VOIP/UNIFIED COMMUNICATION SERVICES FOR YOUR BUSINESS: BEYOND THE TRADITIONAL

As our global business community shrinks, the need for more effective methods of communications expands.  Some of the most important investments that a business can make is with top notch technology such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Unified Communications (UC).

WHAT IS VoIP TECHNOLOGY?

VoIP is the technology that converts your voice into a digital signal, allowing you to make a call directly from a computer, a VoIP phone, or other data-driven devices.

As landline phone services are fading away, VoIP provides businesses with robust features above and beyond what was traditional.  Some of these consist of filtering options that forward calls to different numbers, send calls directly to voice mail, allows remote users to have phone extensions, convert voice messages to text messages or even check voice mail via the Internet.

The simplest way to think about Voice over IP technology is that it is technology that has moved telephone calls away from private carriers to the same Internet your computers use. There are many advantages to this move, which are provided by the data networking protocols incorporated into VoIP technology.

For instance, a great deal of speed and reliability is added to making phone calls and you have more control over them.  VoIP is cheaper than a landline because it uses an existing internet connection rather than requiring a separate system. Total costs will vary depending on the number of users, one-time hardware prices and any needed network enhancements.

WHAT ARE THE VARYING LEVELS OF VoIP?

There are varying levels of VoIP to accommodate your business.  For many companies, the tough decision isn’t using VoIP—it’s whether or not to have it premise-based or hosted. Premise-based is where a business opts to purchase and manage their own VoIP system in-house.  The other option is for a business to outsource it in a Hosted VoIP environment (cloud-based). 

With bare-bones VoIP technology, you have everything that’s required to send and receive messages from anyone. Yet, businesses enjoy the inclusion of some features besides the simple sending and receiving of calls, and that’s where Unified Communications comes in.

WHAT ARE UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS?

As the name suggests, Unified Communications is a group of technologies that adds many valuable features and capabilities to phone calling. All these technologies rely on a VoIP foundation for the transmission and reception of information, which highlights a point of commonality between VoIP and Unified Communications (UC).

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VoIP vs. UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS?

Where the two differ is in their add-on features, which enable greater business functionality and promote greater productivity for employees. Some Unified Communication (UC) features are:

  • Videoconferencing
  • Email
  • Fax
  • SMS, or phone texting
  • Integrated voicemail
  • Instant messaging or chatting between employees
  • Call control, starting with basic controls on up to full-blown call centers
  • Other services which the vendor may package in with a UC offering

WHAT DO UNIFIED COMMUNICATION FEAUTURES PROVIDE?

Some of the features made available in a UC package are of significant value, while others have more limited value, and may not amount to much more than a sales pitch. Integrated voicemail for instance, is a feature of any normal phone system, and is already available without a UC package.

Having coworkers be able to chat or instant message each other makes it easy to ask a quick question or to synchronize their efforts, but unless either or both of them have a keyboard, or unless the service is actually associated with their computers, anything more than the most basic chatting will be difficult.

The same is true for SMS or phone texting–without a keyboard, it’s not all that practical. More value is obtained from email and fax integration, because those services can display messages on your screen, either from a phone or a computer tied to the UC system. To get even greater value from the service, it can be combined with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system or a Sales Force Automation (SFA) system, which has been integrated with the company phone network.

When a customer call comes in, a great deal of information about them can instantly be displayed on the computer screen, such as any company affiliation they may have, past sales history, pending sales, and a history of contacts with them. With this information available at the press of a few keys, sales performance can receive a huge boost.

Videoconferencing has become invaluable to a number of businesses, because it saves a great deal of money on travel and expenses, and still brings employees together face-to-face, who may be far apart. When videoconferencing from your phone system is piped to a desktop computer, those same efficiencies can become available for anyone who has been set up with the technology.

Another UC feature called ‘Presence’, provides an instant indication of which employees are present in the building or currently at their desks, and the Find Me/Follow Me feature will cause their phone to ring until they answer. For instance, if the targeted individual doesn’t answer their desk phone, the feature progresses to their cell phone, or whichever phone is next in the call hierarchy.

One thing that you should remember about Unified Communications is that there’s no such thing as a standard package of UC. It depends on whatever features a particular vendor wants to include in its UC package, so you cannot count on receiving specific services that may be of most interest to your business. You’ll have to closely check the features included in any UC package to know what you’re getting for your money.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS?

The benefits of Unified Communications are many.

  • Allows for greater flexibility, empowering employees to work remotely, and hold HD video conferencing calls instead of meeting with clients face-to-face.
  • Reduces costs as ongoing maintenance and installations costs are eradicated.
  • Improves efficiency and productivity by making it easier for employees to do their jobs by saving time on simple tasks.
  • Results in less administration and better customer service. 

WHICH OPTION IS BEST FOR MY BUSINESS?

The answer is that it really depends on you company and your current situation. If you already have traditional phone system in place in your office, and are looking just to cut your phone bills then a VoIP solution may be the best solution.

One of the biggest downsides of a Unified Communications solution is that it can require a fairly large investment; certainly, larger than VoIP. If your business is operating on narrow margins you probably won’t be able to implement a full UC solution all at once, instead having to implement it in steps.

TeamLogicIT Plano can help your business navigate the complex waters of VoIP and Unified Communications.  We can help you learn more about our solutions that will work best for your business and budget. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT VoIP AND UNIFIED COMMUNICATION SERVICES

IS VoIP CHEAPER THAN A LANDLINE?

VoIP is cheaper than a landline because it uses an existing internet connection rather than requiring a separate system or additional hardware.

HOW MUCH DOES VoIP COST PER MONTH?

A hosted VoIP system typically costs between $25 and $40 per user per month. Total costs will vary depending on the number of users, one-time hardware costs, and any needed network enhancements.

WHAT IS A UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM?

Unified Communications (UC) refers to a phone system that integrates (or “unifies”) multiple communication methods within a business. Generally, Unified communications means real-time delivery.

HOW DOES UNIFIED COMMUNICATION WORK?

The term “Unified Communications” refers to the systems that allow companies to access the tools they need for communication through a single application or service. That means companies can use instant messaging, email, faxing, VoIP and video collaboration from the same UI (User Interface).

WHY UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS ARE SO IMPORTANT?

Unified communications platforms offer the potential to dramatically improve the way individuals, groups and businesses interact with each other. Response times are significantly reduced, and the coordination of dispersed teams is facilitated through the use of a single, easy-to-deploy solution.

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