This article explores the advantages of an IP phone system for business needs. We consider the possible systems that are available today, including PC phone systems. We then cover some considerations for small to medium business needs analysis when upgrading to an IP phone system.
One extremely crucial feature important to understand is the advantages IP interfaces provide to a business telephone system. IP connections will improve the flexibility of a business telephone system, particularly in managing extensions. This greatly facilitates moving phones easily within the office. An IP interface also provides support for locating compatible phones in home offices and making connections when travelling. In addition, systems with a built-in Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) feature allow connecting over the Internet without any additional hardware for analog to digital conversion.
Some of the most popular commercially available systems today are Panasonic, Avaya Partner, Lucent, Merlin, Nortel Norstar, Comdial and Vodavi (from Vertical), NEC, Toshiba, Mitel, and Shoretel phone systems. Not all of these systems support IP features, so we suggest consulting your local provider for the latest offered features. In addition to a “traditional” phone system, any PC or computer can be used as an IP phone system with downloadable free software. Keep in mind that “free” systems will require a significantly greater level of skill on your staff (or from your local provider).
How can you most effectively choose from among these available business telephone systems? In fact, most any of these systems would be an acceptable choice for the average small business. If you already have experience with one or more systems, then you can make a list of important features that your business cannot live without, should you change systems. And for some, engaging a consultant to perform a detailed systems analysis would be in order. But for most, the key selection criterion will be choosing a good local dealer who can sufficiently support your business needs.
Also, keep in mind that directing your voice traffic over the Internet may necessitate an upgrade of the company’s Internet connection, in order to support voice as well as data. Integrated voice/data services are useful for this, particularly if provided with a Quality of Service (QOS) attribute, which efficiently prioritizes voice traffic over less critical data traffic. Thus when employees are downloading large files or watching online videos, business telephone conversations will not be affected.
If the business must have a very consistent phone service, then you should consider a T1 connection, which is delivered with a Service Level Agreement (SLA), to minimize downtime. Since T1 lines have come down significantly in price from only a few years ago, when the average monthly cost would have been over $1000 to at present often under $300, a T1 has become a much more realistic solution. The available features and number of vendors supplying T1 services have also increased dramatically in recent years. A telecommunications broker can assist with choosing the best T1 service provider according to your needs.