Voip phones for business

After a lot of consideration,  I put my business phones onto a voip phone system about 5 years ago.  And I couldn’t be happier – it’s been so worth the change.

Sound quality

My initial reluctance was over sound quality and uptime.  After about 5 years, I’m more than happy with both.  About once every year and a half or so we may have a bit of downtime from the carrier – but it’s rare and resolved right away.  Sound quality is normally excellent, occassionally less than perfect.  So I’d put it somewhere between a hard line and a cell phone – but definitely closer to the hard line end of the spectrum.  It’s close enough to perfect that the very rare difficulties are easily overlooked or ignored.

Cost

I’m running our Voip phone system on a $250 mini pc sitting in my basement. I’ve installed asterisknow, which is free software that’s readily available on the web, and very robust.  I don’t even begin to use all of the features.  Compare that hardware to the cost of a PBX system, and you save thousands just in the setup.

We have 15 lines on our system, with 3 toll free numbers.  My base cost for this is $15/month and 1 cent a minute within North America.  Comparable cost through a traditional carrier would likely be a thousand just for the base cost before the phone was picked up, and I don’t even want to know what the per minute charges are on toll free anymore.

I do know that I put a friend over on this system and they went from $500/month under a traditional hardline down to $50 a month for voip.  That’s over $5000 savings in a year for a one person small business.

Scalability

I’m a bit of a tech head. Not so much that I do technology for technology’s sake, but enough that if technology will give me a business advantage, I’ll use it.  And Voip phones have done that in spades.

A few years ago we moved our business from an office back into our homes.  We live and breathe on our phones, so the move could’ve been problematic.  What is the timeframe and costs involved in moving a 15 line phone system from one location to another with a traditional carrier?  I don’t know, but I bet it’s thousands and likely a day or two you’d be down.

By contrast, with my voip system I simply turned the server off, drove it to my house about 5 minutes away, plugged it back in and turned it on, and our phones were ringing again.  5 minutes travel time downtime, and no cost.

Features

Because Voip phones are fun by software, you can pretty much do whatever you can imagine. We actually have two contract-type employees who work with our office. Neither are local – one’s an hour drive away and the other is a 5 hour drive away.  I simply mailed them a voip phone that they plugged into their internet connection.  That gives them a completely seamless remote extension.  You can call our toll free number and ask for ‘Bob’, and we simply transfer you to his extension and you’re immediately speaking to Bob who’s 500 miles away from us.  And the employees can make outbound calls from the same remote extension and it gets billed through our phone system.

You can also connect your cell phone through the voip system.  If you don’t have a good long distance plan, you can call from your cell phone through your voip system and back out to the long distance number.  That gives you your Voip phone system cost for long distance calls on your cell.

Similiarly, you can have your voip system ring your cell when the phone rings.  Going on vacation?  Just have all calls to your toll free number ring onto your cell phone.

In fact, with our remote extension setup, you can plugin those remote extensions anywhere you have an internet connection.  It’s my intention when we vacation next year (we go to some reasonably remote locations) to take a voip phone and simply plug it in as an extension.  That way we are still answering our phones even on vacation.  I know that sounds bad, but I’m big on customer service, so it lets me act like a big company rather than a small one – I’m highly available to my customers.  It effectively gives me a mobile office anywhere, anytime.

I haven’t got there yet, but our voip phone system will do things like round robin calling, ringing different extensions at different times, and even integrate with our client database – we can pull up a client record, click on the phone number and boom, the phone is ringing the client.  Conversely, when a client rings my extension it’ll automatically bring up the client’s record on my screen.  Try that with a traditional phone system!

In summary, yes to voip.  Hell yes to voip!  It saves my small business thousands of dollars a year, has great uptime, low cost, and way more features than a traditional system.