image-maxwell-smartPerhaps you already have a shoe phone as top secret agent Maxwell Smart did in Get Smart—a phone that allows you to be anywhere, making and receiving calls on the company phone number. If not, then perhaps you’re ready for the “old voice-to-data trick”—Voice over IP (VoIP). Although Maxwell would like to think so, VoIP is not really a trick.

VoIP basically takes our voice communications, actually our voice vibrations, and converts them into electronic data that can be transmitted anywhere over local area networks or the Internet. You can implement a VoIP system internally, or alternatively, you can select a VoIP service provider to host the system for your business. In the latter case, all you need are the phones.

We’ve been using telephones since the days of Alexander Graham Bell, so you may be wondering what is the big deal about VoIP? Using VoIP services can potentially save your business money. How? The operating costs for VoIP service providers are much lower than those for traditional phone companies, and these savings are passed on to you. Many of the features are built into the service including caller ID, call waiting, call transfer, and three-way calling. Additionally, long distance VoIP calls are very inexpensive or free, depending on how the call is placed.

Most often, hosted VoIP service is leveraging your existing broadband Internet service, be it cable, FiOS or other high-speed Internet service. As a result, VoIP service grows easily with your business, leveraging this existing broadband Internet service. All you need to do is add a new extension, with or without an actual IP handset, and you’re off to the races. It’s also extremely flexible, offering you ways to make calls almost anywhere using either an IP phone or a computer-based softphone or a mobile app. If you’re on the road, simply use your laptop to make or receive that business call. Your extension will ring on your laptop just like you were sitting at your desk.

So, what’s the downside? VoIP services can be very reliable, however, a lot depends upon the quality of your Internet connection. Internet service can hiccup or have downtime. While computers can handle this, the human ear cannot, resulting in poor call quality, echo or even dropped calls. Considering hosted VoIP? Don’t take the chance of the “Cone of Silence” malfunctioning. Avert disaster and make sure your Internet connection and internal network cabling are up to snuff.

Other considerations:

  • You may also want redundant Internet service and network devices to ensure your voice service is never down. If your physical network is down, then the phones will not work. Many network components support automatic failover which can help you avoid potential outages.
  • VoIP needs electricity to work—no power means no phones. “Sorry about that, Chief!”
  • Dialing 911 can be a problem with VoIP as well. VoIP does not allow for calling locations to be looked up making it difficult or impossible for emergency services to pinpoint your location. You can set a primary location on each VoIP, but if it’s a softphone on a laptop, this location may or may not be valid.
  • While we may not be up against KAOS like Maxwell Smart, VoIP is attracting the attention of hackers. You’ll want to make sure your network security is up to date and thorough.

Have questions about VoIP services? Don’t land in hot water like the bumbling Maxwell Smart. He always managed to “miss it by that much!” Give IT Radix a call today and like Maxwell’s faithful partner “Agent 99” we’ll be happy to bail you out!

First published in our January 2016 IT Radix Resource newsletter

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