VoIP (Voice Over IP)

What it is and why it matters

There are over 12 million active Internet subscribers in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. With this growing number of active Internet subscribers, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) is becoming a common way of getting phone service.

Organisations are finding that VoIP service providers typically offer lower rates than traditional phone companies do. VoIP is becoming more popular with by small and large organisations.

Benefits of VoIP

Reduced cost

VoIP generally costs less than equivalent traditional phone sources. Some Internet service providers offer voice and data and will give you a cost savings since you are using a single network. In many cases, there are no additional charges per phone call (including international calls).

Improved functionality

VoIP allows for certain features that are difficult to do with a traditional phone network. Some examples include having your incoming phone calls automatically routed to your VoIP phone regardless of where you plug it in. When you take your VoIP phone on a business trip, you can plug it in anywhere using a network cable that is connected to the Internet and you will be able to receive calls.

This also allows improved telecommuting as users can plug in their phone at home. This allows them to be available at home as if they are in the office.

Other VoIP features include:

  • Call blocking
  • Call number display
  • Instant messaging
  • Conference calls
  • The ability to redirect calls
  • Video conferencing

All of these features are generally integrated into VoIP service for less money and greater flexibility than many traditional phone services.

Here are some examples of Australian VoIP providers:

Challenges with VoIP

While VoIP has become popular not only in Australia but in organisations across the world, there are certain challenges that must be addressed:

Voice quality

With VoIP, quality of service (QoS) can greatly affect voice quality on your calls. QoS can vary with several different factors including the speed of your Internet connection, the quality of your service provider, the equipment you have on-site, and even the destination you are calling.

With good QoS, you will be able to make decent quality phone calls without having any noise, delays, weird sounds, or echoes in your call. A call sounds just as it would with a standard landline.

The last thing you want is to hear the person on the other end of the phone complain that you sound like an alien, or where they’re having to wait before they hear your answer to a question. For organisations that are used to the quality of traditional phone service, any shortcomings in VoIP would tend to be noticed.

In order for VoIP to be effective, the data (and this includes voice), must be compressed on one end, transmitted, and then decompressed and delivered so the other person can hear it. As you can imagine, this must be done quickly in order to have a two-way conversation.

If this process takes too long, the quality of your VoIP call will degrade. This is why some people hear echoes when they speak on the phone.

By having good equipment, a high quality service provider, and a decent broadband connection you can use modern-day VoIP without many worries. Current service providers have also improved software and hardware to reduce problems like echoes in their calls.

No Internet connection

If you have considered VoIP, your first thought may have been what happens when the Internet connection goes down? This short answer is, your phones go down as well. For most organisations, this can be a serious problem. The most common resolution is to have a minimum of two Internet connections from two different providers that arrive at each location using different paths. This way if a connection is cut, you should still be able to use your second Internet connection until service can be restored. Hardware can be configured to automatically switch to the secondary connection when service to the primary is disrupted.

Using a shared Internet connection

With most organisations, you’ll be sharing your Internet connection with data. This includes email, Internet browsing, file downloads, video streaming, and much more. By using routers with quality of service settings, you can make sure that your phone calls using VoIP are a priority and will get the necessary bandwidth they need.

Security issues

Since VoIP is connected to the Internet, it can be susceptible to security issues like identity theft, viruses, malware, service theft, spamming, call tampering, phishing attacks, and denial of service, to name a few. This is why it is vital to keep your phone systems, firewalls, and antivirus software up-to-date.

Emergency calls

In the early days of VoIP, some service providers did not provide service for emergency calls. Since then, many companies provide this service. It is important to make sure that the service provider you select covers emergency calls for liability reasons.

An example of VoIP success: MTC Australia

In spite of potential challenges, many organisations have phased out their old phones and PCs as they move into the cloud. MTC Australia is a perfect example of this. The not-for-profit employment and training provider has decided to swap out their 500 desktop phones and switch to a voice over IP network.

This is part of a staged implementation to move the organisation’s 32 locations to the cloud. It includes Office 365 software that will be used in all locations. As part of the final steps of the changeover, employees were asked to bring their desk phone to a meeting at which time they were given a new VoIP phone and shown how to use it.

“Staff can access Lync on their iPhone or Android smartphone. The only desktop phones we kept were for meeting rooms,” said Branko Ceran, CIO at MTC Australia.

“We’re taking advantage of being more mobile and moving between sites or around offices. We’ve gone from the dark ages and caught up to where we should be.”

Keys to successfully moving to VoIP

Some keys to successfully moving to VoIP include:

Identify the needs of your organisation and users

Whether your goal is to reduce expenses, increase productivity, or improve your overall service levels, it is important to prioritise these business goals and then closely monitor the process to make sure the goals are met.

Assess your current network situation

This can be done with an on-site survey where you check the age of your hardware including network servers, wiring and cables, switches, wireless access, power, backup power, and Internet bandwidth.

Find the right VoIP provider

Odds are good that your organisation will need help to fully set up VoIP. You’ll want to evaluate vendors based upon experience, coverage, service options, expertise, and support.

Final thoughts

VoIP can save your organisation money while offering more service than your current phone provider.  Although there can be challenges, you can overcome them by planning ahead and researching providers.

R & G Technologies VoIP Solutions

We have experience helping organisations make the transition to voIP and can can help you see the benefits of increased efficiencies, improved productivity and reduced costs.

Click here to see our VoIP services.

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