As a SME develops and grows costs can quickly escalate, no more so than its phone and communication systems and yet there is a cost-effective solution called VOIP that some may not be aware of.
VOIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and is essentially a broadband-based phone service that can include a free switch board.
A business can make calls using laptops or PCs but equally using VOIP telephones, which cost very little and are the only additional piece of hardware needed if bought upfront since the exchange is either embedded in the phone or provided by the VOIP supplier who is normally also the broadband service provider.
A VOIP system allows the business to dispense with call handling and an in-house switching system, all of which can be set up and automated by someone familiar with IT systems. You can have unique phone numbers and set it up so that calls can be switched from one number to another.
With a phone-based service, you use VOIP the same way you use a regular landline: by picking up the phone to answer it or dialling a number to place a call.
Calls are not confined to only others who are using a VOIP system and usually there is no additional or at most a minimal cost for calling overseas. The system can also be used to make conference calls and it allows you to take your number with you when you travel.
It has been estimated that savings using VOIP can be as high as 95% per month but if you are considering this option, there are some things to remember.
Getting your VOIP system right
Basic requirements are a high-speed internet connection and VOIP phones which are inexpensive. You should also remember that in the event of a power cut your phone set-up will not work and it is therefore wise to have a secondary power source, such as a generator, as a standby.
For businesses with multiple users, a separate PBX (Private Branch Exchange) is not required as the phones can be set up to manage calls within a network and can also be set up to transfer calls between phones like in a normal office exchange as well as routing incoming and outgoing calls. Most Internet Providers offer hosted/virtual PBXs, so that your SME does not have to go to the expense of buying and installing expensive equipment.
There is one caveat if considering using VOIP for your business, and this is that you will likely come across many phone company providers, such as BT, as well as specialist providers, who will offer to install and manage your set-up and hire you the phones.
You should remember that the uplift charged by VOIP phone companies is their gross profit plus phone hire if they supply the hardware and for the small, but growing SME this means a significant, and unnecessary, expense.
This website is a very useful introduction to all things VOIP.