Q: What are the benefits of VoIP for business?
Q: Are there any disadvantages of VoIP for business?
A: Low cost is VoIP’s primary benefit; if you have broadband Internet access, you already have the capacity to make VoIP calls from your computer without spending another dime, and you can eliminate most of your PSTN long-distance bill. Simplicity is a second benefit since voice and data can be handled by one set of network protocols and wiring. Purchasing a VoIP PBX system (including any dedicated software and hardware, and VoIP-enabled handsets) is competitive with updating a legacy PSTN system. In addition, using a computer to make VoIP calls means never being out of touch anywhere there is Internet access; employees can work from anywhere that has a fast, stable Internet connection.
A: Significant numbers of VoIP calls will tend to strain your internal data network and broadband Internet connection. Deploying VoIP on an industrial scale will likely require more Internet bandwidth, faster connections within your data network, and assigning different priorities to different types of Internet traffic (for instance, VoIP traffic should be given a higher priority than e-mail traffic in many cases, simply because voice is more time-sensitive. Also, by relying on VoIP and canceling commercial PSTN phone service, you are now at the mercy of your Internet service provider (ISP), and youthful ISPs are not as reliable as the PSTN is after its century of development.
Q: What features does a small business need with VoIP?
A: Small businesses considering VoIP can get a surprising amount of features for very little cost. They will likely need the same features they currently have via PSTN: extension dialing, an auto attendant to answer the phone and route calls to VoIP extensions, voice-mail boxes and audio conferencing. These seem to be part of most small-business VoIP packages and can even be handled by open-source IP PBXs such as Asterisk. VoIP-enabled mobile phones add cost, however.
Q: What type of Internet connection does VoIP require?
Q: What are all the pieces I need for VoIP (hardware, software, services, etc.)?
A: While it’s possible to use a dial-up connection for VoIP calling, this connection speed—typically 56 kilobits per second (Kbps)—is too slow for commercial use. Business will want to have a broadband Internet connection that provides speeds of at least 256 Kbps (speeds of up to 30 megabits per second [Mbps] are available). Most phone companies and ISPs such as Earthlink can provide at least broadband speeds with the installation of a simple modem, but higher speeds may require dedicated equipment and always-on connections with phone-company or ISP offices.
A: Businesses can implement VoIP between computers using nothing more than downloadable free software like Skype or Asterisk, but for additional features (voicemail and audio conferences of more than 10 people, for example) you’ll want to add dedicated, for-pay business services such as Digium’s Asterisk Business Edition, an enterprise-grade IP PBX for Linux. Hardware requirements also vary but typically include headsets, IP-enabled phones, and a physical IP PBX box, if desired.
More... Q: Can I use my company’s existing phone equipment and PBX with VOIP?
A: With additional special software and/or equipment, yes. For example, the Asterisk software-based IP PBX is designed for to work with PSTN and IP calls. Other third-party products like VoIP gateways can handle both SIP and H.323 (PSTN) phone traffic.
Q: How should my business plan to migrate to VoIP?
A: Just as it would to a new PSTN system: Consider whether you need VoIP or whether your PSTN system is adequate to your business’s tasks (for now); the pace of change in both VoIP software and hardware; and the potential for changes in the regulatory environment, which could add taxes and thus costs to VoIP.
More... Q: What is a VoIP gateway and do I need one?
A: A VoIP gateway
is important for any reasonable-size VoIP deployment because it handles the task of translating and switching voice and fax traffic from a traditional PBX to IP form and back. They are available in either software or hardware form, with the advantage of stand-alone hardware being that, as a small computer and router in its own right, the gateway doesn’t rely on your data network’s processing power. Larger, enterprise-class gateways can handle this switching-and-translating task for up to thousands of voice channels.
More...Q: What are the advantages of Asterisk for business?
A: As usual with VoIP, low cost is the most prominent benefit, but Asterisk’s open-source nature—with hundreds or thousands of developers constantly trying to improve each new software version—is another potential advantage. Open-source also means Asterisk users avoid vendor lock-in permanently, unless they go with a provider (like Digium) that may add proprietary bells and whistles to Asterisk code.
Q: Can VoIP handle faxing?
A: Not on its own, since fax and voice use different transmission standards. However, there are a large number of vendors, such as FaxBack [link to vendor profile] and Intelliverse [link] whose software products bridge the fax/voice gap. Businesses can also maintain a dedicated PSTN fax line if they like, or use any of the many available efax software clients like J2 Messenger that send faxes as e-mail attachments.
More...Q: Can VoIP handle a toll-free line?
A: Yes. Ask your service provider for details on how they support this.