What Is VoIP?
These kinds of phone systems essentially replace the traditional phone network found in offices, including wires and extra phone lines, with the internet. A VoIP user can make normal telephone calls, at extremely low costs, to anyone, anywhere in the world. Forget traditional phone handsets, that rely on landlines and other clunky additional features, it is all done over an internet connection. It’s hard to believe that, when traditional, ‘normal’, phones (i.e. landlines), were invented nearly a century and a half ago by Alexander Graham Bell, that we would now be at a stage where technology, and the internet, have made the traditional phone service more and more redundant.
Meaning: What Does VoIP Stand For?
VoIP stands for ‘Voice over Internet Protocol’ and, while it may sound complicated, understanding what the term means is actually pretty simple. An IP is, as we’ve just touched on, a shortened term for Internet Protocol which is an address that is used by computers and devices to communicate with each other. So, essentially, the user is speaking with their voice over a broadband connection – simple, right?
While it may seem new and exciting, in fact, cloud-based (or hosted) phone systems, have been around since the late ’90s. For decades, telephony has relied on digital lines to carry phone calls, as opposed to using landlines. While a typical office phone, or mobile phone, relies on something called the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), VoIP bypasses all that and uses the internet instead. This kind of system can also perform routing of outgoing and incoming calls through an existing network of phones and can divert a call to a relevant member of staff in seconds, as opposed to someone ringing a receptionist, who then has to manually divert the call.
For years, businesses have relied on specialised, expensive hardware devices called a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) which connects internal phone extensions to the broader public telephone network. However, PBX systems require initial hardware at setup, this installation on the premises requires new equipment, wires, and configuration for it to work properly. All that, plus expensive maintenance costs, make PBXs costly and clunky. With a VoIP provider, such as the ones we offer here at Prestige Telecom Group, you are choosing a cloud-based option which does away with the need for new hardware, and out-dated features.
A modern system such as VoIP means you don’t have to have extra wiring installed or rely on poor quality telephone lines that use analogue signals to carry your voice. Our team at Prestige Telecom Group can help you reduce your reliance on the physical phone sitting at your desk and, instead, help you enjoy crystal clear sound by plugging your IP phone in and showing you how to get the most of these new voice communications. Our experts have decades of collective experience in the industry, have seen it change, and have an instinct about what is the best solution for businesses, regardless of industry or sector.
A Brief History Of Voice over Internet Protocol
The history of VoIP can be traced back to the mid-nineties – 1995, to be precise. It was created, as a concept, by a company Vocal Tec who went on to make the world’s first internet phone. This rudimentary product was pretty innovative for its time, especially considering the internet had only existed for around five years. Through this ‘InternetPhone’, users could make a VoIP-like phone call to another person who was running the same software. As the 90s ticked away, VoIP was created by more companies but, because users had to listen to advertisements before being connected, the take up of this new telephony software was very low.
However, like any new piece of technology, as more companies saw its benefits, they adopted it, which, over time, made it much cheaper as more businesses looked to make their own version. This reduction in cost, and increase in accessibility, meant that by 2003 a quarter of all phone calls were made using VoIP. The advent of Skype and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) took VoIP to a new level and soon, video conferencing, and other features associated with these platforms, became commonplace among employees and the general public. This was because users could bypass hardware limitations and create apps that could be used by virtually any phone system.
Fast forward a few years and VoIP, along with other cloud-based phone systems are now used just as much, if not more, than traditional analogue phone systems. This leap in technology is highlighted by the ISDN Switch Off that is due to take place in 2025. This switch is happening precisely because of the uptake in internet-based phone systems, and the fact that BT, despite some serious investment, is unable to keep up with the changing landscape.
Here at Prestige Telecom Group, we’re looking toward 2025 and the big switch off, and are keen to help teams grow and adapt their business telecom systems so that they can leverage this monumental change in telephony, as opposed to being hampered by it.
How Do VoIP Phone Systems Work?
VoIP services work by converting your voice into data and transmitting that information over networks. It works in the same way that emails do, in that you create (be it through speaking or writing) information which is then scrambled into data, these digital signals are then converted back into a voice on the other end of the mobile device or headset. The sound quality of VoIP calls are almost always better than those which are conducted over the PSTN because there isn’t a reliance on analogue systems.
In addition, call delays are eradicated no matter how far away the person on the other end of the call is, or what country they work in. Again, like an email, the destination of the communication is irrelevant when talking about this type of communication solution.
VoIP phone systems are what power video conferencing platforms such as Skype, Microsoft Teams, and Google Hangouts. You’ll have seen, if you used these platforms, that the clarity of call, lack of delay, and high-standards make for a much smoother, more natural chat. The ability to focus on the call, and not the poor phone quality, means you can spend that time getting your messages across and bringing in more business. With VoIP, you’re not worrying about tech issues or traditional networks letting you down when it counts.
How VoIP Works, In 4 Steps:
- Your phone connects to your switch or router that is found in your Local Area Network, often referred to as LAN.
- When it comes time to make a call, you start by dialling the number and your IP tells your VoIP service provider to call the person whose number you have just dialled/typed out.
- Your chosen service establishes the call and begins exchanging data packets from your IP phone.
- Finally, your phone converts these signals into sound, like on a standard phone.
So, we’ve covered how VoIP works, but what about when it doesn’t work. Well, thankfully, this can be resolved with speed and precision because you’re not tied to a ‘normal’ phone. VoIP issues can be fixed remotely by experts which removes the need for someone to come in and physically fix something, saving time and money. Unlike traditional PBX systems, VoIP solutions have automatic failover solutions already built-in. So, if our systems notice your onsite connection is down, automatic diverts will come into play. And with our clever mobile app, your extension follows you wherever you go, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
A long time ago, businesses and companies looking for VoIP business phones would have to invest in a lot of equipment to get things started, however, thanks to the advent of the cloud, voice calls are now built upon standards such as Session Initial Protocol or, SIP. The differences with cloud-based VoIP providers is stark, SIP allows users to use these systems with greater flexibility and can access them using apps, conference phones, and desktop phones. To get business VoIP, all you need is an internet connection, and a team of experts – it’s really that simple. Speaking of experts, we have lots of them here at Prestige Telecom Group who can break down these methods of business communication to ensure you have the right plan in place for you.
What Is SIP And How Does It Relate To Voice over Internet Protocol?
If you have been looking for a business VoIP service in recent months, you may have come across the term SIP. Standing for Session Initiation Protocol, SIP is the technology that underpins a business telephone system such as this. Without SIP, you don’t benefit from a business VoIP deal – it’s as simple as that.
As it relates to internet telephony, SIP is the standard used to set up and control phone calls within a VoIP plan. This protocol can handle an array of visual and audio conferencing tools such as phone services and video conferencing – this flexibility is why it is so popular. If you’re an organisation that uses a dedicated virtual conference service for meetings (not ones that can be accessed by the Internet, such as Zoom) then you may have heard of another non-SIP protocol called H.232. H.232 is used specifically for this feature, mainly because, like a traditional phone system, it tends to be a little more secure.
Unlike an analogue phone, SIP is specifically designed to be multi-purpose and can handle a variety of communications. As well as being packed with features, and extremely nimble, it can also handle calls between users that are audio, video, and even text-based.
Speaking of features, there is a wide range of other handy things that SIP can do for you during a meeting, or call, with a client. One such thing is called ‘presence management’ which gives every party who is on the call or in the video meeting an indication of the presence of others. For instance, it can mark whether the user is ‘away’, ‘on-mute’ or ‘available’. Other benefits include session set-up, call monitoring, and location management. All these features help to underpin your VoIP plan and will make sure that you’re getting the most out of it by using a SIP protocol that can handle everything.
Standard Features Of Our VoIP Packages
By now, it’s probably pretty obvious that there are several features of VoIP, given that it is such a comprehensive system that can radically alter the way your company communicates. Here, we’re going to be going a bit further and looking in detail at some of the key features of this service that you can enjoy as standard when you decide to opt for a business VoIP package from Prestige Telecom Group.
To learn more about the key features, feel free to read on, or if you prefer to have a chat with one of our team members, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us by phone on 03303 200 222, or alternatively, you can email us at email@example.com.
An efficient call queuing system ensures that your customers are never left waiting for too long when they contact your business. With a call queue system, the call gets answered every time – avoiding the dreaded dial tone. The call queue feature means that, during busy periods, your business can handle increased customer communication. This ties into analytics, but by using a call queue feature you can log the time the call was made, the number, and the date and time. Data such as this is priceless and can help improve future procedures.
Crystal clear call recording, a feature that can be leveraged by adopting VoIP, is priceless, for a variety of reasons. The main reason it is so beneficial is that businesses can use these call recordings as the basis of future training sessions. If it’s a good call, one where an employee helped professionally solve a problem, then it can be used as an example of what is expected. If the call was more negative in nature, for example, a customer got aggressive on the phone, it can be used as a teaching tool and help educate employees about what to do in that scenario. And, because it is VoIP, the quality of the call is going to be perfect, allowing everyone to hear every interaction perfectly.
Data runs everything for businesses, without it, decisions are made on a whim which is only ever going to lead to financial and reputational loss. By harnessing caller analytics, which can be gleaned from VoIP because it is plugged into the internet and can measure, more accurately than analogue systems, the average call length, how many were received or made over a given period, and how many were missed, you can make smarter choices. This data allows you and your management team to make better decisions. For instance, if there is an unacceptable amount of calls being missed, maybe you need to invest in employing more team members who can ensure every call is answered? Conversely, if every call is getting answered with ease, maybe it would be handy to look at reallocating staff resources to weaker areas that aren’t performing as well. Whatever scenario is created as a result of the analytics, you’ll have an accurate picture of your business’s call history, and, therefore, can make smarter decisions.
IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
IVR helps to create a seamless experience for the customer or client calling your business. Upon being connected, they can be directed, by entering certain numbers, to a specific department. This streamlined process cuts out waste and makes the callers experience as effective as possible, making sure they are connected to the right person, who can solve their problem, the first time around.
If the last few months have taught us anything it’s that the need for a robust call conferencing infrastructure is critical to business success. Beyond that though, call conferencing is a fantastic feature of VoIP and is a great way of reducing travel cost, speeding up decision making, and getting people, who may not be near the head office, together to work through problems.
Desktop and Mobile Apps
We offer a range of desktop and mobile apps that allow you to work anywhere while still maintaining the ability to make outgoing calls, and receive incoming ones. As part of our basic service, you can enjoy the freedom of movement, and not have to be wherever your phone is. With our VoIP service, the phone goes with you. As managers, you can empower your team and let them work in ways that suit them without worrying about how this will affect their ability to do their job.
In a world of flexible work, the need to access the VoIP business phone wherever you are in the office is vital. Our software allows you to log into your business user extension on any handset in the office or building in which you work. This is great if you are a midsize business and you need staff to be able to collaborate with different departments for extended periods without missing out on inbound calls.
Reduce the friction involved in making a call by simply clicking on the number found on the website. Instead of typing out the number, ensuring it is correct, and lifting the handset, simply pop your headset on, click the number and be immediately put through to the company or client you wish to contact. This speeds up the number of calls that can be made during the day and reduces the chances of a misdial.
CRM and Teams Integration
Integrate your VoIP with other business cloud solutions such as Microsoft Teams, Salesforce, Zoho or HubSpot. Having the ability to plug your CRM into your VoIP makes data capture easier, and ensures everyone in the business has access to software that is packed with up-to-date client information. You can also store call recordings and log the latest information on a client so important context is never missed the next time someone contacts that particular person.
After Some More Advanced Features?
Those features we’ve just mentioned are all available, for free, when you sign up for a business VoIP system with Prestige Telecom Group. If, however, you’re familiar with all those and want to know about some of the more advanced things we offer, then have a read of the following features.
These advanced, cutting-edge features are what set us apart from other business telecoms companies, and they will go a long way to making your company unique in your sector too.
Instead of committing it to memory, or rushing to write it down, let our team transcribe the voicemail for you, and send it to you in an email. Never miss out on a crucial piece of information such as a phone number or address with our voicemail transcription service. We’ll make sure that everything that is said is written down and sent to you moments after it was spoken.
Secure Admin Portal
Our secure admin portal is the ideal place for you to analyse calls, listen to recordings and voicemails, and manage your company phone book. As the business owner, you can choose who has access to this portal and only give certain people a view of certain numbers and contact details. From here, you can assess the state and mood of your client list and take assertive action to get it fixed. Understand context, tone, and intonations from your sales team’s recorded phone calls – all this will provide you with the most accurate information.
One Central Directory
With your business VoIP phone, all members will have access to the same directory of contacts. Having a centralised system allows for numbers to be updated across the board, and reduces the chances of an out of date number hanging around your database. You can enjoy all the benefits of business growth without worrying about whether or not new team members can get on with the job of calling clients. All they have to do is log in, and away they go.
With an auto-attendant, you never have to worry about a customer not being put through to a member of your team. Every person who calls will hear an automated response that welcomes the person and instructs them to press certain numbers depending on their need. For instance: “Press option 1 for support, option 2 for sales, and option 3 for anything else”. There is nothing worse than knowing you missed out on a sale, or a chance to fix a problem for a customer, simply because they couldn’t speak to someone. An auto attendant from Prestige Telecom ensures that never happens.
Unlimited Conference Room Facilities
If you have an important conference coming up and need to dial in people, such as team members or clients, from another office or location, you can! All you need to do is give them one of the numbers that our business VoIP providers have given you. Then, on the day of the conference, you simply dial that number and before you know it, you’ll be enjoying a crystal clear business call with key stakeholders.
Is This Option Right For Me?
With so many telecommunications solutions for businesses out there, it can be hard to work out if this particular solution is right for you. It doesn’t help, either, when customers are bombarded with jargon, complicated pricing plans, and unnecessary terms which can overwhelm them and make them want to retreat to their clunky, but familiar, telecommunications systems. Here at Prestige Telecom Group, we’re passionate about introducing new business telecom solutions to our clients in a way that they feel comfortable with. We know that there are plenty of benefits, but if they aren’t communicated properly to you and your team, you’re just going to feel intimidated and confused. When you work with us, you can be sure that you’ll feel empowered, and excited, about these new services.
So, is VoIP right for you? In most cases, it will be. For companies and organisations that use traditional phone calls as a communications option, VoIP will help take that solution up a few levels. Not only will VoIP give you crystal clear sound and absolutely no delay, which is, incidentally, perfect in busy offices where there is background noise, it will also allow you to work anywhere and still answer your mobile phone as if it were a traditional business phone.
For sales teams, VoIP is a particularly great option, its advantages mean you can spend all day calling prospective leads or keeping in touch with existing clients, at a fraction of the cost of a regular phone on standard networks. This monthly cost is so drastically reduced because you’re using the internet and not phone lines. When combined with a business mobile broadband plan, which allows you to access 4G internet bandwidth wherever you are, means there is not a single place that your sales team can’t work. This ability to offer genuinely flexible remote working not only benefits your business, but it also empowers your employees to work in ways that suit them, making them want to work harder for you.
How To Choose The Right Cloud-Based VoIP System
Whether you’re just starting your research, and are looking at investing in a new business phone system, or you have a pretty good idea about VoIP technology and are ready to take the plunge – there are always things to consider.
It’s important to consider how you’re actually going to use it, and what portion of your business will be taking advantage of a cloud-based VoIP system. Similarly, review your existing traditional phone system and decide if you just want to add a few VoIP features to it, or rip up your entire infrastructure and refit everything with cloud telephony. This exercise will not only help you understand your current situation, but it will also allow you to adjust budgets according to your business requirements.
In our experience helping companies and organisations, a full replacement is rare because parts of the existing phone system are unable to handle advanced calling features and cloud technology.
The process of choosing the right cloud-based phone system should also involve key stakeholders across the company. From senior management, who are accountable for the change, to the IT staff who will be handling the additional data. Everyone’s thoughts need to be listened to to ensure a successful transition into a cloud-based system. This includes the people that are going to be using the new technology. They will be able to tell you what features they actually need, versus what other people think they need. These valuable insights will help you choose a system that propels your company forward and improves your productivity, as opposed to hampering it and making people miserable. If they aren’t comfortable switching from a traditional landline to a business VoIP system, then the chances of things going well are slim to none. After all, it’s only as good as the people making the phone calls.
Some Key Business VoIP Solution Terms
If you’re looking to upgrade your business telecoms you may have already noticed that there is a whole range of terms, phrases, and acronyms that, without explanation, can just look like nonsense. However, to make the right decision about your new business VoIP phone it’s important to understand what each of them means. So, with that in mind, we’ve described some of the key terms that you may come across, if you haven’t already, in the following glossary.
A softphone is a term used to describe a piece of software that allows people to make and receive phone calls on any device that is internet enabled, such as a laptop or tablet. This is opposed to a phone, which is a specific piece of hardware that’s sole purpose is to make and receive phone calls.
Session Interface Protocol (SIP) Trunking
SIP is a piece of Voice over Internet Protocol technology that lets you run your virtual calling system over the internet, as opposed to a traditional phone line. Trunking such as this is the backbone of VoIP and enables teams to undergo unlimited calling and enjoy advanced calling features, such as automatic routing.
Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP)
The RT protocol is one of many that can deliver telecommunications over an internet protocol network. Because it is held on an IP, the video and audio quality are much better. The voice quality of the person on the other end of the line is also much better. Other similar protocols are the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the User Datagram Protocol (UDP).
Private Branch Exchange (PBX)
A PBX describes a telephone system within a company that can switch calls between users on internal lines, while also allowing those same people to share a certain amount of external phone lines. PBXs are made up of lines and stations and are used by businesses to connect to the wider network.
Sometimes referred to as lag, latency is characterised by delays in communication over a network. If it takes longer than expected for some data to be captured, transmitted and processed, this would be described as lag. For example, if you search for something on Google, click on the URL, and have to wait a while for that page to appear, that could be because of high latency.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
IVR is a term that refers to the technology which allows calls from customers to be navigated through a phone system before being put through to a person, be that a sales advisor, head of a department, or member of a support team. An example of IVR would be if you rang up a company, and were met with an automated voice that asks you to press certain numbers on your phone to speak to a specific department.
Internet Protocol (IP)
The internet protocol is the set of rules that govern the way data is sent and received across the internet. IP addresses are the passport that gives permission for information to be sent across devices on a network.
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL)
A DSL is a collective term used to describe a group of technologies that enable a digital signal to be transmitted across inbound and outbound calls. DSLs are an essential feature of VoIP and SIP Trunks. An offshoot of a DSL is something called a Symmetric Digital Subscriber Line (SDSL) which ensures that downstream and upstream data rates operate at the same level.
Codecs is a term that refers to a process that compresses large amounts of data, transfers it over VoIP, before decompressing it again. An example of a codec is a modem that is used to send data traffic over analogue voice circuits. A codec will take one data form, encode it, and then decode at the point of receipt.
Bandwidth is measured by how much data can be transferred from one point to another within a network, in a given time. Levels of bandwidth can differ depending on how busy the network is at a certain point in time. For example, during a workday, bandwidth will be under more strain than in the middle of the night. Poor bandwidth could result in slow internet performance. If you decide to invest in leased lines, then the bandwidth issue will no longer be a problem because you’ll have access to your own dedicated internet connection.