Communication is vital to any business. Especially today, if your business isn’t focused on the best communication tools, it could very well start slipping behind the competition.
This is why business VoIP is critical. Unfortunately, even though the term’s been around for well over a decade now, not enough businesses know what it is.
That’s what this blog is set to change. We’re going to explain what business VoIP is, what it offers, and why it’s so important to your short and long-term business success.
Let’s get right down to the basics. Business VoIP is all about communication.
VoIP is an acronym that stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. That’s a fancy way of saying you can talk to other people using only your Internet connection.
You may see it referred to as an IP phone system. Or even Voice over IP. Whatever the name or term, it is focused on a powerful method of connecting businesses in the modern tech age.
How does VoIP work?
It may sound complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. First, let’s consider your basic email message. When you compose an email to Aunt Selma and hit send, your letter isn’t actually sent in one nice, little package. Or page.
It’s broken down into the most basic components: bits and bytes.
One part of the email might go from New York to San Francisco through Chicago, a rural town in Texas, Denver, and then L.A. while another part goes down to Atlanta before firing over to St. Louis, then to Boise, Portland, and finally its destination.
Once all the data arrives, the operating system or email program reconstructs all those parts back together.
The same idea happens with VoIP. Instead of letters being separated, the person’s voice is broken down into what are called ‘packets.’ These little audio packets are then transmitted through the ether we called ‘the Internet’, or ‘web,’ as it was once referred to in the olden days.
Once all the packets reach their destination, they are reassembled.
Bet you didn’t realize there was so much to communicate over the Internet! Well, this is the basic idea for how communication happens over an Internet connection. And the best part is you don’t even need a desktop or laptop anymore to make it happen.
VoIP can be used via a tablet or smartphone. Now, it might be a bit difficult to understand why one might need VoIP for their business on their smartphone if they already have a cell phone number.
It’s about numerous factors, including the options available, a designated number for your business, receiving transcribed email messages.
What about lag times?
Now, you might assume that since the audio of your voice has to be broken down into packets that it means a lot of lag time.
In other words, how long do you have to wait to hear the person on the other end of the line?
There is lag, but you’ll have that with nearly every form of modern communication. Even cell phone calls have ‘lag’ times.
The better the VoIP service, the less you’ll notice lag when talking to someone over that business VoIP line.
Occasionally, though, it can be noticeable. You may even reach a point where there’s a few seconds between you speaking and the other person responding. That doesn’t always mean it’s a slowdown with technology, it could be that other people are contemplating, thinking and reasoning.
For the most part, though, business VoIP has come a long way from its inception and offers a precise, powerful, and potent means for businesses of all types and sizes to connect to their customers, partners, employees, and more all around the world.
Most of the time, you won’t notice any lag, unless you’re in the same room with the person on the other end of the line. Then, we’d wonder why you were bothering with a call in the first place!
Fundamental Advantages and Disadvantages of Business VoIP
Now, there are certainly plenty of advantages to utilizing a business VoIP. But there are also some disadvantages you need to be aware of before running out and signing up for a provider.
We’re going to take a deep dive into some of the key, fundamental advantages and disadvantages you should have a clear understanding about from the beginning. Keep in mind, if you research more about business VoIP, you’ll find a few other points. Some of them are valid and some are more focused on opinion rather than anything resembling fact or even consensus.
Overall, though, what you’ll discover the deeper you dig into business VoIP is that it’s a powerful asset for any business – regardless of whether you’re a one-person operation or have a team of hundreds, possibly even thousands.
Key Advantage #1: Business VoIP is cost-effective.
Compared to traditional business phone services, you can find a wide range of cost-effective services. Of course, there are going to be plenty of companies that overcharge for their VoIP services, but thanks to the accessibility and availability of it, there are more competitors marching onto the field every year.
Basic economics stipulates that the more competition, the lower the price points. That means lower entry costs to get started with business VoIP.
It’s best not to jump on the first provider you come across, even if it’s a well-known international brand. Make sure you shop around for the one that’ll best serve your business needs.
Key Advantage #2: Business VoIP offers low installation times.
There’s no need to be wary of business VoIP if you’re not tech savvy. Sure, some providers have some complicated parameters to follow, especially when you begin digging into the secondary features, like autoresponders and all, but there are also some solid companies making it simple for just about anyone to use.
You can even contact most providers today and get your service up and operational the same day. Try doing that with traditional phone companies. In the best of circumstances, you’d probably have to wait a week or more before an installer could get out to your company and get things set up. On top of that, every time you have an issue, you’ll have to wait for the technician to come out and evaluate the problem and offer a solution.
Not so with business VoIP. Of course, that doesn’t mean all providers are the same, but many of them offer same-day setup and installation. In fact, you could probably get set up and operate with your own business VoIP within an hour.
As for the technical part, most of the providers we’ve found have decent support teams that can step you through any struggles you may have, either in setting up your phone line, connecting to the Internet, downloading the associated apps, and even getting your voicemail messaging established.
As with anything tech related these days, you’ll discover there are some components that can cause a bit of frustration in the beginning, so be willing to reach out to the provider’s tech team for guidance.
Key Advantage #3: You can use business VoIP on the go.
Travel a lot for your business? That means you could be missing a slew of calls every day. Not so with business VoIP.
In fact, some providers focus more on apps you’ll download to your smartphone that will ring through, so you can bring your business line everywhere you go, even if you’re on the road a lot.
Also, with business VoIP, you may be able to have texting service. Not all providers offer this, and some may deal with responsiveness issues, but the best services have solid platforms where you can treat your cell phone as the de facto call center whether you’re in the office or away.
Key Advantage #4: Lower costs.
Compared to your traditional phone companies, business VoIP providers offer lower call costs in many cases. They can do that because the calls are connected over the Internet rather than a hard phone line.
As email costs you virtually nothing to send and receive, VoIP calls are cost-effective in nearly every possible way. In fact, many VoIP providers offer inclusive calling plans, including unlimited calls to a variety of preselected nations.
For example, need to connect with team members in Brazil or Peru? Choose a provider that includes those nations in their plan. Have a high number of clients from Italy? Focus on the providers that make it cost-effective to connect with them whenever they need.
Key Advantage #5: You can record calls.
As a business owner or manager, you may have a need to record calls. Most of the time when you call a major company for customer support, what’s one of the first things they say?
“This call may be recorded or monitored for customer support and training purposes.”
It’s a protection. For you, your company, and the caller. Some business VoIP providers offer call recording options, but at an extra fee. You’ll have to determine how important this is for you.
It might not be all that important now, but could be important in a year or so. You don’t want to have to switch business VoIP providers when your company is expanding, so be diligent to review all options you may want, either now or down the road.
Another key point to consider when it comes to recording calls is storage. How long will the business VoIP provider save those recordings? Some may store them for up to seven years.
It may also be vital to download the recordings so you can save them for future reference. Remember, call records can be useful in training as well as protecting you and your company into the future.
Key Advantage #6: Advanced features.
There are simply too many possible advanced features to list, and each provider will be different, so review what they offer to determine if that would have value to your company now or in the future.
Extensions are another consideration to make. You may have just one company phone number, but require multiple extensions. Some business VoIP accounts charge extra for each extension, while others may include three or so in the baseline price.
Key Disadvantage #1: It’s reliant on Internet connectivity.
This doesn’t sound like much of a negative, but consider the possibility of a power outage. Even though your company is open, if the Internet is down or power is out, you won’t be able to make or receive calls.
At least not through the traditional desktop phone.
You still may be able to connect through your smartphone, if you have service at that time. Also, as 5G technology comes online more this year, this type of issue will become a thin of the past.
Key Disadvantage #2: Call clarity can be an issue.
Depending on how solid your ISP (Internet Service Provider) is, clarity of calls can be impacted by a slow connection. If your phones rely on WiFi and the signal is weak, that can cause breakup of the phone call.
Make sure you have a strong, stable Internet connection for your calls and wherever possible, when using a desktop-style phone, connect it via ethernet cable directly to your Internet router.
Key Disadvantage #3: Hidden costs with some providers.
Do you get frustrated when making a hotel reservation because the cost of the room doesn’t show the ‘hidden’ resort and other fees? Suddenly, you expected to pay $100 for a night which turns into $135, and that’s before taxes and other fees.
Frustrating, right? Well, some business VoIP providers play a bit of a game with their prices, too. You may sign up for $29 a month service, and suddenly end up paying $64 because you pay for the number, each extension, and some other ‘features’ you thought were included in the original price.
Shop around and be diligent. Need some potential prospects to start with? Here are a few business VoIP phone systems you might want to consider.
The technology with Grasshopper VoIP is solid and is perfectly suited for small businesses. If you want unlimited extensions, this could be a great option to consider.
They’ve received a number of awards and were a leader for the 2019 Small-Business Grid Report for VoIP. You can keep your existing business phone number and port it over to Grasshopper, free of charge.
They offer a discount if you pay annually and a flat monthly fee, which will be determined by how many numbers and extensions you’ll require.
A flexible business VoIP, this is a company that can flex with yours. For example, you may have a seasonal company and only need service a few months out of the year. No problem with Jive.
They also provide a tiered pricing structure so the more employees you have, the less you pay per month as a flat rate.
Jive partnered with GoToMeetings, which provides a robust conferencing solution you may not find with other providers.
They have great support, including videos and 24/7 reps, who can help you if you run into any trouble along the way.
You can have a business phone system or rely on inbound call centers with Dialpad. They also have a call analysis and transcription system, which can be beneficial for select types of businesses.
They offer two main pricing structures: standard for $20 a month baseline and Pro for $30. They also have options for larger companies, but you’ll have to contact them to find out how much.
The Standard option does provide unlimited calls, SMS and MMS messaging, as well as group texting.
Nextiva has a high favorability rating among customers, and about 9 out of 10 would recommend them to another business owner.
They offer feature-rich solutions. You also get free number migration as well as a free toll-free number. You can save money by having a long-term contract or pay monthly.
This company is focused on non-techie business owners, so if you’re not fond of trying to configure every little gadget and gizmo, this could be perfect for you.
At the end of the day, business VoIP offers some of the most robust communication solutions for small to mid-sized companies. Even if you’re currently a one-person operation, business VoIP will provide you a base of operations and phone options with which to grow and expand in the future.
It’s a good idea to separate your business phone from your personal landline or cell phone. Not only does it provide a more professional approach, it’s also a measure or protection for you and your personal needs.
When seeking a business VoIP, be sure to research each provider thoroughly, look through the details, and when you do, you’ll be able to determine which one is ideal for your current needs, future goals, and budget.
Bear in mind, though, that every VoIP is dependent on the Internet service your business has, so make sure you have a solid, stable provider and a good router, and you should be good to go.