This week we are urging organisations to join the ‘IP telephone revolution’ to get free voice calls along with the ability to combine it with sophisticated software. By routing telephone calls through IP – Internet Protocol – telephony is currently undergoing its biggest evolution since Alexander Graham Bell invented the first prototype telephone in 1875.
Telephony has historically been based on analogue ‘circuit-switched’ technology. Imagine an old-fashioned switchboard operator plugging in wires to establish a connection, and you get a pretty good idea of what circuit-switching means.
Over the last decade, however, a new digital communications ‘architecture’ has been rapidly maturing and is transforming telephony. The development of the World Wide Web has made Internet Protocol – or IP – a familiar household term. IP is essentially a digital language that allows computing devices to exchange information over a network.
IP telephony today is mature and reliable, and the business benefits it delivers are compelling. The fundamental advantages of IP telephony over analogue systems are lower telephone bills and smarter business communications.
Most corporate data networks are IP-based and can support IP telephony. This means that voice traffic can be sent over the same network and effectively ‘rides for free’. This is known as ‘voice and data convergence’ – or just ‘convergence’. Maintaining a single converged network, rather than separate voice and data networks, can deliver massive cost savings.
And since voice calls are now data, you can manage voice traffic with sophisticated software applications to deliver some very clever features and functionality. For example, phones can be plugged into standard data ports, meaning your building only requires a single set of cabling. IP telephony also eases future growth as it’s simple to add extensions or integrate new sites into an existing network.
Regardless of where remote workers are located, they will be able to access the same key services and functionality as their colleagues based in the office enabling you to offer the same seamless service and customer care across your entire organisation. IP telephony also makes it easy and cost-effective to include temporary workers or even a temporary office for ad-hoc projects, and consolidate resources such as operator positions in one central place.
It’s because of reasons such as these that IP telephony has been gaining significant traction with businesses of all sizes, and sales of IP-enabled systems are now outstripping sales of traditional analogue ones. Indeed, the number of IP extensions has exceeded the 2 million mark, and will account for 74% of the market in 2013.
Through IP telephony, organisations will be better able to implement remote or mobile working, advanced messaging, networking and contact centre functionality, dramatically improving the way people communicate, work and collaborate.
There are some amazing features that can be incorporated into an IP telephone system, for example ‘one number access’ where each member of staff can be allocated a number and all calls automatically are routed to wherever they are and whatever handset they’re using – wireless, desktop or IP ‘soft phone’, which is a piece of software which turns a laptop into an IP phone. This ‘follow me’ roaming helps customers, suppliers and other members of staff get through to the right person first time.
There is also ‘unified messaging’ where staff can have ‘anywhere, anytime’ access to all their messages – voicemail, e-mail and fax – through one single interface. This makes it easier for users to manage messages without the need to juggle different devices and they benefit from having a record of communications in one place. Remote workers, or those on the move, can also retrieve messages remotely or have them forwarded automatically, wherever they may be.
Or there is a raft of remote working features, where IP telephony seamlessly supports remote workers, allowing businesses to offer more flexible working practices to ensure they get the best from their staff. Armed with a laptop, a headset and an IP soft phone, remote workers can use all the same features and functionality as if they were sitting at their desk.
IP telephony is an ideal solution for companies wanting to save space by using ‘hot-desks’. Users can simply log onto a phone wherever they feel like sitting down and their number will be instantly assigned to that desk. IP Telephony, however, will not provide sound business benefits for all organisations. For this reason you need to make sure you get the best advice on the right solution for you, which makes it easy and cost-effective to amend in order to implement new technology when it’s right for your business.