There’s no shortage of communication channels available today that businesses can use to reach and interact with their customers – websites, blog posts, social media, etc. These new media channels are great, but phone conversations are still, hands down, one of the most effective ways of establishing and maintaining healthy business relationships.
In fact, improvements in technology make the voice call experience better than it’s ever been before because now calls can be recorded, analyzed and used by other business applications. By integrating a flexible voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephony system, businesses can take their sales, marketing and other business initiatives to the next level.
While bigger and more established enterprises may opt for onsite Private Branch Exchange (PBX) hardware, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and enterprises (SMEs) are increasingly turning to a pay-as-you-go hosted PBX solution.
Before you can start using VoIP in your businesses, here are four key things you should consider:
1. RELIABLE INTERNET CONNECTION
Cloud solutions like VoIP require a speedy and stable Internet connection for it to be usable. In most cases, the standard Internet package for businesses will suffice, but the router needs to be configured to prioritize voice traffic over other Internet traffic.
A hosted PBX with VoIP service will work best if the Internet service is stable and has suitable bandwidth. Providers sometimes offer dedicated circuits that directly connect the business to the host, at a higher cost.
2. OPTIMIZED NETWORK
In order for your VoIP solution to work seamlessly, businesses need to make sure their local area network (LAN) has been optimized to handle the traffic. Most providers have an engineering team that will help you test and optimize your network before you can use the VoIP solutions.
Take note of the following:
- Quality of Service (QoS): It allows for VoIP traffic to be prioritized on your LAN, making sure that connections are clear and fast.
- Codecs: You can make a choice between voice quality and the amount of bandwidth used to place a call. Your IT person will need to understand which codecs are being used by your VoIP provider. You should test multiple codecs during the evaluation period in order to determine the best codec for your infrastructure.
- Network Monitoring Tools: LANs with more than approximately 10 users should use tools to monitor connected devices and the kinds of traffic flowing over it. VoIP providers will assist in determining the overall service grade of your network and how you can configure it to get the most out of your infrastructure.
3. SESSION INITIATED PROTOCOL (SIP)
The Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is a communications protocol for signaling, for the purpose of controlling multimedia communication sessions. It’s important because it’s the de facto standard for VoIP conversations.
SIP is a popular protocol because of it’s deep, flexible and built for multimedia use (e.g., audio, video, text, etc.) over the TCP/IP networks. For VoIP, not only can SIP enable you to set up calls using a number of IP-related protocols, but with SIP you can also handle session setup, presence management, location management, call monitoring and more.
The two most important elements to a functional SIP solution are the proxy server and gateway. The proxy server lightens the load of SIP endpoints and adds functionality around call routing and policy-based management. SIP gateways can handle the routing and connectivity requirements for connecting SIP calls to other networks. This allows more flexibility in building advanced features since they have more control over deployment and reliability.
4. EXTENDED FUNCTIONALITY
Some PBX providers offer extended services, such as call center features for businesses with a designated helpdesk number. These extended services allow intricate and complex call routing and call management scenarios for important queues, such as sales and support, with extensive queue and time-to-answer service level agreement (SLA) monitoring and reporting capabilities.
Additionally, voicemail transcription, fax services and other communication integrations are also being offered. For instance an integration of a CRM application with PBX enables one-click outbound calling and retrieval of customer records or other information when a call comes into the system.
These days, just about any business requirement from a phone system can be delivered by a hosted PBX solution. It is a cheaper and less complex option than buying and hosting your own onsite PBX.