When you mention VoIP, the first thing that usually springs to mind is Skype. Now Skype is a fantastic piece of software and millions of people use it every day. I’ve used it on occasion myself, on a trip to the US I used Skype on the free hotel Wifi to speak to Mrs Nick back in the UK. The call quality was fantastic, especially compared to a mobile. I’ve also used it to talk to a good friend in Hong Kong, again brilliant call quality and who could argue at an hour long phone call half-way round the world costing zero pence?
VoIP for Business, on the other hand, is a whole different ball park. The idea is to bring corporate phone system features and functionality to small businesses at an affordable cost. There are also savings to be made in call costs, in my experience these are particularly evident when calling abroad. One sixty minute call to the States recently, came in at just over £1!
We use VoIP here at Sirona House and we make use of a lot of the advanced features. When you call Sirona you are presented with a voice-menu, don’t hate me just yet though we have kept it nice and short – only two button presses get you through to the right person. Our voice-menu was professionally recorded, but you can also record your own. The advantage for us is when the call gets put through to the office we know what buttons you have pressed. So we know if you’re calling for tech support, to log a call, whether you’re a business or home user, etc. As we grow we’ll be able to route calls more effectively and ensure our customer’s calls are always answered by the correct person.
Voice-mail is now a feature we’re all very used to with mobile phones and this comes bundled with VoIP. You can either have individual voice-mail and/or a group voice-mail depending on how your calls are routed. That’s another feature, call routing. You can ensure that at 9am your calls are all forwarded to the office, then at 5pm they’re routed to the person on-call and at 8pm they switch to voice-mail. Call routing can also be tied into a voice-menu to be routed to a particular department. You can also arrange how phones ring, you can have a group of phones ring at the same time, have one ring and then another or even have a call automatically routed to a mobile if no-one picks up in the office.
So you may be asking what the catch is, why are BT still making money? Well the reason all these features are affordable is they are delivered over a standard broadband connection. A lot of users of business VoIP will share one broadband connection for both web browsing and VoIP. This isn’t the recommended solution and at Sirona House we have a dedicated broadband connection just for VoIP.
So with business VoIP you are putting your entire phone network over a single broadband connection and most people will have experienced a failure of their broadband connection. However, broadband has become a lot more reliable in the last couple of years and I actually struggle to remember the last time either our business or home connections failed. On top of this business VoIP providers are now providing their own broadband connections to their customers that come with guarantees of service. This gives you call quality guarantees and dedicated support behind the connections so if there are problems they are rectified quickly.
Overall we’re very happy with our VoIP service and there’s no way we could afford to have all the features we have by going straight to BT. We’re also not tied into a long agreement, so if weren’t happy with it we could easily go somewhere else.