The big question: how much is enough for my business? It is typically a safe assumption to make that businesses are in business to make money. It makes sense that cutting cost whenever it is acceptable is a ‘good’ business practice. Since communication is such an important part of day to day operations, it is vital that you get a phone system that meets the needs of your business without breaking the bank.
Voice over IP (VoIP) is a telephone system that sends a digital signal over the internet through a VoIP server (Similar to a PBX). This server can either be purchased and housed inside your business building, or you can purchase a service through a third party who would host the server for you. If your business does not have an IT department or a large amount of trunk lines, a third party host can cut costs on infrastructure and maintenance. Another great thing about these servers is that they can be accessed almost anywhere (given internet access) and has high mobility meaning you can take your phone number with you even if it’s a local number.
VoIP digital signals are transmitted through Codecs. These codecs can be prioritized to allocate the desired bandwidth to meet your communication needs while not interfering with web use. Voicemail devices can be connected easily which can also be set up as an auto-attendant as your greeting when people call into your business. Hard and soft phones can also be connected to the VoIP network which can continue to cut infrastructure costs. You can have a traditional looking telephone (hard) or download telephone software onto a computer (soft) to increase efficiency based on your business needs.
Unified Communications (UC) takes VoIP to the next level. Telephone calls are made over the internet like VoIP, but also integrates web-based needs into their applications with a unified user interface. UC is essentially a one-stop-shop for your communication and file sharing needs. These applications integrate telephones, email, instant messaging, file sharing, conference calling, and video calling in one application with seamless collaboration. This application is easily accessible through smart phones, tablets, computers, and other internet-accessible devices making cutting infrastructure costs easy. I once worked at a call center as a recruiter and there were only a handful of actual telephones in the office. All the recruiters were set up on headsets that connected to their computers for them to make calls from. It worked great!
The most impressive thing that UC brings to the table, is the collaborations between these products. With UC applications, all your communication outlets will be able to ‘talk’ to each other in a way that isn’t seen many other places. A voicemail can be translated into text and emailed to one or many users. Files, regardless of text or audio, can be easily converted to fit communication needs. Mobility of UC applications is also quite impressive. While accessing certain UC application through your smart phone, you can make a phone call from anywhere and the caller ID will show you are calling from your office number.
Back to the big question. How much is enough for my business? While UC is an impressive set of products, it might be a little bit of overkill for the offices with low communication traffic and a smaller need for heavy duty collaboration. Why buy a castle when all you need is a solid house? The first questions you should ask yourself is how much traffic you have coming in and out of your business, the amount of file sharing that is necessary, how many faxes you tend to put out or receive, and how many other offices do you need to have solid communication with. UC is ideal for business with a high need for collaboration, quick communication within and without, high file sharing, an abundance of conference calling, branch offices, or businesses with several big departments. VoIP will more than suffice to offices with lower communication traffic and little need to quickly collaborate with others over large areas. If your business only requires you to have open phone lines and impeccable service, VoIP might be enough for your business.