Voice mail has become a very powerful tool for businesses, especially smaller businesses where entrepreneurs are frequently multi-tasking. Is voice mail different when used in a Voice over Internet (VoIP) environment? The answer is both no and yes!
Voice mail functions the same as we have become accustomed to over the past years. With a VoIP environment, however, it has become much more powerful.
There are a variety of types of conference calls in use by businesses today, including small businesses. These include three-way calling where one party temporarily places someone on hold, calls another person, and then bridges the two together. This can be accomplished with most existing phones including cell phones and Smart Phones. The other type of conferencing involves the connection of three to hundreds of people using a dial-in conference bridge.
Skype originally started in Europe and has been a catalyst for change, especially in the area of video communications. If you are communicating with another Skype subscriber – whether via video or just voice – the call is free anywhere in the world. That is a compelling driver to use Skype! However, the devil is in the details.
Faxing has been around for a long time in business. We have learned to rely on faxed documents as legal representations of business affairs. As we consider it, however, a fax machine is nothing more than a relatively old-style scanner. The fax machine scans a document, converts it into a format that was suitable for transmission over POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines, and then received at the distant end. The document itself was created once upon a time on a typewriter, converted, transmitted, converted back, and then printed out again.
Global numbers are traditional local telephone numbers from many countries and cities around the world. They are tied to a specific geographic area and local telephone company calling area. iNum (International Numbers) use the new international +883 “country code” created by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
In the past, businesses were able to get phone numbers only in their local area. If they wanted a phone number from another state, they needed to pay for an expensive “foreign exchange” line. With Virtual Office Internet-based phone services, this is no longer the case.
Businesses can now order phone numbers from other cities or even other countries as part of their service. With the Phone.com Virtual Office service, it is as easy as logging in to your web-based portal.
For those of us involved in the creation and growth of voice communications services using the Internet, we have known for some time that real value was to be accrued not by the mega-corporations but by the small businesses seeking ways to level the playing field with the “big guys” and carve out a niche for themselves.
For the small business, VoIP services can work in conjunction with an existing Smart Phone or mobile phone in several different ways. Because VoIP relies on the Internet connection rather than a physical wire from the telephone company, it is important to configure or set up the VoIP service for redundancy. This means programming the incoming numbers to effectively distribute calls.
Voice over Internet Protocol (also known as VoIP) is used for both residential as well as business services. The underlying technology is the same regardless, just as it was with traditional telephone service. In both instances, there is a telephone number that can be used for incoming calls and the ability to place outgoing calls.
For a small business, there are several factors that go into the implementation of an Internet Telephony (aka, VoIP) solution. This presumes that an Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP) has already been selected. Implementation factors include the following:
Some businesses may wonder whether they need both their PBX (physical phone system) and VoIP. This is an interesting question. Perhaps it’s helpful to look at it another way: can a business with an existing PBX phone system still use VoIP services? The answer to both this question and the original one is “yes.”
For anyone, including small businesses, to use Internet telephone service, they must, logically, be connected to the Internet. As a rule of thumb, old style dial-up Internet is not desirable. The speed at which the information flows back and forth is referred to as “bandwidth.” For many Internet subscribers, this bandwidth is measured as download, how much information can be RECEIVED by the device connected to the Internet, and upload, how much information can be TRANSMITTED from the device to the Internet. DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), cable Internet, and broadband wireless Internet all are offered in bandwidth packages. These are generally offered in megabits per second (represented as mbps) which are millions of bits per second. Bits are the basic unit of information transmitted across the Internet. All of these forms of connection can work for the use of VoIP services.
One of the hardest parts in building a business plan to start or grow an existing small business is getting the assumptions right, especially for the costs of doing business. Depending on the nature of your operation, one of the big questions involves phone service. How do you balance the need to plan for growth with the need to not spend too much money on phone systems and services? Ten years ago, that question was very difficult to answer. Fortunately, today, small businesses no longer need to be locked into an oversized phone system on the assumption that requirements will grow precisely as expected.
Without the ability to communicate effectively with customers, employees, suppliers, partners, and investors, businesses can’t operate. This is especially true for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Although technology is changing rapidly, the telephone is still the most important device today for doing business. As a small business person, how do you determine what business phone system you need? How do you ensure that you are not spending more money than necessary or getting less functionality than is required to keep you competitive and profitable? There are some simple steps that you can take that will help you make informed and effective decisions.