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
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
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
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.