VoIP Phone Systems In Warrington & Call Recording

VoIP in Warrington for businesses is becoming increasing popular following the opening of our Crab Lane sales office in Warrington.

VoIP phone systems offer businesses the buying power to implement high quality phone systems without the large expense that would be required for ISDN or analgoue phone systems. Recently we have been offering businesses in Warrington the opportunity for a free consultations, free VoIP trials and test accounts with free minutes. This is so businesses in the Warrington area are able to sample the power and ease of VoIP phone systems without any effort and risk.

Broadband in the UK is now running at an average of 12MB down and 0.95MB up. Fibre optic connections are considerably faster than this. With either connections your are able to run a high quality VoIP phone system in Warrington allowing your business to improve how you handle customer contact.

For a recent client, being able tto record conversation was vital following a recent audit. This customer took credit card payments over the phone for confidential services. This meant that calls neededto be recorded, but omit the payment details (the last 3 digits on the signature strip). This is PCI compliance. The people taking the payments and making the calls could not have access to the web portal where the on / off button for call recording is usually located due to security concerns by the client.

To provice a solution within the VoIP phone system for this Warrington business, Saffwood Communications built a small, secure web portal which allowed each agent to toggle there call recording button on then off. This show a traffic light system (red and green) so they new what status the recording was in. This ensured that the other aspects of the web portal were kept away from agents, but still gave they the control.

the next aspect of this implementation was that the call recordings for the hosted VoIP phone system needed to be added to the clients CRM system. Again we were able to offer a simple process whereby the client could enter the telephone number called into a custom web portal which linked to the standard VoIP user interface. By searching the number, they were able to see all calls to and from this number, and click a link to download the audio file ready to be added to the CRM system.

As well as offering a robust call recording feature, the hosted VoIP phone system allowed this Warrington based business to reduce their call costs and line rental based on the old phone system they had in place (an old panasonic phone system).

Our advanced inbound call routing options also ensured that when customers called the business, an auto attendant would allow them to choose the department they wanted to speak to. As a core optional feature of our VoIP phone system, this ensured that customers were not transferred around the business, but spoke to the right person every time. As this client was growing in size and had also moved to bigger offices in Warrington, they needed to be able to queue callers if they received more calls than they were able to handle at once. As such, Saffwood Communications added an inbound VoIP call queue. This feature will seek available phone within the relevent hunt group, and if they are all engaged, queue the customer.

If you would like to speak to Saffwood, you can call us on 0845 241 1008. We are a national company based in Warrington, London and Leicester

Posted in API Click to Call, Auto Attendant, Call Recording, Hosted Telephony, telephone queuing system, VoIP, VoIP Phone Sysetm, Warrington

VoIP Phone Systems For Home Offices And Business

VoIP Phone systems have a huge range of applications and uses for business. Whilst many feel that hosted VoIP phone systems and IP telephony is aimed at the small, medium, large and contact centre part of the business market, Saffwood Communications based in Warrington feel that home uses have much, if not more to gain. You can read more about Saffwood Communications in our about us section of the website.

I’m a home worker, do I need a VoIP phone system?

The short answer is probibly no, you won’t need a phone system if you are working alone. But many of the software elements with in a hosted VoIP phone system will be of use to you. We’ll look at the building blocks of a VoIP system in this article. But before we do that, we’ll take a look at what you need before you can start with VoIP.

What do I need to start with VoIP?

You’ll need a few things before you can start making VoIP phone calls:

A phone line – without a standard analogue phone line, you won’t be able to have broadband. As nearly 100% of businesses will need broadband services, you’re likely to already have this in place. If you need a new analogue phone line and broadband, there are lots of great offers out there. Talk Talk Business offer a great package with free line installation, unlimited broadband and line rental for only £19.50 per month on a 12 month agreement (accurate as of 01.09.14). Talk Talk are a network carrier which means they have their own network. So when you setup a new line with Talk Talk, always ask for “OnNet” traffic as you’ll be placed onto Talk Talk’s network which is less contended than BT, and typically faster too.

So now you have a phone line and broadband, what else do you need before you can make use of a VoIP phone system, or some of its elements? Next you need either a Softphone, or an IP enabled phone.

VoIP Softphones:

A VoIP softphone is a type of phone that is installed on your PC or MAC. Rather than having the phone or your desk, it’s an application that can either be downloaded free of charge, or paid for so that you can access some more business orientated features such as call transfer.

An IP enabled deskphone is the preferred option for many businesses as it gives you many on phone facilities such as call divert, large screen display, call pickup and transfter, as well as personal directories, missed call altert and voicemail retreival. An IP deskphone can be used as part of a VoIP phone system or a standalone line.

So is there anything else I need?

The router you have is very important to VoIP. Cheaper routers such as Technicolour do not support inbound VoIP. In some cases Draytek use the ports that VoIP want to use for firmware updates which stops the service working properly. It’s always advisable that you engage with a VoIP phone system provider such as Saffwood Communications who have offices in Warrington, London and Leicester.

Is that it?

Pretty much, you now just need to deciede who is going to supply you with your VoIP phone system or VoIP enabled phone. There are several thins to consider when choosing a VoIP provider:

1) Routing – this is important as many VoIP providers will take cheap routes overseas with SIP carriers. This means you could make a UK to UK call, but the call get’s routed to Pakistan first as it’s cheaper to enter back into the UK closer to the calling destination rather than go over purely UK SIP carriers. Saffwood Communications who hosts its own infrastructure in Warrington only uses Gold and Platimum routes. This means we take the most direct path which in turn offers crystal clear voice quality

2) Reliability & Experience – more and more businesses are trying their hand at VoIP phone systems and services. The problem here is that many of these businesses just don’t understand how VoIP works. This means they can accidentally sell you the wrong solution, a solution that won’t work for you and won’t be able to support you if you need it. With businesses entering the VoIP marketing, they may not have invested in ensuring they have backup options available if any of their hardware or carriers fail. Whist Saffwood operated its sales function out of Warrington, we have a presence in 6 UK data centres meaning if one crashes, another can instantly pickup the traffic. Saffwood are also VoIP phone system specialists which means all we offer is VoIP, as such we only do one thing, and do it better than anyone else.

Now you’ve got your equipment and have selected a reputable VoIP provider, it’s time to see how you use your VoIP phone. If you simply want an extra phone line, implementing VoIP is easy. You just plug your phone itm let it configure (Saffwood do this bit for you), and then you are ready to start making and receiving phone calls.

If you want your existing telephone number to be used for the VoIP phone system or IP enabled phone, then you have two options:

1) Forward all calls from your analogue line to your VoIP phone. This works best when you have a local call bundle from your provider so you don’t have to pay for that leg of the call.

2) Port your number. If you port your phone number to a VoIP phone system provider, then your analogue line and broadband will cease after the port. As VoIP uses broadband, you’ll need to ensure you have another broadband connection for the servie to work off.

So what features can I get now I have a VoIP phone system or IP phone?

There are a couple of software options that most business phone system and service customers want to go for. The main one is a VoIP queue.

A VoIP queue

This is a service that ensure that if you have more callers ringing your business than you have lines available to take them, the callers won’t automatically hit engaged of voicemail. The VoIP queue will greet the caller with a branded welcome to your business, then look if there are any available lines. If so, they will be called instantly and you can answer and speak to your caller. If not, the caller will be informed that they are in a queue and what their position is. As soon as you free up a line, then the caller will be placed to your phone. You can give callers options such as pressing 1 to go to voicemail, or automatically transfer them to voicemail after a certain wait time. If you calls must always be answered by a human within a certain amount of time, then you can choose to put holders to a call answer service after a certain call duration. These services will answer as your company and take a clear and detailed message.

A VoIP Auto Attendant

An auto attendant is a service that sits before the queue if you use it. An auto attendant, sometimes known as an IVR, will give a branded welcome, and then supply options, such as “press 1 for sales”. When a caller presses the option, the call can be routed to certain phones, or all phones and the option selected displayed. With an auto attendant, you can setup out of hours messages and rules to notify customers when you are in working hours.

If you are interested in a VoIP phone system, service or VoIP enabled phone, you can contact Saffwood Communications in Warrington (sales) on 0845 241 1008. Office hours are Monday – Friday 09.00 – 17.30.

 

Posted in answer service, Auto Attendant, Failover & Redundancy, Hosted Telephony, telephone queuing system, VoIP, VoIP Phone Sysetm, Warrington

VoIP Phone System – Client Projects

VoIP Phone Systems – Client Solutions

 In this blog we detail the requirements and solutions that our clients and prospective customers bring to us on a daily basis. This blog is not aimed at an exhaustive list of all enquiries and reflects how much spare time we have! (Not much these days).

 VoIP Phone System – Office Move – 29.08.14

A client based in Glasgow is moving office from one exchange area to another. They are moving within 6 weeks and have a single line at their current office. The have broadband and a PDQ machine on this single line. Their two main challenges are that when the line is busy with a call, no payments can be made on the PDQ, and likewise when the PDQ is active, they cannot make or receive any calls. When the line is busy with calls, any subsequent calls in hit an engaged tone. The client has two phone numbers, each representing a product line within the business and these must be transferred to the new premises which is not possible on a standard phone system.

At the new premises there is currently no broadband. Having the VoIP phone system live before the move date with numbers ported is vital. The client has also expressed that they want to know what happens if the internet goes down. Saffwood Communications in Warrington has been asked to suggest the broadband through one of its partners.

Saffwood Communications who are based in Warrington have firstly suggested that we provide two options for the two different phone numbers that the client has (one for each part of the business). On our VoIP phone system we will add in an auto attendant. This will greet any calls and give them two options, “Press 1 for XXX business, or press 2 for XXX business”. As the customer is happy for clients to know that they handle both parts of the business, this is not an issue. If the client did not want their customers to know they run two, then on the VoIP phone system Saffwood would suggest two different IVR’s, one for each number. This way when customers call, they would get the welcome message, and the users on the VoIP phone system would see on screen what business the call was for allowing the client to answer accordingly. Out of hours messages can also be applied to this option.

Behind the IVR’s will be an inbound VoIP phone system queue. This queue will look for any available lines and ring them immediately. This can be done together or in hunt groups. If all lines are busy, then the VoIP queue will inform the customer that they are on hold, their postion and the average wait time. Saffwood can add in two options at this point: the caller to press 1 at any point to be passed through to a hosted VoIP voicemail, or that after a certain number of seconds, that the VoIP phone system queue will automatically pass the caller to voicemail.

The client is looking to take 2 VoIP lines with 2 handsets. These VoIP enabled phones will come pre-configured and will just need plugging in. We are also adding in our redundancy option which means if the internet goes down at the client site, we calls will be routed to our redundancy cloud which will route the calls into up to 7 numbers including both landlines and mobiles allowing business calls to continue seamlessly.

Regarding broadband, we have arrange a 12 month agreement with free line installation, unlimited broadband and line rental for only £18.50 PM.

From a process perspective for getting the VoIP phone system live in good time and order, Saffwood Communications based in Warrington will firstly be ordering the broadband as this has the longest lead time of c3 weeks. This ensures that the VoIP phone system can have connectivity on the move date. We will request to port the numbers no less than 4 weeks before the move date allowing good time for this to take place. As one of the numbers to be ported is being used for phone calls and broadband, the client has been made aware that it is unavoidable that when this numbers ports that the line and broadband will go dead. Where the phone line is separate from the broadband, this is usually not an issue as the calls would instantly be routed onto the VoIP system, however in this scenario, the customer is aware and happy that will have to divert these calls to mobiles for a short period between Saffwood getting the number on the VoIP phone system and the customer moving in.

We have advised the customer that their current router is very low grade and will not support VoIP. We have suggested a Billion Bipac 7800N router and costed this into the solution.

The customer is very happy with the prices quoted, our knowledge of how to implement what they are looking for and the fact that we will own this process.

Serviced Office – 01.08.14

We have been engaged by a customer who has won a contract for a prestigious and well know insurance brand. He will be moving in 40 staff into a currently green fields office and require total kit out and a VoIP phone system solution including conferencing. His client has asked for capacity for 80 staff within two months. The VoIP solution will be small to start with as this is predominantly a back office solution. Saffwood in Warrington has been asked to lend its expertise in broadband to suggest a supplier and a connection type. The client will be using VPN connections to access systems remotely and has express that connectivity is totally paramount. Saffwood has also been asked to co-ordinate the kit out of the office including comms room, laying of data cables, trunking via floor to ceiling and electrical. We will using one of our trusted installers to handle this element of the implementation and Saffwood will be project managing the entire install.

For our VoIP phone system and conferencing, we have been asked to provide 5 VoIP handsets and 4 IP conference phones. We will be using Cisco 7940’s for our VoIP phones and Polycomm 5000 IP sound stations for conference phones. The VoIP phone system will be pre-configured to ensure that it can be plugged in and go live given the tight timescales.

For broadband to support the VoIP phone system we have suggested x2 Fibre Optic connections which we have confirmed are available. These offer the 80 / 20 profile with forecast speeds just below this. This will ensure maximum speeds for the 40 FTE and capacity for the 80 FTE. Manual load balancing has been suggested to ensure that data packets are not lost from the VoIP phone system when calls are made.

The installation dates for the broadband are a few days after the client moves his customer in. An Ethernet to Air solution is currently in place and this will support all connectivity for several days until the fibre goes live. Saffwood in Cheshire, Warrington, will provide x2 Billion 7800DXL routers for the fibre and is loaning the client x1 7800N router to use on the Ether to Air service. This is to ensure quality on all connections.

For inbound call handling, we will be uploading branded welcome messages and hold music from the client onto our system. We will be using a VoIP phone system queue to ensure that calls are not put through to voicemails or hit engaged. The call queue will also track all calls and report on answer times, abandoned calls and service level agreements.

For conferencing Saffwood is provided a dedicated conference suite with unlimited participants for each VoIP phone system conference phone to allow up to 4 concurrent conferences to take place.

The client is delighted with the solution and how this has been handled. Further orders have now been placed.

First Time Phone System – Recruitment Business – 15.07.14

Posted in API Click to Call, Auto Attendant, Hosted Telephony, recruitment, telephone queuing system, VoIP, VoIP Phone Sysetm, Warrington

Business Phone Systems and VoIP

Business VoIP phone systems are multiple line telephone systems which businesses employ to maximize call efficiency. These systems are more and more commonly used for first time phone systems, phone system upgrades and businesses moving and needing to keep their telephone numbers. Saffwood Communications in Warrington are a specialist VoIP provider for businesses.

Business phone systems are very different, and there are 3 main types: VoIP phone systems, ISDN phone systems, and analogue phone systems. Each can offer different advantages and features covering cost of running the system, cost of setting up, maintenances and what the phone system is capable of doing. VoIP phone systems are now widely accepted as being the leading system in today’s business world as they offer companies the ability to quickly and flexibly scale and unscale the size of their telephony solution.

In this article we will look into detail and different types of phone system, and in particular VoIP phone systems.

VoIP Phone Systems

VoIP phone systems are now the most popular choices when considering a business phone system. They offer very quick setup due to several factors:

VoIP and the internet:

Most phone systems connect to the local exchange (the green box on the street) in order to connect the phone which is making the call to the place that the call is going to. The signal of the call is routed down copper wires from one exchange to the next in a relay until the person being call hears their phone ring. When they answer the phone, it closes the circuit and allows the two callers to have a conversation. This technology has moved on from the past where phone operators used to manually connect the two circuits together.

VoIP phone systems work slightly differently. The VoIP call is routed through the internet rather than a hard line PBX which offers several advantages which we will look at more closely in this article. Firstly there is a voice quality benefit to using business VoIP phone systems. The call is routed to the nearest exchange in the same way that a traditional phone call, however at this point a VoIP phone call is different. Rather than being sent from one exchange to the next until you get to the destination point, the VoIP call is sent to a SIP carrier. The SIP carrier then carries the call directly to the nearest exchange to the destination and rings the destination phone.

The advantage of this method of transfer is that the call is routed through less copper wires. As these copper cables have been in the ground for many winters (up to 100 years) – these can be corroded quote heavily and can lead to bad voice quality.

The next advantage of a VoIP phone system is the setup cost. With other phone systems such as ISDN and analogue, the first port of call is to buy the equipment (once you have selected what you want and why). The equipment you will typically need for this kind of phone system is a PBX, an ISDN box (for ISDN systems), a multiline box and then other ancillary hardware if you need to have call recording. All this equipment can cost easily into the thousands to buy. Once the equipment is bought, you then need to have a professional business install it. For analogue and digital phone systems an engineer will need to survey the exchange. This is to see if the exchange has capacity for the number of lines that you need. This survey can take up to 8 weeks to complete and BT Openreach are the only engineers who are authorised to do this work.

Once the survey has been completed, you will then need to have your equipment installed. This is typically done by who will be your supplier (IE who will bill you for the calls). The installation of the phone system must be done by a professional business to ensure this is implemented correctly. The installation will cost money and depending on the size of the system can easily run into thousands again. Once the system is installed, you will need to pay for line rental and call charges, but also you will need to pay for a maintainer. It’s likely that your supplier will offer to be your maintainer, and this service is a contract so that if your phone system crashes, they will come out to fix it. The cost for a maintenance agreement depends on the size of the system and is typically around £120 per year.

With a VoIP phone system, again there are large differences with this solution, and also the cost. Firstly, as VoIP will run off the internet and not the local exchange, there does not need to be the exchange check. VoIP will use the broadband connection so the only capacity issue is the amount of bandwidth on the connection. A VoIP phone system call will use around 85K of bandwidth (there are 1000K to 1 MB). With some solutions, such as provided by Saffwood Communications in Warrington, you can compress the voice packet down to around 35K, although this can reduce the call quality to mobile phone standards.

Once you have an assessment of your broadband capacity, you can decide how many lines and extensions you want to have. If you need more lines than your broadband allows, you can have multiple broadband connections, or look for connections which have more bandwidth such as ADSL2 or fibre optic. Saffwood Communications in Warrington would recommend that you do not use load balancing routers when using multiple broadband connections for a single VoIP phone system for businesses. The reason for this is that load balancing router will take a single packet of data (the voice being transmitted down the line) and potentially split this over two or more broadband connections (depending how may you have going into the load balancer). This issue here is that the voice packet may arrive at the other end at different times which would mean that the voice is garbled.

Load balancing for VoIP phone systems is better done by manually setting default gateways so that certain phones connect to certain routers via the switch. Alternatively you can just run separate networks to force load balancing.

Looking at cost again, the setup cost for a VoIP phone system is in reality the cost for the handsets and potentially a new router. Handset costs vary based on whether you want fixed deskphones or walkabout phones. The make and model of the phone also changes the cost, but as a guide price a VoIP enabled phone will be from £60 per handset. The quality of router is often overlooked when providing a business VoIP phone system. The router plays a huge part in the quality of the calls. Many cheaper routers, often favoured by ISP’s, have very poor NAT. This means that at worse VoIP phones cannot register, but more commonly that they cannot get inbound calls. The Billion Bipac range of routers is recommended by Saffwood Communications. Other cheap routers cause what are known as signalling issues. A signalling issue is where the router has routed the call, but cannot release it. A classic signalling issue would be phones ringing together as they should (say in a hunt group), but when one answers, the others keep ringing with no one there when they are picked up.

VoIP phones are also more modern so they offer better value for money. Traditional phone systems have been around for decades and in some cases the technology has not fundamentally moved on. As VoIP phone systems for business have come into real usage from 2005 onwards, the technology in and one the phones is far superior.

Installation is another major advantage for a VoIP phone system. Unlike with traditional system, there does not need to be an implementation. With companies life Saffwood Communications who are based in Warrington, the phones arrive pre-configured meaning when they are powered up and plugged into the internet, they automatically connect to a data centre. This means the phone system which is hosted is now connected to the phones it is sending the calls to – this is often referred to as the instant phone system.

There are two types of system when it comes to VoIP: the onsite phone system which still connects the calls via the internet, but the hardware including a PBX is hosted on site. These should typically be avoided as they are usually offered by businesses that supply mainly traditional fixed line phone systems and are just getting into VoIP (IE they don’t have the hosted infrastructure). Saffwood in Warrington repeatedly gets calls from customers who have been sold such onsite systems asking to be moved to our hosted solution.

Hosted phone systems for VoIP mean that all the expensive equipment is house by the supplier, such as Saffwood Communications. This allows handsets onsite to register to our data centre where the intelligence of the phone system is housed. This means that your are able to access top end phone systems for a fraction of the price as the cost of the system has been borne by Saffwood.

It also means that you do not require a maintainer as there is no onsite equipment to maintain. This ensures that as well as being able to increase your buying power, you are also able to reduce ancillary costs too.

So how can a VoIP phone system crash, and what happens if it does?

VoIP systems like any other can crash. Most typically this is down to a local internet issue, or local networking issue. Ensuring you have adequate IT support for your business should be a must with or without VoIP anyway to help support your business in the event that this should happen. Many businesses also now use different network carriers to ensure that if one carrier drops then another is still active (the UK carriers for broadband are Talk Talk, Virgin and BT, with other local ISP’s proving smaller Ethernet to Air services). Saffwood Communications in Warrington ensure that we have redundancy built into all of our clients systems from a software perspective. This means that if our system detects that all phone have expired (IE switched off or no internet connection) then the calls are automatically diverted to a cloud based routing station. Our routing station can ring up to 7 numbers at once including mobiles and landlines, so even if your system does crash, you will have other phones and lines that can seamlessly take the calls until you are back up and running.

But what other issues could affect VoIP?

The supplier themselves must take responsibility for ensuring that they provide a continued, uninterrupted service. There are several areas where suppliers of Hosted VoIP phone systems can ensure they allow business continuity. Firstly there is the equivalent of a fixed line carrier, which in the VoIP community is known as the SIP carrier. A SIP carrier will route the call from when it leaves the VoIP suppliers server to the destination phone (whether this is VoIP or not). There are many things for VoIP phone systems providers to consider when choosing a SIP carrier. Firstly, the quality: the quality of SIP carriers is rated by bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Each level refers to the quality of the call the SIP carrier provides, there overall up time, and how efficiently they get the call to the destination.

By way of an example, a bronze carrier receive a call from a UK VoIP phone system to another UK landline may choose to route this call overseas first (often to Pakistan). This is because by taking the call off the UK carrier relay and finding a point to enter back into the UK close to the destination, the call to the SIP carrier is much cheaper. This cost reduction is passed onto the VoIP provider allowing them to make more money. A platinum SIP provider would route the call within the UK only ensuring that the quality of the call is higher. The call cost is also a little higher. VoIP providers who offer very low line rental are typically the ones who are using poorer grade carriers. The headline prices are used to entice customers into a contract after which the call quality is identified after.

The call costs with VoIP phone systems for business are also less than they would be with traditional phone systems. Most phone systems will charge a call connection fee (an instant charge which is applied as soon as the line connects). Calls are then bill in whole minutes, so a 10 second call would include the call setup fee and 1 full minute. VoIP phone systems from Saffwood in Warrington charge in 10 second increments with no call connection fees. VoIP phone systems typically also charge less for pence per minutes anyway due to how efficiently they route the calls.

Posted in Failover & Redundancy, Hosted Telephony, VoIP, VoIP Phone Sysetm, Warrington

VoIP Phone Systems – What Happens When The Internet Crashes?

There are many associated benefits of a hosted VoIP phone system. From increases business flexibility and mobility to reduce cost and offering better customer service – but what happens what things don’t work as well?

Saffwood Communications based in Warrington invest heavily into redundancy and failover so that if a customer experiences a drop in connectivity, there is an alternative.

There are several reasons that a VoIP phone sysem can fail:

  • Carrier Dropout

VoIP depends on carriers. These are the suppliers that carry the voice traffic over the networks from your phone to where the call is going. SIP carriers do have temporary drops in traffic. These can be caused by several factors including too much VoIP traffic being carried over the network. When this occurs, you can get latency with the VoIP call or total loss.

  • VoIP phone system provider failure

This is where your VoIP phone system provider has an issue. This can be firewall errors, hardware failure and connectivity loss at their end

  • Local internet issues

If the customers internet service drops then the VoIP phone system cannot function.

So what’s the solution? Saffwood in Warrington has a simple yet highly effective failover option should the worst happen. For all customers we now offer a free 0843 number which is hosted on different cloud platforms to ensure that they are always available. This service will ring up to 7 different lines including landlines, mobiles and VoIP lines. We reccomend that our VoIP phone system customers advertise this number clearly on their websites. That way if there is a loss in service, then inbound calls can still be routed to fixed lines and mobiles.

If you would like a quote for a VoIP phone system, then contact Saffwood Communications on 0845 241 1008. We are a national company based in Warrington.

 

Posted in Failover & Redundancy, Hosted Telephony, VoIP, VoIP Phone Sysetm, Warrington

VoIP Phone System or Fixed Line System?

A Guide To Hosted VoIP Phone Systems

Phone systems go by many names and type, the most commonly referred to are ISDN2, ISDN30, Analogue phone systems such as Panasonic, and then there are VoIP phone systems. These systems make their phone calls over the internet by routing the call from an IP phone, down an Ethernet cable, then from your router via the public exchange network (in some parts, but we’ll come to that).

In 2013 – Q2 2014, VoIP phone systems have been the most popular service for businesses looking to improve how they communicate (upgrading) and new businesses looking to implement a first time phone system. So will VoIP be the way businesses move going forward: let’s take a look:

VoIP explained

VoIP, also known as Voice Over IP, Voice over internet protocol, Hosted IP telephony (and many more names) has been around for a long time. Dating back to the nineteen seventies, it was first used by the united states defence, a branch of the government.

Analogue telephones work by establishing a closed circuit between two users, the one making the call and the one receiving the call. Sat in the middle of these two connections is an exchange service (going back quite a few years you may remember BT operators madly connecting wires into ports). This is because one connection between two callers needed one exclusive wire.

VoIP phone systems use a different method of routing telephone calls. This is because the call starts life as a digital packet of data which needs to be translated from a packet to a readable format ready to be received by an analogue or digital line. There are various methods of doing this, but the main one is called codec switching.

Typically the method of switching voice traffic between different formats would cause serious issues with voice quality, which for a long time was associated to VoIP phone systems due to Skype. In the last 10 years, vast improvements, especially for business systems, have meant that the VoIP is now a highly reliable service with the quality of voice traffic being equal to if not better than a standard telephone call from a phone system.

The internet has become more accessible to home and businesses uses; and as it becomes faster, more affordable and stable, businesses are relying more and more on IP networks and the internet for business critical services, most prominently telephone calls made via VoIP phone system and services. This has become so popular, that it is now the number one option for new businesses due to the high quality o phone calls, the low setup cost and low running costs.

There are different ways in which a VoIP phone call can be made:

  • Peer to Peer. This is where one VoIP service will call another with the same provider. This is free with IP telephony.
  • IP phone to public branch exchange. This is where a VoIP phone system will call a none IP based service (another telephone)

So why are VoIP phone systems so popular, and will they really go on to replace the regular phone systems for businesses? There are always other questions to, such as is VoIP a good quality call, and what happens if my internet goes down?

What are the benefits and downfalls of VoIP phone systems?

There are several key advantages to a hosted VoIP phone systems: these are:

  • Cost – calls made via a IP phone systems are much cheaper than traditional systems due to lower call rates, lower billing segments and no call connection fees.
  • Setup speed – businesses are able to have a phone system implemented in days not weeks or months
  • Mobility – with a VoIP phone system, you can take your number anywhere in the UK or indeed with world

When making internal calls, or site to site calls where both VoIP phones are with the same provider, then these calls are free of charge. This is because the call is routed purely over the incumbent suppliers servers rather than being transferred via a public exchange service. For businesses that make many inter-site calls, this can offer a significant cost saving all on its own.

Behind the scenes, VoIP is a little more complex when getting a call from a VoIP phone system to a no VoIP phone. To achieve this, there are various processes used including gateway switching and codecs; but rememeber, you don’t really need to know all this, all you need is a high quality phone system which works, which is what Saffwood Communications in Warrington offers.

Unlike calls made from one IP phone to another, calls that are made to traditional phones are not free of charge. This is because the service needs to move off the VoIP phone system network and onto a traditional exchange service provided by the likes of BTVirgin and Talk Talk Business.

Whilst these types of phone call are not free of charge, they are generally far less costly that calls made from other types of phone system such as ISDN2, ISDN30 or PSTN phone systems. These calls are routed through SIP relays which transport the call the majority of the way from the destination via the cloud rather than routing the call through the typical exchange service. This means that the call does not need to be routed on as many copper wires which have been in the ground for nearly 80 years offering improved call quality. Is also means the associated cost is less for VoIP calls for businesses too.

Being able to harmonise how your business operates with VoIP phone systems is a major advantage. This is because hosted VoIP phone systems do not need a maintainer to service any hardware. Apart from the handsets, there is no hardware on site. This reduces an often redundant cost immediately. Also, it seamlessly integrates your team through applications such as unified communications. For inbound, VoIP phone systems offer a raft of features such as telephone queuing systems, auto attendants and call recording. For businesses in Warrington, Saffwood offers free onsite consultations.

One of the main questions Saffwood Communications is asked is: what if the internet goes down? If this happens, we have a redundancy service which ensures that your calls can be instantly routed by the system to up to 7 landlines and or mobiles. This allows business continuity automatically by the VoIP phone system in the event of your broadband being affected. For those interested in the quality of VoIP, Saffwood in Warrington offers free 14 days trials to businesses with 100 free minutes and inbound telephone queuing system.

Once you understand the basic principles of VoIP phone systems, the next logical step is to start making a few test calls so that you can experience the quality for yourself. Here’s how:

How can I experience VoIP for myself?

The easiest way to use VoIP is firstly to install a softphone client on your PC or Mac. You’ll also need an internet connection and a PC / Mac headset. From there you can take advantage of a 14 day trial from Saffwood based in Warrington (we operate nationally).

With a softphone which you can download free of charge, you are then able to make calls to any phone number you wish. This allows you to test the quality of phone calls. You are also able to buy an IP phone, we recommend Cisco phones where you can use on-phone functionality such as call hold, transfer, divert, voicemail and much more.

If you want to use a landline with VoIP, then you can buy an adaptor phone this. Simple plug in your traditional phone line to the adaptor, then the adaptor to the router and your calls will be routed over this network to your IP provider.

What are the other benefits of VoIP.

With VoIP phone systems, you are able to access many services that traditional systems cannot provide.

  • Choose to refuse: this means you can block calls from numbers that you do not want to speak to permanently
  • Caller Display: will show the caller ID of anyone calling you
  • Divert: this service lets you divert all calls from any number of your choice. You are able to do this from a Cisco phone or web portal
  • Call recording: this allows 100% call recording of all calls made to and from your system.
  • Queue – if you get more calls
  • Conference – this is a free service that costs nothing to dial into and allows free conferencing to all parties.
  • Voicemail service – This can be branded and will send the voicemail to email as well

These are just some of the features that may be offered by a VoIP provider.

Hopefully by reading the earlier parts of this guide you now have a greater understanding of what VoIP is and how it works. So should you opt for VoIP internet phone instead of a landline? This section will help you decide.

VoIP or Fixed Line Solutions?

Choosing between VoIP phone systems and fixed line phone systems is an important decision as it will vastly effect how your business is able to operate both in the short and the long term.

The main reasons to choose a hosted VoIP phone service would be the features it offers, the cost reductions for both setup and ongoing, and the rapid deployment, mobility and scalability which it offers. As well as these offerings, being able to tie your VoIP system into things like mobile phones and PC’s offers if greater flexibility. For businesses that rely on web traffic and web conversion, items such as call me now offer great functionality and user experience as it allows people with no VoIP phones to be instantly connected to you.

The only downside for very small businesses and home workers is that an ADSL line is required, which means you must still pay for an analogue line rental and broadband service upon which your VoIP system will work off.

For businesses calling overseas, the cheap rates that Saffwood in Warrington offers for both international landline and mobile calls would be a huge benefit as it would reduce costs. If you have a client overseas that you always call, you could even setup a phone at their end and make free calls all the time.

When looking at your business phone charges, it would be worth seeing how many of these calls last a part minute, for example 1 minute and 10 seconds, or 30 seconds. For these calls, you are always billed up to the minute, where as Saffwood Communications located in Warrington, would only charge in 10 second increments reducing the call charge

Looking at the market for businesses in the UK, it would strongly point towards that fact that VoIP phone systems are going to be around for a long time, and in fact they are likely to grow in popularity.

Posted in Call Recording, Failover & Redundancy, Hosted Telephony, telephone queuing system, VoIP, VoIP Phone Sysetm, Warrington

VoIP Phone Systems & Services – The Full Breakdown

There are many ways of delivery voice calls in modern times. None has had such an impact as VoIP phone systems. These are calls that are placed over the internet to any phone whether it is an IP phone or traditional analogue phone. The terms most well know with VoIP phone systems are IP phone systems, internet phone systems, and hosted phone systems. All of these share the same core principle which is a phone call placed from an internet line to an exchange though SIP relays (which we will cover in far more detail)

When we refer to a VoIP phone system, we talk about communications offerings such as talk, or voice, fax to email and even SMS. All of these services traverse over the general public network services rather than a standard analogue PBX (public branch exchange), or the PSTN system. The way these calls are handled and placed is very similar to that of the traditional analogue and digital phone network in that calls are signaled, channeled, then digitally created for analogue conversion though encoding methods. Rather than being sent over a circuit based network, the digital voice information is converted to what is known as data-packet (a compressed voice packet). These packets mean that some consideration is required in regards to bandwidth resource to ensure that call quality remains to a very high standard.

Perhaps the earliest version, at least from a well know perspective was Skype. Skype was enjoyed by mainly home users wanting to make free phone calls from one PC to another, mainly overseas. As this was a peer to peer service, it meant that the phone call never hit the public exchange. As a VoIP phone system, Skype has traditionally failed as a service as there is a large hangover due to poor voice quality. The lack of quality was down to the early nature of Skype, after all it was the first mainstream pioneer. But also that consumers didn’t understand what made the service tick, such as bandwidth (you can image a frustrated phone call whilst someone streams a movie eating up all the bandwidth). In recent years Skype has been bought by Microsoft which has pushed the service back to a business led offering. The issue here is that other businesses got it right the first time round. Saffwood Communications which is based in Warrington made massive investments early on to have a presence for it’s hostedVoIP phone systems in 6 UK data centre’s allow it to provide outstanding redundancy at the soft-switch level to business across the UK.

VoIP phone systems use a variety of means to ensure that the calls are placed with high speed and quality, even on slower speed connections. This is achieved by the use of protocols which can prep a call and end the call when required. Specialized codecs that were traditionally used for video conferencing services have now been brought to bear to support the business focus service to allow voice and media to be relayed seamlessly. To help with HD voice services, voice packets can be compressed to reduce the amount of bandwidth which is required to make a VoIP call from a phone system. There are many well know and highly used codecs such as the G range, including G.729 which is often used for softhpones. Softphones are becoming increasingly popular with the advent of smartphones. These are installed an an app onto the phone then use the codec to route the voice call though 3G or 4G where wireless is not available to the phone. Typically a VoIP voice call uses 85K or bandwidth, but with compression this can be compacted down to 35K. An item to be aware of with compression is that as the data packet is smaller, if a section of it is lost, the call quality is effected more than it would be on a none compressed call. To understand this, imagine the call was 100 parts, and each part was a word. Now imagine that the call is 10 parts, each containing 10 words, if you lose 1 part, you lose more words. In reality each “part” is actually a packet of data which has been digitally compress and converted, ready to be converted to an analogue end point.

As mentioned, VoIP phone systems now pair with smartphones, IP phones and PC’s allowing businesses to have the flexibility they need covering cost, ease of business, mobility and scalability. In 2013, UK Benchmarking found that business moved towards VoIP by a landslide of 67% vs traditional phone systems such as panasonic, ISDN and other analogue systems. This was due to the high levels of features that are available on an IP based system vs. that of others which are premised based rather than hosted. For businesses in Warrington, we offer a free trial of our service, and offer our services to businesses UK wide.

How to Pronounce Terms

The most common term for voice over internet protocol is VoIP. This is mainly used by both businesses and consumers. It is pronounced ver-oi-p. Other less common terms used are ver-oi-pee, although this is more typical in the state than in the UK. Voice over IP is another very commonly used term. Businesses often assume that a hosted system means the same thing, but what is really refers to is where the equipment is based. We’ll cover this is more detail in this article.

So What is a Protocol?

A protocol is a method to get a voice to convert from a traditional packet to a digital packet and back again. There are proprietary ones and open. VoIP system examples of this include

The most widely used one is H323 which is actually a mixture of other protocols (confused yet, don’t worry, you don’t really need to know all this for your VoIP system to work. All you need to do is pickup a ringing line and have a conversation – we’ll worry about the rest). But anyway: these are used for short and long distance traffic, as well as local (LAN, or local area network). However better protocols have been developed, or bundled together in recent years (hence why Skype had such a terrible time of it). These newer protocols with most notably SIP entering the business market place. More on SIP later but this allowed businesses with existing hardware to befit from new services including IP best telephony

So who is using this technology?

The domestic user

In the mid 20th century a large developmental process was started which brought VoIP services to all parts of the UK including Warrington. As broadband become less expensive, quicker (with the advent of ADSL2 and fibre) and more stable, home users were increasing able to use the service. Unlike businesses who often had dedicated lines for broadband, home user had a single line with broadband on it. This heralded the ATA, analogue tech adapter., This simple box allowed consumers to plug their home phone into the internet where is could then access the VoIP phone system if require for the host of services that were normally not possible. These included queuing systems and IVR’s. It also allowed CPS through IP telephone (Carrier Pre-Selected) which meant that the call wasn’t routed via the incumbent supplier, say BT). So when a call was made, rather than BT billing the customer for the call, the supplier of the Hosted VoIP phone system would route and bill for that call. The added advantage here for domestic users was that these calls, especially for overseas, were much cheaper than standard analogue calls, even when call packages were taken into account. For a business based on Warrington, Saffwood Communications was able to reduce their international spend by 43% due to much lower call charges, no connection fees and lower billing segments.

VoIP systems can connect straight to networks by employing techniques including Ethernet LAN or WAP. The phones are designed and manufactured in the style of traditional units so that the user functionality is similar giving a better customer experience.

We have already discussed an ATA. This is hardware that allows traditional phone systems to connection to IP networks. These are particularly useful for single line businesses or domestic users where the broadband is on the same line.

Again, we have already covered some of the functionality of a Softphone which is an application which can be installed onto a PC, a MAC, tablet device or mobile application. These display a traditional dial pad and will allow VoIP calls to be routed to that device. The cost of these applications is typically low, or free, allowing businesses to take advantage of these technologies for very little capital expense.

Analogue & Mobile Networks

Telecom service operators are more and more turning to VoIP systems over private networks to allow data centre’s to relay calls with more and more service providers. This is now a prevelent activity throughout most of the modern world. Think: when you make a call from a VoIP system, you are sending that call through a series of SIP relay stations across the UK, and indeed the world, to the point that the call needs to ring.

Businesses Usage for VoIP Systems To Maximize ROI

With broadband coming an increasing core element within businesses, this has pushed ISP through government backing to provide faster, more robust services to companies. If you take the “rural broadband rollout: there has been considerable pressure for ISP (internet service providers) to install fibre connections to rural areas that are “technologically isolated”. For main towns such as London, Manchester and Warrington, broadband connections offer ADSL, ADSL2+, fibre, EFM and lease lines. These connections allow businesses to migrate from copper connections to VoIP phone systems to improve efficiency and reduce cost. Post 2008, over 75% of new phone systems were VoIP or SIP. This shows a massive move towards this technology as businesses realize the power of this service.

There are many “flavours” of VoIP systems. A common one is unified communications which harmonizes several applications into one user interface. These are commonly video, voice, email and instant messenger. IT businesses and call centres are drawn towards unified communications as this also offers the presence service allowing uses to see who is on line, and what their VoIP system status is (IE talking, idle etc). The SOHO and small to medium business market have seen particular benefit due to the low charges for setup, no installation fees and low running costs. With hosted VoIP phone systems, a maintainer is not required as the only hardware which is on premise are the phones themselves. For business in and around Warrington, Saffwood offers free setup and free site surveys to ensure that data points (where ethernet cables are house) are close to work stations.

Whilst VoIP systems will allow both voice and data to be transferred over the same network, it is sometime more advisable to have a separate broadband connection for voice, and another for data. The judgment call here is: what do you use the internet for? If it us a smaller number of uses on the system, and the internet usage is general browsing and emails, then a single connection (of average speeds) is typically okay. In the case of heavy usage, thing graphic designers uploading large files, a separate connection is always reccomended

As discussed, cost is a main advantage for VoIP phone systems. A typical ISDN channel connection is £15 per month, and must be bought in pairs of 2 (IE you have to pay 2x £15 even if you need just one extra line / channel). With VoIP systems, you can choose from any number of lines and extensions. For example, you would pay a certain amount for each concurrent call you want to be able to make and receive, then a lower cost for additional extensions. Each extension can make and receive a call as long as one of the VoIP lines is free on the system. Where all lines are in use and a call comes in, most solutions will offer a telephone queuing system.

An advantage to a VoIP phone system is the user interface that acts as the PBX. Think of a PBX as the brain of any system: it decides where calls get routed, if calls should be allowed through (think call barring) – it can even dictate what happens to caller ID’s (IE you could put a certain caller ID, perhaps an important client, directly to a certain extension). With ISDN PBX’s, typically you need an external company or an IT technician to use the software, however with VoIP phone systems, the UI (user interface) is so simplistic, the day to day office worker is more than capable of controlling the system. Common things that can be controlled are: direct dials, incoming call rules, voicemail alerts and much more.

Ensuring a robust service with VoIP

A fundamental concern for businesses when considering a VoIP phone system is: how do I ensure quality of service, and continuous service. After all, the call is being transferred down the internet, what happens if the internet goes down or we lose voice quality? Both of these questions are important, and it is equally important for businesses to understand the risk and danger areas that can be associated with a VoIP solution. The two main areas that will effect an IP call will be: packet loss and latency.

Most routers will deal with data requests based on which one was made first. This means that if a high volume of data and voice requests are made at the same time, say 500 calls being made at once, there isn’t enough processing power and bandwidth to action all these requests at the same time. This would cause backup on the router meaning a delay with information being passed back and tow between callers (you would hear a delay with people hearing what you are saying and visa-versa).

The solution for this in many businesses mind is to attach the VoIP system to a load balancing router. The issue here is that load balancers will split up the data packet (think that a 100K call is in fact containing the codec code for what you have said). A load balancer, which connects a single router to several broadband connections may send 50K down one line and 50K down another line. If these packets do not arrive at the end point at exactly the same time, then the call will become garbled. Manual load balancing is far better, IE have a dedicated line for data (browsing) and another for voice (talking). This means that there is always enough capacity from a router processing perspective and from a bandwidth perspective to handle the amount of traffic.

Traffic can be prioritized with QOS (Quality of Service) Systems for VoIP phone systems. This is effective when a leased line is being used. This would mean the business only has one broadband connection, but this is a dedicated line with 1:1 contention. This is ideal, and common for call centre’s, where their VoIP phone system is likely to be for a high number of users, many of which will be accessing web services and cloud based solutions. A QOS needs to be programmed to recognize VoIP system traffic and identify this as such. This is done by telling the QOS what ports the VoIP service will use. Once the QOS service has this programmed in, if there was a shortfall of bandwidth, then rather than the voice traffic becoming backed up, this would take precedence over data traffic (say a download from a website) so that the voice is transmitted with perfect quality. Whilst this is a robust solution, it is also costly and typically only larger business tend to opt for this solution. Smaller business are unlikely to require this as manual load-balancing will handle that issue with much lower cost.

Other areas of risk for IP telephony systems is fixed capacity. This is where and maximum limit has been set within the local area network (often done by IT managers to restrict total bandwidth usage as this often causes routers to go into an admin reset process). Distributed Denial of Service attacks have been made popular by Anonymous. This is where huge volumes of data requests are directed at a website or network causing is to fail. Thankfully DoS against SME’s in the UK is very rare, but again is an important consideration when thinking about a VoIP system.

When calls are being made internationally, there may be some unavoidable latency, as there would be from any other type of phone, be it analogue or ISDN system. This is down to the amount of exchanges and or switches the call must be relayed over. These can be minimized with a VoIP system by ensuring that the provider only uses Gold and Premium routes for SIP relay. This means that the call is taken over the most geographically efficient, and quality enabled path. Many, seemingly cheaper providers, will use low grade routes that needlessly route calls overseas even when the call is UK to UK. This allows them to access very cheap rates, but the call quality suffers as a result of this. Whilst Saffwood is based in Warrington, we use 6 data centre’s within the united Kingdom, and will only use Gold and Premium routes for our calls.

There are two types of porting codec for VoIP. These are TCP and UDP. Some VoIP system providers use TCP, but UDP is more common. When the amount of data being channeled down and switch is so large that over spilling occurs, TCP will reduce the transfer rate to accommodate this. Whilst UDP does not support this function, users for VoIP phone systems can avoid packet loss by employing QoS as mentioned which will see a large surge of data, then prioritise the voice traffic again of this to ensure that the voice call gets out first and does not end up backlogged behind – which again would lead to latency.

So far in this article, we have looked at how calls are made out. The technology receiving a call plays a huge part in the process too. When an IP packet arrives at a none VoIP enabled phone, then conversion is required to turn the data into something which can be relayed. Several things take place to enabled this including jitter reduction, buffering and codec realignment.

PSTN & VoIP Phone Systems

There is a way to connect PSTN protocol through VoIP gateways. This is a hardware and software connection that allows a PSTN network device to access a IP telephony solution.

The most common example of this is SIP integration. Many businesses with large, existing ISDN phone systems would face initial costs to move to a VoIP phone system. This is because VoIP uses IP enabled handsets to make calls. Phones for digital systems and analogue systems will not work when plugged into an ethernet port. To avoid this issue, SIP was introduced. The most common employment of this is changing an ISDN PBX for an IP PBX. If you recall, a PBX is the brain of any phone system. By swapping a PBX for an IP PBX, you will be able to keep your existing hardware whilst changing to a different solution. This makes sense for large businesses with many handsets. For smaller business, it make more commercial sense to change the handsets as the associated cost for this is much lower than an IP PBS, the csot of which ranges from £1500 – £5000 depending what functionality is required.

 

Porting a Number to a VoIP service.

Being able to retain a phone number when moving to a VoIP phone system is vital. Businesses with long histories of trading will have an established phone number which they would need to continue to use to allow customers and prospective customers to continue to contact them seamlessly. There are a variety of options and advantages for businesses looking to move their phone number to a VoIP system. The process for moving a number is also straight forwards. At a glance the new VoIP service provider will make a porting request to the losing part for the number/s. Once done, the new service provider will need to setup routing to enable the number to “migrate”. There is no downtime or disruption with this process when exercised correctly.

Sometimes numbers cannot be ported. This can be that due to the fact that the new / old service provider do not have porting agreements. This can be true when trying to port one VoIP held number to another VoIP provider. In most cases, even if the number is hosted by an IP telephone provider, the range hold is still typically BT, Virgin or Talk Talk (the main UK carriers).

Where businesses, or consumers only have one line with broadband on it, this presents a challenge for a VoIP phone system provider to take over the number. This is because when a number is ported, the line it has been ported from will cease (you can’t have a phone line without a number). Where the line is only being used as a phone line, this is not an issue as the VoIP line will have picked up the number at the same time. Where the line carries broadband, dropping the phone line will also terminate the broadband service. The two proven methods to resolve this are

  • Setup a new phone line and broadband service, then port the number leaving the new line carrying the internet
  • Place a caller diversion from the main analogue telephone line onto the VoIP phone systems main number. This works better when the line being diverted from has an unlimited call bundle for local calls at it avoids a call charge for diverting the call. Even if 50 calls are made at the same time to the analogue line, all calls will be passed to the VoIP system where is can be handled and if required queued.

Caller ID Presentation with VoIP Phone Systems

With a traditional phone the caller ID it will typically display the telephone number associated with the line. Some services offer to make the caller ID anonymous. With ISDN phone systems, you are able to pay to change the caller ID, or Caller Line Identity Presentation (CLIP). This is typically used for businesses that need to display a non geographic number (NGN) such as an 0800 or an 0845. These businesses tend to operate nationally rather than in a local area. With a VoIP phone system, you are able to set your CLIP to any number you wish. There are rules and regulations as to what number you can and cannot display when using VoIP in this method. Firstly you must be the owner, responsible for, or related to the number that you are displaying from the system. For example, you would not be allowed to display a number for another business as this would be classed as Spoofting.

There are also other numbers that reputable VoIP system providers will be wary of displaying due to their association with scamming. Most notably amongst these are 070 numbers and 090 numbers as both are high revenue generated or premium rate numbers.

Some specialist providers, such as Saffwood Communications in Warrington, are also able to provide multiple local and national numbers on one system. This allows businesses with a national presence to establish a local presence throughout the UK. The challenge is then, when you are ringing out, what CLIP do you present? This is where CLI localization comes in (caller Line Identity Presentation). This will detect the local area that is being dialled, for example 01925 for Warrington, or 0161 for Manchester. When it sees the area code being dialled, it will then present the assoicated phone number for the VoIP phone system for that area. So for example, if you had 01925 123456 for Warrington, 0161 123 4567 for Manchester, when dialling a Warrington 01925 number, you would display 01925 123456 as the caller ID, and when dialling and Manchester 0161 number, would present 0161 123 4567. Naturally you would need a valid phone number for each geographic area, but a VoIP provider such as Saffwood would be able to help you in identifying your top calling areas so that you can focus on getting DDI’s (Direct Dial’s) for those area.

CLI localization is a specialist product and is not available on standard phone systems.

Fax support With VoIP

Support for fax has been problematic in many VoIP implementations, as most voice digitization and compression codecs are optimized for the representation of the human voice and the proper timing of the modem signals cannot be guaranteed in a packet-based, connection-less network. An alternative IP-based solution for delivering fax-over-IP called T.38 is available. Sending faxes using VoIP is sometimes referred to as FoIP, or Fax over IP.

Running a reliable service for fax over a VoIP service has been dogged with issues from the conception of voice over IP. The reason is the most codecs used for IP telephone have been geared toward the transference of a voice rather than a modem signaled packet related data (different than voice packets which we have discussed). By using t38, sending a fax to a VoIP line is possible. What is required however is what is known as fax-to-email where the data is converted to a PDF in transit and then emailed as an attachment to the elected email address.

There are several issues when trying to port standard fax numbers to VoIP fax to email. The main issue is that certain carrier will support this process, but if the number being ported has come from a none supportive carrier, this can cause complications when transferred. In most cases, a new fax number would need to be provided. The other living with it challenge is that numbers supplied as part of a sequential range block cannot be used for Fax. This is due to the way that the numbers are handed out by the global registrar (IE they are set for voice traffic only and not for fax).

Powering Your VoIP Phone System

Analogue telephones draw their power from the phone socket which in turn is powered from the national electricity grid. Even if you internal electric circuits fuse, in many cases your analogue phones will still be active as they get the power from the exchange.

VoIP phones must be powered by mains as their connections are either an Ethernet cable or a power cable into mains supply. Ethernet cables, or RJ45 cables, can also provide POE (Power over Ethernet).

For POE, you will need a POE switch which all the LAN cables can go into. These then provide the power down the LAN connection. The advantage here for VoIP phone systems which are larger in size is that less power sockets are required and also there is a cost saving as less power cubes are required for the IP phones.

Failover & Redundancy

It is important to ensure that your VoIP phone system provider has suitable redundancy, also known as fail over. This typically means that wherever and however they are hosting your solution, (in the case of hosted VoIP) – that if their kit fails, they have backup. Saffwood in Warrington as an example as kit in 6 data centres over the UK. This means that if the kit fails, or the data centre has an issue, then there are other data centres ready to pickup the load and traffic. Failover and redundancy does not end there. As covered, when a VoIP call is made, it is relayed over SIP providers (effectively the carriers of the call). SIP carriers can have issues due to load (too many calls) and can also fail. If this is the case, and the VoIP system provider does not have other SIP carriers, you will not be able to make phone calls. Saffwood based in Warrington has multiple carriers to ensure that if one has an issue, there are others that can take the traffic.

Other resources

Posted in CLI localisation, Failover & Redundancy, Hosted Telephony, VoIP, VoIP Phone Sysetm, Warrington

VoIP Phone System Call Recording

Call Recording on Hosted VoIP Phone Systems From Saffwood

Call recording for businesses has major advantages. On traditional phone systems, having call recording implemented means the use of 3rd party software which is applied and the exchange, or for smaller businesses, hardware that plugs into the phone.

These two options have major downfalls for phone system users. The first is costly and offers an expence as a pence per minute is applied for the call recording, plus a monthly hosting fee for the service and storage space.

The second option means that recordings a stored on individual devices meaning accessing these reording in a quick, easy way is not possible.

With a hosted VoIP phone system for a small monthly fee per extension or user, call recording can be added.

As VoIP phone systems are in effect a software package, mean that all the equipment bar the handsets are stored by the supplier, you don’t need to pay high prices, or indeed a cost per minute.

Saffwood Communications supplies services for phone systems nationally. We are based in Warrington Cheshire and have a large presence in the area. Within the Warrington area we offer business a free VoIP trial including 100 free minutes of call time over a 14 day period.

Call recordings can be access via your VoIP web portal which comes as part of your phone system. Calls can be search for by number – this gives you a full history of all calls made to and from that number. You can also search by user and date, or all three for an accurate search.

Some VoIP providers, such as Saffwood, will only charge a fixed price and offer unlimited storage space for call recordings.

With our hosted VoIP phone service, you also get API’s which can turn call recordings both off and on. This is useful for when you only want to record part of a call, such as for PIC compliance.

Posted in Call Recording, Hosted Telephony, VoIP, VoIP Phone Sysetm, Warrington

Disaster Recovery With VoIP Phone Systems

With any phone system, whether it is premise based such as ISDN or or hosted, such as VoIP, ensuring you know what to do in the event the worst should happen is vital.

For premise based phone systems this typically means a service agreement with an engineering company which can quickly be on site if your hardware fails. A huge danger with premise based phone systems is that if a line is severed in the builder, or worse on the public street, or the exchange is damaged (calls outs in winter months for business rise by 33%). If your system fails in this manner, you could be facing days if not weeks of downtime.

With hosted VoIP phone systems the dangers of premised based systems are not there, but as with any system, nothing is 100% fail safe. The main issue that can face VoIP customers is the internet failing. So how can you mitigate this issue, and what do you do if the internet does go down?

Don’t leave it to chance:

VoIP can be part of any businesses communications recovery plan. But what happens if the internet goes down? First and foremost, we need to look at why the internet goes down. the core reason for this is:

Issue with the ISP (internet service provider)

Line damage (typically due to bad weather).

If the issue is ISP specific, then a great option is to have two internet connections in your building with two different carriers. The three UK carriers are BT, Talk Talk Business and Virgin. This means that if BT has a fault, Talk Talk and Virgin would not necessarily have the same problem.

In the instance that what line drops, it’s an easy job to take the ADSL / DSL out of one router and plug it into the other.

When considering a VoIP implementation, businesses tend to discuss cost savings, unifying communications and the best way measure productivity. One thing that does not get discussed enough is how you can use VoIP to ensure continuous communications in the event of disaster.

Mitigating disasters on a PSTN network is very difficult and very expensive. Typically, this means  trunk lines and phone systems  to help redirect calls from one location to another. But in a short space of time, there is no way on a PSTN network to get the lines back up quickly

VoIP works acts just like any other IP-based application. Email as an example: No matter where the user us they do not need not worry about the geographic location of the mail server. The same is the case for IP VoIP telephony, no matter where you are, you can plug in and go.

Covergence, interoperability  are key when disaster planning

Converging voice and data onto one network and ensuring that all your devices work together is key to communications continuity. This was hammered home by Cisco and other key business who got together to discuss best practices for continued communication during a catastrophe. A seminar on keeping telecoms up and running in the event of a disaster. polled 1,000 IT managers found that 96% of organizations aren’t confident that they could communicate in a disaster.

@40805 The key, according to Clinch, is establishing interoperability, not only through unified communications — VoIP, messaging, presence and other technologies — but also by creating infrastructures that allow communication devices such as radios to interoperate with each other.

Using industry standards and protocols, many businesses can harmonise their operations and share applications over networks. VoIP is a vital part of the puzzle, and to use IP communication tools businesses don’t need to replace equipment which is already there and translate it to the world of internet protocol

The best method for businesses to harness VoIP phone systems for disaster recover is to have two broadband lines, each with different carriers, then pay holding fees with VoIP suppliers that in the event of disaster, they provision lines for you within SLA timescales.

For businesses in Warrington, Saffwood Communications is happy to offer a free consultation services which looks at the current phone system setup and will identify areas where VoIP can help the businesses improve. As a specialist supplier of hosted phone systems in Warrington, we have a national reach and national customer base.

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Transform Your Business with VoIP phone systems

Transform Your Business with VoIP phone systems

VoIP, or as it is sometimes know, voice over Internet Protocol is the backbone for highly cost effective telephone contact. It also offers more advanced functions such as unified communication applications which can transform the way you run your business. VoIP phones can help your company reduce cost, improve how you work and enhance productivity far beyond that of ordinary business phones.

VoIP Phone system Terminology

  • VoIP refers to a way to handle calls over an IP data network infrastructure, whether on the Internet or your own internal internet. A benefit of a VoIP phone is its ability to help reduce expenses and boost features and services.
  • IP telephony offers the full suite of VoIP services:
    • The interconnection of VoIP to VoIP phones
    • Related services such as reduced billing
    • Basic features, such as conferencing, transfer, forward, and hold, call divert, hunt groups and more
  • IP communications includes applications which enhance communications on a VoIP phone, providing features such as:
    • Unified messaging
    • Integrated contact centers and call centres
    • Multimedia conferencing with voice, data, and video, email and more.
  • Unified communications takes IP communications further by using such technologies as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) for ISDN customers and presence, along with mobility solutions (mobile connectivity), to unify and simplify all forms of communications on a VoIP phone, independent of location, time, or device.

VoIP Phone Service Quality

Most companies are using a VoIP phone throughout their own managed private networks as well as the public Internet. A private network helps ensure security and service quality. A VoIP phone system on a private network also gives better control over voice quality which is better than the quality provided by a traditional phone system.

Posted in Hosted Telephony, VoIP, VoIP Phone Sysetm, Warrington