BEGINNER’S GUIDETO HOSTED VOIP
VOIP, HEARD ABOUT IT?Hosted VoIP (an acronym for “Voice over Internet Protocol”) is a type ofinternet phone system which is quickly taking over from standard businessphone systems and landlines. The VoIP industry is now worth 40bn andgrowing at approximately 9% per year.Simply put, it is a piece of technology that converts voice calls into data andthen transmits them over the internet.VoIP offers a number of cost-saving benefits and features that can helpbusinesses improve their communications.Should you consider switching?Deciding whether to switch from a familiar technology that’s been tried andtested for decades to something new can be a nerve-wracking process. It’svital that you understand what the technology is, how it works and comparesto other systems, and what the considerations of switching are, before youcan decide whether it is right for you.To help you get to grips with how the technology works and the relevantterminology, we’ve created this simple guide which will explain all you needto know about VoIP, and help you make the right choices for your business.
WHAT IS VoIP?The simplest way to understand VoIP is to imagine it as a private members club.The club you choose, who the other members are, which facilities you use and howoften, will affect how much value you get from your membership. If you do nothave VoIP, you are a non-member.1. MembershipYou join the club via a VoIP service provider and to activate your membership you needa reliable, fast internet connection, and a special VoIP phone or a ‘softphone’ app.The cost of membership is quite affordable (around the same price as a conventionalbusiness phone system), but has the potential to save you lots of money depending onhow much you interact with other club members.2. Other Members3. FacilitiesAs part of your VoIP club membership you get the use of lots of facilitiesthat non-members don’t get, such as access to a clever portal that links toyour computer diary (e.g. through MS Outlook) and can redirect calls whenyou’re in a meeting. The portal also enables you to redirect calls and youranswerphone to your mobile or other landlines so you never miss callsbecause you’re away from your desk.You can get an upgraded membership to use even more features, like callrecording, but obviously the pricing and benefits offered depend on whichclub you decide to join, and what features you want to use.It is the club’s job to make sure that you always have access to state-ofthe-art facilities so, over time, it will upgrade the facilities automaticallyand ask if you would like the latest premium features on your phonesystem.As part of your membership you can call other members of your club (people usingthe same VoIP platform as you) for free, or at a discounted rate.If you call an affiliate member (people using a different VoIP platform to you) you cansometimes get cheaper calls – but this depends on what the affiliate club’s set-up is.If you call a non-member (people using standard phones and phone lines (called PBX)then you pay standard rates for your phone calls.Sometimes you’ll know that the people you’re calling are club members, such as fellowcolleagues in your own office or other offices, and sometimes you won’t. If you pick a clubwhere you already know lots of the members, you can make big savings. If you never ringother club or affiliate members, then you probably won’t save much – though there canstill be other benefits to being a member (e.g. lower running costs, enhanced features).HOSTED VOIPYLMEMBERSONLYNOSREBMEMPASS
VoIP VERSUS PBXVoIP is a piece of technology that converts voice calls into data and thentransmits them over IP (internet protocol) or digital networks, such asbroadband, Ethernet, WiFi or even 3G and 4G.To use it you need to switch from using a standard telephone system andphone line (a PBX telephone system), to hosted VoIP. This means thatthe ‘brains’ of your telephone system is moved off site and into a serviceprovider’s data centre. It also requires you to get a special VoIP phone which looks like a standard phone, but is actually more like a computer - ora softphone app which can be accessed from your PC, smartphone or tablet.With a standard phone system, adding or removing users requiresan engineer to move the lines. With VoIP, because it uses an internetconnection, adding and removing users is much simpler and can be done viaan internet portal.Consider the VoIP option if you Are a small business Have 5 to 200 people Have fibre broadband availableThink of it as A desktop PC (PBX) compared to a laptop with a Gmail account (VoIP). With adesktop PC you have to be at your desk to use it. If you’re not at your desk, youcan’t. With a laptop, you can move it quickly and easily to a different desk and aslong as it has an internet connection you can communicate with people. Even if youdon’t have your laptop with you but you have a smartphone or another computeryou can still get your Gmail messages (calls/voicemails) through an internetconnection because the information is stored in the cloud.
ON-NET VERSUS OFF-NETOn-net calls are made using a hosted VoIP solution to recipients using the sameservice provider and the same platform. These are usually free or much cheaperthan standard call rates.Off-net calls use traditional phones and phone lines and are made tonon-hosted VoIP users, or recipients using a different VoIP service provider andplatform. These calls are chargeable at your service provider’s standard rate.Consider the VoIP option if you Make lots of internal calls Have lots of different offices within the same companyThink of it as An online dating agency. Once you’ve joined, you can contact other members of thesame dating agency for free (or at a heavily discounted rate). If you want to contactsomeone who uses a different dating agency (i.e. a company that uses a differentphone system) you have to pay to contact them.
INTERNET VERSUS PHONE LINEWe’ve all experienced delay on a phone call, whether it’s through a poormobile signal, or a long distance call, and know that a split second delaycan make conversation incredibly difficult, as people find themselvestalking over each other.Unlike a landline or mobile phone call, the experience and quality of aVoIP call is all dependent on how strong or fast your internet data connectionis. It is imperative to have plenty of bandwidth and a good internet dataconnection to ensure peak performance. Many VoIP providers advisethat businesses should have an internet connection dedicated solely forVoIP usage.Consider the VoIP option if you Have fibre broadband or a superfast connection available in your area Don’t experience connectivity problems Are eligible for the Government’s Superfast Britain grantThink of it as A road. The bigger and less congested the road (internet connection) is, thefaster you will be able to go. The smaller and more congested it is, the moredelays you’ll experience.
WIDEBAND VERSUS NARROWBANDDuring the design of conventional telephony systems, it was established thatit was not necessary for listeners to hear all the frequencies that make upthe human voice in order to determine the words being spoken. So a standardphone system was designed to pick up and transmit a specific sound range,based on frequency (300hz to 3400kHz), to allow people to converse, but avoidunnecessary complexity. This range is called narrowband.Changes to high definition technology have prompted users to demand asuperior quality audio experience. Wideband is able to pick up and transmit abroader sound range (150hz to 7kHz or higher) and therefore gives more soundclarity and a better quality. The clearer the sound is, the less likely listenerfatigue will be, during the call.Consider the VoIP option if you Make calls in a noisy environment Make lots of conference callsThink of it as Standard TV and HD TV. You won’t miss out on any of the action by watching yourfavourite soap opera on a standard TV (phone), but if you want to watch a wildlifedocumentary (i.e. need good call quality), the picture clarity on HD will be better,enabling you to see more detail.
SIP TRUNKINGSIP (Session Initiation Protocol) trunks are used to add VoIP lines to abusiness’ existing, standard (PBX) phone system. This is particularlyuseful for businesses with periods of high seasonal demand or that areexperiencing a period of sharp growth.The trunks allow you to use a standard phone system and simply convertthe call into data so that it can be carried over the internet rather than aphone line, and you can keep adding more trunks to your phone system ifand when you need them.However, a SIP trunking system will only trunk (convert them to data andtransmit them over the internet) if all of the other standard (PBX) phonelines are already in use.Consider the VoIP option if you Have a standard PBX system Experience high seasonal demand Experience unexpected high call volumes Need more phone lines Have a high speed internet connectionThink of it as An extension lead which can be plugged in to an existing power socket(conventional phone system), if and when extra lines are needed.
JARGON BUSTERPBXA PBX is a standard business telephone system (with desk phones and landlines)that manages a business’ internal and external calls. Its main purpose is to allowemployees to share phone lines and save organisations from purchasing an individualline for each employee at the office.BANDWIDTHIs used to describe internet speeds. Think of a data connection as a tube and each bitof data as a grain of sand. If you pour a large amount of sand into a narrow tube, it willtake a long time for the sand to flow through it. If you pour the same amount of sandthrough a wider tube, it will flow through much faster. The wider the tube, the morebandwidth a data connection has.CLOUD COMPUTINGIn its simplest form, cloud computing means storing and accessing data and programsin a data centre ‘over the internet’ instead of your computer’s hard drive or server.What this means is your data – photos, documents, programs or whatever you choose- is basically stored in a server run by a third party, and accessed over the internet,rather than on one of your devices.DATA CENTREA data centre is a highly-secure storage facility that houses, manages and powers abusiness’ IT infrastructure, including servers, systems and hardware. Imagine it asa large library which is full of data. You can rent space in this library to store all yourinformation, while also benefitting from your service provider’s power, expertiseand support.DATA CONNECTIONA data connection is also known as an internet connection or a connectivity solution.There are several different types - ADSL broadband, fibre-optic broadband andEthernet – and they are used to transmit data (e.g. emails, pictures, videos, files, orphone calls).INTERCONNECTINGThis is the physical linking of a service provider’s network with equipment or facilitiesof another provider in order to exchange traffic and data.
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VoIP VERSUS PBX VoIP is a piece of technology that converts voice calls into data and then transmits them over IP (internet protocol) or digital networks, such as broadband, Ethernet, WiFi or even 3G and 4G. To use it you need to switch from using a standard telephone system and phone line (a PBX telephone system), to hosted VoIP. This means that