VoIP is lauded as a fantastic solution to the problem of companies communicating. Rightly so – it allows for flexibility and high quality communications for any company. But are there any downsides? What in particular should you be watching for when looking at VoIP for your company?
The next paragraph will give a brief run down as to how VoIP works and what it does. We’ll try not to get bogged down in acronyms and technical detail, but it is important to understand at least some of the underpinning tech behind VoIP.
Basically, VoIP breaks down sound into a digital code, and transmits this code to another person. The other person speaks, and you hear them. What you may not have realised, is that what you are actually hearing is an encoded signal. The sound of the person speaking is broken down into a string of small chunks. Each ‘chunk’ is a parcel of digitally encoded information, which is unpacked at the receiver end of the conversation.
Potential Pitfall 1 – Your Internet Connection
This is why a phone call over VoIP is reliant on a good internet connection. You don’t need to have a connection like Facebook or YouTube’s, but it does need to be stable, and able to process the minimum amount of data for transmitting a VoIP phone call reliably (we recommend a minimum of 100Kb upload and download speeds).
A number of problems can occur if your VoIP service can’t transmit the data packets necessary for a phone call. Your service can suffer from two main problems, termed ‘Jitter’ and ‘Latency’ by technical personnel. Just for reference, or in case it ever comes up in a game of Trivial Pursuit, ‘Jitter’ means a variable delay resulting from signal degradation, ‘Latency’ refers to a delay in signal transfer. The sound can break up, there can be intermittent signal loss, voices can become distorted or the line may go intermittently silent. Any or all of these will disrupt your conversation and lead to a bad experience for both parties.
You need a good quality internet connection, geared for business-use, with a good level of technical support available (either from an in-house Technical Department, or included in your package from your internet provider).
Potential Pitfall 2 – The Right Equipment
Another pitfall to be wary of is having the right equipment to begin with. There are desk phones and DECT phones available for VoIP set ups, and these look and work in a very similar way to ‘traditional’ phones. A DECT phone has a base station, which the handset sits in to recharge, and to which the handset is wirelessly connected. Desk phones have key pads and handsets which will be familiar, as well as display screens to display settings, missed calls and your call history.
Be aware that a traditional phone won’t work over VoIP (not without an adaptor). Whatever one you choose, either desk phone or DECT phone, it will need to be ‘SIP’ compatible. You should also be aware that some SIP phones only work with manufacturer’s proprietary services. The phone you are looking at should list this in the description or technical specifications, so be sure and check these carefully. If these details aren’t available from the supplier site you’re buying from, then a quick Google search for the phone serial code plus the word ‘datasheet’ should bring up the PDF file issued originally from the manufacturer. Read over this to make sure the phone isn’t ‘locked’ to only one VoIP system.
Even cables and connections can make a difference. Poor quality connecting sockets, frayed cables, poorly wired or damaged ethernet wall sockets. These can all seriously affect your phone calls. You may experience calls not connecting, your audio signal dropping out, or echo when on a phone call.
Potential Pitfall 3 – The Right Router
Router choice can be critical for a VoIP service, especially for larger organisations, or those who use phones heavily. You need appropriate, business-grade equipment to properly run a VoIP phone system. A freebie router is going to give far more problems than a good one, and will detrimentally affect your ability to make and receive calls. It’s always best to go for a quality option, it will save you time and money in the long run. Remember and factor in the potential cost of missing customer calls when making your spending decision. If your business makes a lot of sales over the phone, or uses phone calls to line up potential sales, then a low cost router could actually cost you a fortune.
If you have Technical personnel or are using an IT consultant to help set things up, they need to disable ‘SIP ALG’ and enable ‘QoS’ settings on your router.
Potential Pitfall 4 – Problems with Managed Offices
If you are working from a Managed Office, then there are some other things to bear in mind. Firstly, you need to establish whether the office landlord/ owner allows any VoIP Provider to work in their offices, or if thy have a deal with one specific Provider. It is possible that they have a preferred supplier for this, and they may insist you use them. They can actually ‘lock down’ certain systems so only this company can provide a VoIP service to their tenants.
You will also need to check if they have ‘made live’ all the ethernet wall sockets in your office, and if all the cabling in the office is ready for use. You will need all this for your internet provision anyway, but as your VoIP service uses this too, you will also need it for your phone calls.
We hope this brief rundown helps if you are faced with choosing a VoIP service. We’ve tried to cover all the issues commonly faced by those who come to us with issues or problems, and need additional help with setting up VoIP for their company.
If you are facing an issue which isn’t on this list just get in touch and let us know – we’ll be happy to help whenever we can.
Read more about steering a Company VoIP Project
See our range of VoIP Deskphones
See our range of VoIP DECT phones
See our range of business-grade Routers
To discuss any of the points raised, or need with help with a problem that’s not listed, just contact us