What is Voice over IP and will it benefit my business?

In the world of Telephone Equipment & Systems or Communications, the new buzz word is VoIP (Voice over IP). As a provider of these types of services and equipment, I’m constantly amazed by how confused most people really are about Voice over IP. VoIP can mean a lot of different things, so I thought I’d start my blog by trying to explain what VoIP means when talking about our industry of Communications.

First I thought I’d provide a little back ground about our company, BCT Communication Systems Inc. The company was started in 1995 in Brantford Ontario Canada. We provide telephone equipment and systems to a variety of business customers both large and small. We are Authorized Dealers for Panasonic, NEC and Allworx IP telephone systems. Our service area includes Brantford, Hamilton, Burlington, Niagara, Cambridge, Kitchener & London.

We also provide data cabling, access control (Hartmann Controls-Authorized Dealer), video surveillance, and we have recently merged with Gilbert Security Systems which allows us to offer a full range of burglar alarms and security systems for residential and business customers.

Now, lets get back to the important stuff…. VoIP.

Voice over IP includes telephone numbers or lines, the actual telephone equipment itself, and the features the telephone systems can offer. There are “Hosted Systems, and In-House Systems” and unless you, the customer, know the pros and cons of these items, you really can’t make an educated or well informed decision and have to rely on the sales people who are trying desperately to push their product. This often results in spending a lot of money on something that doesn’t really work that well or provide you with the options you wanted in the first place.

Telephone Numbers or Lines: I hear this over and over again, “I’m interested in VoIP, because I want to save money on our long distance”. VoIP lines are usually less expensive than traditional analog telephone numbers. Some offer free long distance throughout Canada, and some have reduced packages for the U.S. When it comes to overall costs, the savings are usually on the line costs and not on the long distance. Long distance from traditional carriers is only about$.03 per minute and if you’re paying more you should call them and ask for better rates. However, buyer beware, unless you have a very stable internet service, you run the risk of having unstable telephone numbers once you switch to the VoIP lines.

A basic DSL service will usually support 4 or 5 VoIP lines. Any more than that and you will have to talk to your provider about increased bandwidth and now suddenly your increasing your costs. If you try sharing your DSL service with your computers as well, once you start using bandwidth for data, sometimes there isn’t much left for voice transmission and now you have a problem. Also it’s important to realize you can use VoIP telephone lines on most traditional telephone equipment. The line providers usually offer adapters (called ATA’s) that convert the VoIP lines into a usable service that most telephone systems can use.

REMEMBER – IT’S ALL ABOUT AVAILABLE BANDWIDTH AND STABILITY. Your internet service provider may tell you they offer up to 5 megs in your area. That simply means they can’t offer anything better in that area and doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting that much bandwidth. You may only be getting 2 megs and that may on the download end of things. The upload speed is usually less and it normally comes in around .5 megs for most customers. Have your IT department verify your upload and download speeds first. If the bandwidth isn’t there and your internet service is sometimes unstable, stay with the traditional analog lines. It’s not worth the headaches you’ll encounter when you start dropping calls.

I’ll cover other items in the next post. Thanks.

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