What is VoIP and what could it do for your Bristol business?

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. Many people haven't heard of it, but for business owners, it could transform the way you work. Essentially it's an internet telephone service, and by utilising your internet connection for phone communication, you can access features and services not available through traditional telephone packages.

Also known as Voice over Broadband (VoB), Voice over Networks (VoN), or sometimes even Internet Telephony, VoIP allows you to make very low cost - often even free! - phone calls via the internet. Your mobile network and device are not important when it comes to using VoIP. As long as you and the person you are communicating with have an internet connection, you can have a phone call.

IP Telephone by Hades2k licensed under Creative commons 5

How does VoIP work? 

VoIP works by converting your voice into digital data that can be sent via the internet, much in the same way that emails, faxes, YouTube videos and web pages are broken down into data that is then shared digitally so people can access it. This means that you don't need to worry about sky-high mobile payments when speaking to clients or business partners abroad, as your VoIP call will likely be covered by the data allowance already included in your internet package.

"VoIP services allow customers to essentially become their own phone company," says Lynn Brackpool of VoIP provider SpeakEasy.net

Most small offices and business setups in Bristol may require some kind of I-PBX solution, which will allow calls to be easily switched or transferred, and for each line to have its own extension. They will also need to evaluate more advanced options for conference calls, automated attendants, call grouping and various other options. Pricing for these services is typically based around the number of lines and feature sets.

Large organisations should consider investing in hosted or purchased solutions involving routers, switches and more heavy-duty equipment. This should include an analysis of existing networks and potential network upgrades.

What are the benefits of VoIP? 

Although the use of VoIP for phone calls is an attractive prospect, it's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the features you can access through the service. For example, you can connect it to the buzzer at your door, allowing you to have a two-way call with any visitors and control the lock, thus upgrading your security system.

Another useful feature is the voice to text transcription. This converts your voicemail messages to text so you can then save them as documents or send them to an email contact, meaning you can read out voice notes at your leisure and not worry about transcribing them manually. It also allows you to file and organise voicemails in a way that would otherwise be impossible.

An excellent feature that comes with VoIP is 'find me' call routeing, a feature that is particularly useful if you have mobile employees or work on the go. 'Find me' allows you to provide a list of contact numbers that incoming calls will divert to before going to voicemail. For example, you've set your office phone to ring three times. On the fourth ring, it will redirect to your mobile phone, then after that, your home phone, etc. When this list is finally exhausted and there has been no answer, the call goes to voicemail.

Bandwidth utilisation and call reports are a particularly useful VoIP feature for businesses. A well-managed, cloud-based VoIP service allows you to view your data usage and inbound/outbound call detail reports. This allows for a better understanding of your data usage, so you can work out where your company's time and energy is best directed.

Auto attendants are a feature of premium VoIP services that you can use to give your business a more professional edge. It allows callers to interact with a call menu to choose the appropriate extension to be directed to - essentially, it's an electronic receptionist! It adds a sense of order and efficiency to any incoming calls and is sure to impress clients.

There is also a twin-set of features which allows you to monitor and coach your employees while they're on a business call. 'Barge' allows you to listen to a call between an employee and client without interrupting, only alerting them that you're listening if you choose to do so. 'Whisper' lets you give your employee information and advice while they're on a call, while the client is unaware.

These are only a few of the multitude of features you can access through a VoIP service. Depending on the company and package you choose to go with, you can make use of hundreds of features for the same price that you are currently paying for a basic, traditional telephone service.

Although VoIP has been around since the 1970s, businesses have only started to take notice in the last five or six years as access to high-speed or broadband internet has become more common. Make sure you aren't falling behind the pack and consider implementing a VoIP package for your business today!

If you're not taking advantage of the benefits and cost savings technology like VoIP can bring, then your business is missing out. With our business IT services in Bristol we can help you look into and implement these sorts of technologies and get you reaping the rewards of being up to date with business technology.

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