What is VoIP and how can it help you work from home?
Traditional phone systems have incoming wires. These wires come into your building through the wall. You then need the wires connected to a call-server that sits in your server room, and handsets that plug into it. You can program whose phones ring on which numbers and transfer calls. Voicemail can be setup, and call recording. Some old phone systems are feature packed, the technology is mature but not very flexible.
With an old phone system, when you want to work from home (or need to) you have to divert your number to another phone. This is usually your mobile phone making it difficult to call back on your work number. Your work caller ID doesn’t appear and accessing voicemail is a pain. The call recording stops working and when you want to transfer a call through to a colleague, you can’t! It is sometimes possible to use a VPN or other complex way to get your home phone to talk to your office. It’s possible but can be clunky, unreliable, and often needs IT to set it up – not exactly scalable and flexible!
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol (translation, phone calls over the internet). The phone lines no longer end in your building. They are in a datacentre with redundant internet. Backup power, and a team of IT support guys working to keep everything running 24x7x365. Your call server is gone, replaced with one in the same datacentre (with the same techies looking after it). Your handset connects over the internet, any internet at all! So you are in the office, your desk phone works. You’re in lock down and have to work from home, pick your handset up and take it home. Plug it into the internet at home and it works exactly like it did in the office. Same number, same features, same blinking red light next to your colleagues name when they are on a call.
OK VoIP telephones sound great, what else?
Well, now your phone works over the internet. There is no reason it needs to be a square plastic box with a handset and buttons; it could be anything, say, a mobile app. That’s right, they virtualised the phone! With a mobile app connected to your VoIP telephone system your desk phone follows you around. You don’t need to give out your mobile number anymore because your mobile is also your landline.
Some VoIP systems have built in instant messaging and video conferencing. Using a VoIP telephone or app you can turn a text chat into a voice call, then into a video call. With video conferencing you could even patch in others. Start as a call with 1 client, then patch in a colleague, then switch to video. In this age of remote working, the sky is the limit to our flexibility and mobility.
So this is expensive right?
Switching from a traditional phone system to VoIP may not be as costly as you might think. Most providers package up the system as a bundle. Handsets, the system licence, the call plan, and the support all into a simple monthly cost per user. The VoIP app is usually included with your bundle. Often features like call recording or video calling are part of your VoIP package. When you add up the cost of old school ISDN lines, phone server and maintenance. Not to mention the handsets, calls, and support; a new VoIP system may end up being cost neutral over a 3 or 5 year period.