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Voice over IP

By chris@buzzageek.com.au

Voice over IP & small business

Voice Over IP or VOIP is the process of converting analogue, your voice, into a digital signal which can then be transported over the Internet onto the intended recipient. Skype brought VOIP to the masses with a service that allowed internet users to phone international numbers at the cost of a local phone call. Before the advent of VOIP businesses had to have an onsite PBX (Private Branch Exchange), which would be the controlling unit for incoming and outgoing phone calls.

Nowadays PBX's are hosted in the cloud at a fraction of the cost. Software based hosted PBX servers now provide telephony access to a large amount of users using a single business-grade internet line. 1300 numbers and local Australian numbers can be terminated directly to your hosted exchange. This means that it is possible to have more than one telephone number coming into a single server thus providing support to multiple businesses with a small amount of bandwidth and without the need for multiple internet connections.

So what are the advantages to small business?

VOIP has many advantages for small business, namely:

  • Provides a low cost of ownership - desktop phones and PBX's no longer need to be purchased as VOIP is driven by software.
  • A small business can utilise IVR (integrated voice recording) to present a more professional image.
  • Virtual PBX software can be intergrated into CRM systems with ease.
  • Employees can now be mobile. Calls placed for individuals "out on the road" can now be directed to mobile devices, like Android phones
  • The cost of making phone calls are a fraction of the cost of making an analogue based call, saving the company money in the long run.

Integrating VOIP into your current system

There are now thousands of VOIP service providers across the globe. All local ISPs now offer products that provide business-grade quality VOIP. The quickest and most cost effective way to get up and running is to implement an Open Source VOIP system. One such system is Asterisk which is a public open source contributed PBX system that is incredibly powerful and simple to use. Asterisk allows for normal telephone communication, IVR support, voice recording and many other feature rich options. Asterisk is more than capable of handling 100's of simultaneous users at any given time. There are many supportive products, namely Elastix, that sit on top of Asterisk which abstract the administrator from doing all the hard work of configuring a telephony system. 

Asterisk can be hosted on your business network or alternatively hosted on the cloud. Typically small business cannot afford to be paying for a business-grade internet line. Therefore, having your PBX on the cloud can be more cost effective and risk-adverse in comparison to hosting a PBX onsite. In addition, having it on the cloud allows the business owner to concentrate on doing business and not worrying about whether the infrastructure is functioning correctly.

Once you've settled on which PBX system you will use, you'll need a VOIP provider. There are many choices out there but you want to be looking for the most cost-effective and  best call quality providers. Most providers will provide a 1300 number and two local inbound numbers. Existing numbers used by a business can easily be ported over to a VOIP provider allowing you to centralise all your telephone points of contact into one neat system. Some providers will offer services as low as $9.95 per user.

The soft-phone, a software based telephone, connects to a local or hosted PBX and registers itself as an extension on the virtual telephone network. There are many soft-phones all having a different degree of capability. With a simple headset a soft-phone is a cheap alternative to having a desktop phone.

It is advisable to have a business-grade ADSL or equivalent internet connection. The local infrastructure needs to be configured to ensure a Quality of Service (QOS) for VOIP packets to ensure call quality. VOIP systems are simple enough to setup and can improve a small business's bottom line relatively quickly.

Our computer Geeks have a huge amount of experience in setting up VOIP based systems. So if you're interested in giving your business a helping hand our Geeks are here to assist you. Give us a ring to get you VOIP'ing today.

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