stay connected, such as call centres and other businesses that speak to the public on a regular basis, having this flexibility is essential for ongoing financial viability, agility and growth.
The versatility continues when you come to consider office layouts and the physical expansion of your workforce. If they are all connected to a cloud-based VoIP system, they no longer need to be tied to a landline at a desk – remote working, hot desking and operating from home suddenly becomes far more viable.
Quality of performance
As long as your internet connection so reliable and your bandwidth is decent, you can more or less guarantee high quality of sound and connectivity. It should be at least the same, but most likely better than the traditional telephony equivalent.
Gone are the days of long-distance calls sounding crackly or muffled – VoIP is not affected by the geographical distance between two people making a call when they are both using VoIP to do so. You can also make and receive multiple simultaneous calls without compromising on sound quality with VoIP.
The portability of VoIP also helps your own performance to improve – you can use the same number wherever you are to give clients essential continuity and reassurance and you can rely on the fact that you can contact people exactly when you need to, no matter where you are or what the local provision is for telephone services. If your business changes location, even to a different country, you can keep the same number too.
As already mentioned, a huge benefit to installing VoIP for voice calls is its accessibility. You are no longer restricted geographically to where there is an existing phone signal. Distance and location makes no difference to performance or cost, so long as both ends of the voice call have and are using an internet connection for the VoIP connection.
You don’t have to arrange for extra copper wiring to be installed, or any of the rigmarole that can accompany expanding a PBX or landline phone set-up. All you need is a single Ethernet connection that links your business to the VoIP system.
To get started on a VoIP call, simply log into your broadband account, enter the number you need and the conversation can begin. This ease of use and lack of complicated hardware also helps when you are travelling or based away from home and don’t have easy access to a phone line.
Many traditional or alternative telephony business models are built on upselling additional functionality to customers who are seeking a better experience with their voice calls. This can soon add up the costs of connectivity. Extras such as video conferencing, call forwarding, caller-ID services, call waiting and three-way calling are all extremely useful for both small and large businesses but often come at a higher price.
VoIP also offers a whole raft of additional features like these in with the standard rate and call provision. You don’t have to add everything at the start. You can pick and choose what features you will need and add more as you go on.
Making the system extremely scalable and an attractive proposition for businesses seeking to grow. It enables users to send data such as documents and images at the same time as speaking, making collaborative working at a distance much easier for everyone involved.
As coronavirus has brought remote and home working to the fore, these types of features will remain or paramount importance for a long time to come when it comes to staying in touch with employees, colleagues and clients around the world.
Disadvantages of VoIP
Reliance on internet connection
Businesses are only able to install a VoIP system if they already have a working, reliable internet connection with sufficient bandwidth to run the service properly. If this is lacking, there will be an additional initial cost to have the appropriate provision installed.This could be one of the drawbacks for any business
You must also have the right devices and hardware for physically being able to take advantage of VoIP including headsets and/or microphones and the appropriate PC, laptop or other IT that can cope with the volume of calls you will be making. Ensuring all of this is in place can take up some time and money at the start, so businesses must make sure these costs are included in any budgets connected to switching to VoIP.
As with any electronics or communications equipment reliant on electricity to function, if there is a power outage, your VoIP system will stop working and you will be unable to make or receive voice calls using over the internet.
This can be slightly irritating if it happens once or twice, but it can cause real problems if power outages are more common, or you live in a more rural area, or an area affected by interruptions in electricity supplies. Many businesses that use VoIP like to keep a landline and/or mobile phone contract going alongside it to add reassurance and support of a back-up phone option in case the power shuts down for any reason.
Latency and lag
Latency, or delays and disruptions in service can also affect VoIP systems far more than traditional phone lines. Due to having to ‘share’ the internet with other online systems and services, there can be period when VoIP calls can seem to lag, hang or even vanish altogether.
This is due to the analog voice signals that are being turned into digital data needing time to travel, reassemble and be decoded at the other end to make the call effective. Any issues along the way will disrupt this process. However, the good news is that VoIP technology is evolving all the time and providers are finding ever-more sophisticated ways to address this problem and ensure a smooth, reliable service.
Linked to the point above about power outages, another disadvantage to just using VoIP is the concern that, in an emergency situation that coincides with a power outage, VoIP users will not be able to raise the alarm or call for help.
Again, one solution is to have a landline phone operating in parallel. VoIP also does not provide an emergency operator with any data about where you are physically calling from, so he or she will not be able to use location tracking technology to work out how to find you. Users will need to be prepared to give that information verbally or in another way if an emergency does arise.
Summary of the pros and cons of VoIP
To sum up, there are several pros and cons around choosing to install and use VoIP for voice calls. Each individual business will need to take the decision based on its own, unique requirements. Here, once again, are the main areas to consider:
Benefits of VoIP
Lower costs make it easier on the finance side of things
The system’s versatility allows greater freedom around voice communications
Excellent sound quality, so long as you have reliable internet and bandwidth
The system is easy to access and operate, offering enhanced availability
Added features often come as part of the overall package
You are reliant on a good internet connection to be able to make voice calls
Power outages have a huge effect on the viability of the system
Latency issues can affect VoIP far more than traditional telephony services
Emergency operators cannot track you geographically if you call via VoIP
Switch to VoIP today
If you are interested in finding out more about switching to cloud-based V.o.I.P. and the benefits it can bring your business, employees and clients, give Cloud 4 Sure a call today to request a no-obligation initial appointment.
A telephony and digital communications expert will discuss your requirements with you and work out the best set up to help your individual organisation get connected to VoIP.