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.