To VoIP or not to VoIP. That is the question.
Determining if Voice of IP internet telephony is for you.
Choices for your business phone lines can vary depending on location, requirements and budget. These lines are part of the PSTN or public switched telephone network which allows calls to be completed anywhere in the world.
Legacy analog phone lines.
These have been the most common for small business and home customers. Here in western Canada, the public telephone monopolies, AGT, EdTel, Sasktel and BCTel were required to service all homes and commercial buildings. This has made these legacy lines the defacto standard and lowest common denominator. The physical lines in the ground are almost always owned by Telus west of the Saskatawan border. Pricing varies based on “rate bands” that classify service largely on population density and therefore cost to provide service. We have found standard pricing in Calgary to be around $44 for a standard full featured business lines. Speaking to your Telus representative can allow for discounted rate and a basic service that doesn’t include things like callerid can cost much less.
When an office is more than one phone line, these legacy lines can be configured into ring groups and while each line has its own phone number, these additional phone numbers can be made hidden. When your main line is in use, a new call is simply transfered to the second line and so forth. When making a call, Telus can configure all lines in your ring group to show the same caller id and ensure only your main number shows up in your customers address books.
Digital Phone Lines
For companies with more than 10 lines there has been an option of digital phone lines. Digital phone lines have offered clearer sound and advanced configuration not found with their analog cousins. These advancements come with a price and its not uncommon to find them billed in the $85 / channel range. Digital lines are often know by names such as DS0, T1, Fractional T1 or TDM. Because the concept of phone numbers and lines have been decoupled, these are most often described as voice channels or concurrent calls and not as a line. These channels are provided by the phone company on dedicated pre-internet infrastructure using a system called SS7 and distributed over the same physical wires as analog calls or in newer installs, fiberoptic cables. Where location denies these, wireless can be used.
Multiple companies on a phone system
When operating multiple companies, legacy phone lines are simplistic in their operation. With multiple companies on your phone system, the only way to segment calls by company is is to have distinct multi-line ring groups for each company. This differs from digital lines which allow you to share lines between companies and still keep them separate and reduce the number of lines you require and save you money.
Private or Direct Numbers.
Larger companies often have direct phone numbers for important persons or departments to short cut receptionists and auto attendants. These direct numbers are not possible but not feisable with analog legacy lines as each private line would be dedicated. Digital lines allow these direct numbers to be shared with the pool of lines allocated to the company.
VoIP, the evolution of Digital phone lines.
Today, VoIP is not for everyone but it does represent a evolutionary step in telephony. VoIP is digital and provides the flexible routing and clarity of digital channels. They also allow for cost savings from the digital channels especially on long distance rates.
Benefits of VoIP over Digital Channels
Remote phones – As VoIP is compatible with common internet, a VoIP phone has the potential of simply connecting to a internet jack anywhere in the world and placing a call. In reality, your phone system must be configured to allow this and the public internet jack being used must be of a higher quality than is often found in public areas.
End to End Encryption. Any of the traditional phone solutions were reliant on the phone company and strict technical standards. The open standards of VoIP allow for greater flexibily and implementation of new standards as they become available. End to end encryption of phone calls is possible where any third party is denied recording or eavesdropping. This can be especially important with international business and foreign governments have access to traditional voice circuits.
Inclusion of non-telephone devices such as computers and tablets. As we’re augmenting our communication toolset with tools like Skype and Facetime, these technologies and the devices the work on become a more important part of our lives. VoIP allows your phone calls to also work on these devices. It may not be important today but any pragmatic administrator can acknowledge it may be prevelant and required before you replace your phone system again in 5 – 10 years.
VoIP, a Mature Technology Deployed on Immature Infrastructure.
Being in the VoIP business, we often speak to customers who have experiences with VoIP that range from bad to horrifying. We empathize. Bad VoIP can be very bad. The truth is, VoIP is based on many of the same reliable and stable technologies we already rely on. It contains battle tested technologies such as G.711 from DS0 and internet browers like http and email addressing. Like many technology failures, the problem is not with the technology but with how its deployed.
The flexibility of VoIP allows it to be deployed over existing infrastructure. Its tempting to deploy VoIP over readily available internet connections shared with web browsing and consumer traffic. While this can lead to cost savings and can work, its most often the source of angst for disgruntled users.
We offer these suggestions for deploying VoIP in your business:
- Ensure your using a reputable and mature VoIP carrier
- Use a dedicated internet connection and preferably a private non-internet IP connection
- Prioritize and segment telephone traffic on your computer network
- Use a combination of VoIP and either Digital channels or Analog lines to avoid a single point of failure.
If you currently are using badly performing VoIP or want to avoid repeats in the past, we’d be happy to help. Feel free to give us a call or invite us over for a simple chat.
Call our Specialist. He can be reached at: