No One-Size-Fits All IP Solution
VoIP can significantly improve business communications and is essential in some work environments. But before making the investment, business owners should weigh the pros and cons based on their needs.
According to research firm In-Stat, worldwide sales of IP phones picked up momentum in 2010, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon, with 40 million units expected to ship in 2015.
Most likely, you’re getting a lot of calls and questions from customers about VoIP phones. Everyone wants the latest technology – especially if it can deliver on its promises to cut costs and improve connectivity. In reality, VoIP can significantly improve business communications and is essential in some work environments. But before making the investment, every business owner should weigh the pros and cons based on their business needs.
Some customers tend to choose a converged IP-TDM system vs. a pure VoIP system when both options are presented to them. That’s because converged solutions offer all the features of IP, but with the stability of TDM phones at a more attractive price point. The focus for small and mid-sized business (SMB) owners is simply to run their business. They don’t have a lot of time or money to spend on technology for technology’s sake. They want a phone system that is dependable, expandable and cost-effective.
To help your customers make the right choice for their business, below is a Q&A that can help customers buy for the solution, not the technology.
What are my options for business communications?
There are three options for premise-based communications: a traditional TDM-PBX, a converged PBX that is both IP and TDM, or a pure IP PBX. In a converged telephony environment, which support both TDM and IP, appropriate technologies can be deployed in a way that best supports the business. While traditional TDM phones are typically selected for the average desktop, IP phones may support the flexibility of transitory, mobile or remote workers.
Which solution is the best?
The answer to that question depends on your current needs and objectives. If you’re looking for a reliable, low-maintenance phone system that’s cost efficient and offers advanced functionality, then a converged solution may be the answer for you. However, if you’re looking to utilize VoIP phones throughout your organization, then a pure IP solution may be the better choice.
When deciding which option is best for you, it’s important to consider the cost of installation and ongoing maintenance for both systems. A pure IP environment is less expensive to set up for new installations because you only need one set of wires for both the data and voice endpoints. If you have a legacy system and want to install pure IP, you may need to invest in upgrading your existing data infrastructure to support VoIP. Outfitting your entire business with VoIP phones is more expensive than digital TDM phones, so be sure you’ll actually use all the additional features you’re paying for.
Then there’s the maintenance of the network. VoIP voice quality is usually very good, but fluctuations in the data network can create quality of service issues. Businesses may need to hire a full-time IT staff member to monitor the network. An IP-TDM phone system is typically easier to maintain and it offers the five 9’s of reliability, which is important in mission-critical situations.
Aren’t the monthly cost savings greater with VoIP though?
The major VoIP savings typically come from the attractive prices associated with IP Network Services (known as SIP). SIP can offer substantial savings over traditional telephone calls. Both VoIP and converged solutions also allow you to take advantage of the call-cost savings offered by SIP service providers.
Can I use unified applications on a TDM network?
IP is required for unified communications. With either a pure IP or converged solution, you can utilize unified communications applications that seamlessly bring together voice, video, email and instant messaging capabilities. Solutions such as Samsung’s OfficeServ Communicator put co-workers face to face with a click of a mouse—even if they’re miles apart.
What if I want to expand my system to other offices?
If your organization currently has a converged or traditional TDM network and is opening another branch, your most cost-effective option may be to install another TDM-based system and network the servers together. However, if you are opening a smaller remote office, remote VoIP phones may be the better solution. Integrated IP gateways make it easy to traffic calls between offices over IP connections and save on long distance and/or international phone charges.
My phone network needs to support a highly distributed workforce. What do you recommend?
For businesses that encourage telecommuting or rely heavily on a distributed workforce, VoIP phones are ideal. Remote and/or home workers can plug a VoIP phone right into their Internet connection and dial a four-digit extension to reach the main office, even if that office deploys a TDM network.
Road warriors requiring even more flexibility can utilize a PC softphone application that can turn their laptops into full-featured IP phones. WiFi phones are also a good solution that can make and receive calls anywhere there is an open WiFi access.
Business owners are presented with a tough choice when making a long-term telecommunications purchase decision. There are some obvious benefits to VoIP, but for some customers it may not be necessary to standardize on a one-wire network requiring an expensive infrastructure upgrade. The right telephony solution should support your business needs now with the flexibility to grow with you. Whether it’s a traditional PBX, IP-PBX, or a combination of both—there is a right choice for every customer.