Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has made impressive market gains in the last few years, and SMBs are no exception. For one, it's a great way to cut costs and increase productivity without major hassles.
A recent Web poll conducted by the Computing Technology Industry Association showed respondents believed VoIP systems offer organizations one of the best opportunities for productivity gains. Granted, a simple Web poll shouldn't be the basis of setting a business strategy, but it's something to consider.
VoIP is a technology that allows users to place voice calls over a data network. For the SMB that has a broadband connection and some spare bandwidth, it may be worth considering.
Some reports indicate that VoIP now commands as much as 10% of all voice communication. That is a huge amount, given that the first VoIP systems were not released until the 1990s.
The good, the bad and the money
There are many ways that VoIP may help improve productivity and cut costs for your SMB. VoIP providers can issue phone numbers in areas where a company doesn't have an office. For example, if your company is based in Houston, but many of your customers are in the Los Angeles area, VoIP will allow the company to get a Los Angeles phone number that rings in the Houston office. With VoIP, your company could also give its London-based developers the Houston number so it does not incur long-distances charges. Other options such as 3-way conferencing, forwarding and video conferencing are available.
One of the biggest advantages is cost. Let's face it -- traditional telco services are not cheap. Telcos are highly regulated and taxed. If you haven't taken a close look at your phone bill lately, you may be surprised at how many taxes are added on your bill. Because VoIP is not categorized as a traditional phone service, it has temporarily escaped the tax structure of traditional telco services. At the same time, because VoIP providers are operating in this unregulated state, they are also able to offer many services that traditional telcos consider premiums.Let's face it -- traditional telco services are not cheap. Telcos are highly regulated
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Now, if you are thinking that all this sounds too good be true, don't worry. There are some drawbacks to VoIP systems as well. First of all, it's hooked to a company's network. If the network goes down, so does the phone service. Security is also another issue, because the company is now using its data network to send voice communications. Finally, VoIP is time sensitive. It does not handle delays and congestion well. And limitations to bandwidth and compression technologies can cause a reduction in sound quality, packet loss and echo.
VoIP is like most technologies in that it may not be right for everyone, but it does offer a benefit for some companies. Check out some VoIP systems and see if they might help your SMB grow. Start on a small scale and decrease your traditional telco services after you see if it works for you.
Michael C. Gregg is president of Superior Solutions Inc., a security assessment and training firm in Freeport, Texas. His current responsibilities include performing security assessments and evaluations for corporate and government entities. He has served as the developer of high-level security classes and study guides, has taught classes for many Fortune 500 companies and contributed to several books, including his most new Que publication, CISSP Exam Cram 2.