Do Not Buy A New Business Phone System Without Voip Capability

Some of the most honest and sincere advice a telecommunications professional can give a business when evaluating telephone system technology options for their business is to make sure they buy a telephone system with VOIP capability. It is estimated that over 90% of new business telephone systems shipped in 2010 will have VOIP capability, and we will evaluate the reasons for that trend, as well as explain why owning a phone system with VOIP capability has become a necessity even if you don’t use the features at the time of purchase.

It would be best to start with a brief description of the different types of VOIP systems available. Not all flavors are the same, and each carries their own benefits. VOIP tends to mean many things to many people, so let’s make sure we are speaking the same language before starting. There are two main areas of VOIP to cover:

VOIP Telephone Service: Defined as the ability of your telephone system to interface with a telephone service provider via your data connection to make your calls over the public internet. SIP trunking is the most popular method of interface on the commercial level, but we will not be covering this transport method in this article. VOIP telephone service promises some more competitive pricing mainly due to increased T1 usage due to compression, but few phone systems interface with VOIP providers at this time. Each manufacturer has to go through a rigorous interoperability testing procedure in order verify Quality of Service with each carrier. Very few systems have completed this process with the few carriers that are out there. Some think of this as free long distance or flat rate long distance that is far more competitive than standard business offerings.

VOIP Capable Telephone Systems: When we speak of a VOIP capable telephone system, we are directly referring to the ability of the phone system to use the Voice Over Internet Protocol language to carry your telephone conversations internally or between locations. We are not speaking of the ability to make your phones calls over a VOIP Telephone Service Provider as detailed above. Using VOIP internally allows you several benefits.

1.Shared wiring infrastructure: VOIP conversations require typically between 16k-64k depending upon compression levels, so the data wiring infrastructure of a typical office running CAT5e cabling can share the same 100M cabling for both voice and data. Voice is prioritized over data to protect call quality, and dozens of phone calls could be made simultaneously without noticeably affecting data speeds. Using a shared wire infrastructure saves on wiring installation costs as well as wiring maintenance costs.
2.Ease of Moves, Adds, and Changes: Changes in configuration that typically required a technician site visit in the past are now possible to do internally quite easily. Although many manufacturers will argue that they can now perform this functionality via TDM technology and web interfaces, it was VOIP systems that brought this ability to the forefront with industry changing ease. For any company that knows their phone system technicians on a first name basis, the ability to administer your own system will dramatically alter your total cost of ownership. Reduction in MAC charges have made the VOIP systems highly desirable simply because they cost less to maintain. System administration is now something that can be internally for over 95% of programming changes.
3.The ability to connect offices: With VOIP capability, you can now connect offices through managed data connections to utilize your phones systems more cost effectively than ever. This gives clients a more transparent experience when dealing with employees from multiple offices, and it allows businesses to offer a more customer friendly environment. Toll bypass is an added benefit and eliminates costly toll charges between locations when using VOIP. The business case for more cost effective use of manpower has been startling. The ability to have a single receptionist to handle calls for multiple locations can often pay for a system within a year. Allowing employees who were previously tied up with answering calls to move to income generating activities can prove to be a financial coup depending on company size and configuration.
4.The ability to manage remote employees: A major trend nationwide has been to hire remote employees for various tasks. They may be sales, support, or operations related, but the common challenge for all companies has been the effective management of those employees. With a VOIP system and a managed data connection, you can literally hook up your remote employee to your phone system with a VOIP telephone. Doing so gives the employer access to all of the same management tools they enjoy internally with other employees. You can see real time availability on the phone, number of calls made, calls received, talk time, and all other relevant information with the right software applications.
5.Ease of database integration: For companies that use CRM packages with TAPI or IMAP interfaces, having a VOIP system can prove to be an incredible production tool. Incoming calls can be routed to the desired party based upon programming and assignment in the CRM. Screen pops allow users to see who is calling before choosing to answer calls, send to voice mail, or transfer appropriately. Desktop call control also gives users the ability to dial numbers with a click of a mouse right out of their contacts. Users can use all of the features and functionality of their desk phone from their PC screen. Since manpower is typically the highest cost for any business, having tools that help make employees more efficient to the tune of several minutes a day can provide incredible paybacks.
6.IP Softphones: IP Softphones have proven to be an incredible tool for the right application. Make a lot of calls overseas? Have employees who travel frequently and need to connect to the phone system from hotels? Need to connect from tradeshows real time with line appearance? With a software driven SoftPhone, you can have complete phone system functionality from your laptop or PDA device with a USB headset for a phone! Many new applications are coming.

There are numerous other benefits that VOIP systems provide over their more traditional TDM counterparts, but we limited mention to the main ones above. While TDM phone system options still remain a viable solution that is slightly more cost effective up front, we find that the projected TCO or Total Cost of Ownership is often less with a VOIP system due to the available feature set and production efficiency tools. For those companies that have only one location, telecom professionals will typically recommend a hybrid system. A hybrid system is a business telephone system based upon cost effective TDM technology, but that has the ability to add VOIP capability via a media gateway card. Although VOIP may not be a service priority to a company today, it is essential to make sure you have future capability should you choose to implement it at a later date.

Perhaps one of the last things companies consider when making a phone system purchase, but one they should probably consider a little more, is the phone system resell value. Since telecom professionals regularly assist their clients in the process of liquidating their old equipment, they are very much aware of what old equipment is worth. As with most aging electronics, there is minimal value that can be expected after five years, but a startling trend has been showing up in the past year. Systems without VOIP capability have next to no value. When companies attempt to liquidate systems as little as five years old, they often find they have no takers since the systems have no VOIP ability. The dramatic shift to VOIP has literally wiped out generations of used telephony product value, as there is literally no demand. There will always be some demand for used inventory for the major manufacturers such as NEC, Avaya, Cisco, Nortel, and Toshiba, but all others look to be extremely weak investments at this time. Although resale value should not be a major consideration when choosing which system to purchase, business owners should be aware that choosing a system with VOIP capability from a major manufacturer will virtually guarantee a reasonable resale value down the road. As always, we suggest you speak to your local telecom professional for assistance in choosing which system is right for you.