As VoIP increasingly shifts into the mainstream more businesses are going through the process of selecting the best phone systems for their needs. asked Terry Martin, CEO of Coms PLC, to explain some of the options surrounding business VoIP and offer some basic guidelines for SMEs.

Voice over IP (VoIP) telephony uses the internet to make and receive phone calls using a broadband connection instead of standard phone lines.

As broadband bandwidth increases, call quality and reliability has also greatly improved, making VoIP a realistic option for every business.

However, as with all technologies, the options and choices can be just as confusing as the technology itself. There are four primary types of internet telephone system:

  • Free IP-PBX: Download free software and setup your own VoIP IP-PBX server
  • Managed IP-PBX: A vendor will install and manage an IP-PBX server on your premises
  • Hosted IP-PBX: A supplier delivers a VoIP service without a server on your premises
  • Add a VoIP Gateway or Card to your existing, traditional PBX.

By far, the simplest, and most flexible options is the Hosted IP-PBX service which is centrally monitored, updated and managed.

This means that the customer pays a monthly bill and the day to day management of the service is taken care of by the service provider.

A hosted service provides all the benefits that might be expected in a VoIP solution but takes away the stress and confusion.

Terry Martin, CEO ComsPLC

But how can small and medium sized businesses benefit from a hosted VoIP service?

Firstly, customers are immediately updated when new features are available. This means there is no expensive equipment upgrade a few years down the road.

Scalability is an important point for ambitious, growing companies as customers only pay for the seats they need on a monthly basis. With a hosted service, extra network members can be added to a system at the click of a button without the cost of a new line.

With a hosted VoIP service, the customer can integrate teleworkers and customer service lines through their own broadband connections. In addition, features such as an automated switchboard, voicemail to email, and conference calling for example, come as standard with most business packages.

A hosted VoIP service is very mobile and lends itself well to remote working. Using a dual mode mobile, such as the new Nokia e Series range, the customer can access their network via a Wi-Fi connection and continue to make VoIP calls at the same minimal cost as they would in the office.

Companies can choose which number they want to use wherever they are in the world. Businesses can take an ‘020’ number and adopt a virtual London presence. This means that companies have the freedom to move premises or even countries and keep the same contact number.

The most notable advantage, however, is the dramatic financial savings available. Calls to other network members, for instance other regional offices, teleworkers, stockists or special clients, are free of charge. Also customers save substantial amounts on maintenance, line rental and upgrades as it is all centrally managed.

What should SMEs consider when implementing a VoIP service?

There are a number of questions that companies should consider before implementing a service:

  • Does the provider offer the whole range of geographic, non-geographic and International numbers?
  • Does the provider have any technology to compress more calls down a standard DSL line? Most SMEs use a standard ADSL broadband line and VoIP calls take up a lot of bandwidth. If the service uses technology to cut down the amount of bandwidth used on each call, then more calls can be made at the same time.
  • What are the disaster recovery systems in place if your IP connection is down? Should disaster strike and the broadband connection fail, what emergency processes are in place as back up.
  • What does the service provider offer in terms of quality, reliability and scalability?
  • Does the provider offer number portability to ensure you keep your existing numbers?
  • What support services are offered?
  • How competitive are the rates?
  • Can the provider support mobile devices and provision them over the air?

About Coms Plc

Coms Plc was founded by Jason Drummond in 2000. Coms.Net is the core service of Coms Plc, which provides a VoIP business telephony service.
The Coms.Net solution is based upon the industry standard SIP protocol, which enables the widest possible connection of customers, devices and integrated Web 2.0 applications.
Coms Plc is an OFCOM authorised Public Electronic Communications Network (PECN) and a member of the Internet Telephony Service Providers Association (ITSPA). Coms Plc is also listed on the London Stock Exchange AIM market (LSE:COMS).

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