A VoIP phone system can be a great fit for your St. Louis business. But Missouri is known as the Show-me State and many St. Louis Business owners have been hesitant to embrace this new technology. That has been changing especially since the pandemic has changed the way we work.
Not only does a VoIP phone system offer the latest in communication technology, but it can also provide you with cost savings on bills, upgrades and updates and much greater flexibility than traditional systems. Nearly 31 percent of all businesses have already made the switch to VoIP cloud services and we’re here to show you why.
What is a VoIP phone system?
Before we go any further, we should first differentiate a VoIP phone system from traditional telephone lines.
Traditional business phone systems
St. Louis business phone systems have traditionally run on the tried and true method of circuit switching. This method, used by phone companies for over a century, is extraordinarily reliable but by today’s standards, very inefficient. When you call another person, a connection is made between the two parties which is maintained for the entire duration of the call. This connection, or circuit, is the basis of the entire Public Switched Telephone Network (PTSN) as we know it.
A traditional phone call follows this process:
- You pick up your phone and listen for a dial tone, letting you know that you have a connection to the local office of your carrier.
- You dial the number of the party you wish to talk to.
- The call is routed through the switch at your local carrier to the individual you are calling.
- A connection is made between your telephone and the other individual’s line using several interconnected switches along the way.
- The phone at the other end rings, and someone answers the call.
- This connection forms a circuit.
- You proceed with your phone call.
- You hang up and the circuit is closed, freeing up your line and all the lines in between the two parties.
Circuit switching is still a very stable call method and that’s why many St. Louis business phone systems rely on it to this day. However, it is inefficient because the circuit is open for the duration of the call, even during moments of silence when no audio is being transmitted. And, while those moments of silence are often only a few seconds, they do add up quickly over the course of a 10 to 15-minute call, and your business is paying for it! Thankfully, VoIP phone systems alleviate this issue.
VoIP phone system
A great place to start with VoIP phone systems is what that strange acronym even stands for! VoIP means Voice over Internet Protocol. VoIP allows you to leverage the internet service you already have and pay for to deliver your telephone communications as well. You no longer need telephone lines, just phone numbers. A VoIP phone system uses something called packet switching. Packet switching sends individual bundles of data through the network only when in use instead of all the time like circuit switching.
A VoIP call follows this process:
- The calling phone chops data into small packets, with an address on each one telling the network devices where to send them.
- Inside of each packet is a payload. The payload is a piece of the call audio being transported.
- The calling phone sends the packet to a nearby router. The nearby router sends the packet to another router that is closer to the recipient’s phone. That router sends the packet along to another, and so on.
- When the receiving phone finally receives these packets (which may have all taken completely different paths to get there), it uses instructions contained within the packets to reassemble the audio into its original state.
This process may sound horribly complicated and therefore inefficient. But this all happens within milliseconds and a good quality VoIP call is indistinguishable from a traditional circuit-switched phone call.
Hosted VoIP replaces traditional landlines and the associated digital and analog equipment with a cloud-based phone system. Any call made is converted into digital data packets and sent to the receiver via the internet. This process requires a physical server capable of handling the information, which—for a non-hosted VoIP—must be installed by your business somewhere on-site. However, with hosted VoIP service (often referred to as Cloud Phone Service), you simply subscribe to a VoIP provider that has already set up the secure servers off-site you will need. The services are sold as a subscription and as your business grows, the service grows with it.
On-premise managed VoIP systems require a physical server to be installed in your facility. Typically you, with the assistance of your vendor, are responsible for all ongoing maintenance of that system. Additionally, often an on-site expert is needed to help manage the moves, additions and changes to the system. Some larger businesses may find it more convenient to have a server and technician within the building to ensure the least amount of downtime possible should problems arise. But many businesses prefer the convenience and security offered by off-site secure cloud-based systems.
Setup, Upgrades and Maintenance
Setting up a new VoIP phone system is relatively simple and probably less expensive than you think. Since most St. Louis businesses already have phone systems and a computer network in place, often there is no additional hardware (except perhaps the telephones themselves) required to implement a VoIP Cloud-based phone system. Many companies are using software on their computers and headsets for their new “telephones” in addition to mobile apps in place of a traditional business desk phone. And, some VoIP providers will include telephones in their monthly services. Since the service is cloud-based, updates to system software are done through a user-friendly application, reducing the need to make time for a service technician. With Mastor’s solution, ongoing changes to programming and system updates are included in the monthly subscription. Replacements can be shipped pre-provisioned and simply plugged in upon arrival. Adding new employees is fast and easy. Through the use of Apps (mobile and softphone), Mastor can have a new user up and running on the same day.
Benefits of a VoIP phone system
There are many features that we believe a business phone system should have, and most of them are available on any VoIP phone system. These features include:
- Call forwarding
- Call recording
- Call waiting
- Conferencing/Video conferencing
- Voicemail to email notifications
- Text to Speech translation
These are just some examples of how business phones can help your company become more efficient.
Not all St. Louis business phone systems are created equally. Many have limited functionality or don’t support mobile devices at all, which can be a huge headache if you need to use your system on the go sometimes. Fortunately, there are VoIP phone systems that go above and beyond this problem by offering full integration with smartphones and tablets through the use of a Mobile App that turns your cell phone into a fully functioning business telephone:
Mobile Integration Features:
- App based calling on your smartphone allows you to keep your personal cell phone number private
- Call waiting on your smartphone
- Conference Calling
- Extension to Extension transfer
- Voicemail retrieval via email or text message (SMS) when you can’t answer the phone
With more and more businesses moving to fully remote or hybrid configurations, the ability for employee cellphones to operate on the same level as a full-scale office telephone system is a must.
If your company is looking to scale, your St. Louis business phone system will have to scale along with it. Luckily for VoIP phone service, scalability is no obstacle. VoIP phone systems allow your company to add or remove lines on the fly, oftentimes on the very same day! If your business relies on a traditional telephone system, this can be a painful and expensive process that could take days if not weeks.
For employers, a VoIP phone system is an investment that will often pay for itself in the long run. There is no large out-of-pocket expense. In addition to saving on labor costs and equipment, it can also save you money by eliminating monthly fees associated with landlines. You’ll also be able to make use of some of the most advanced features in unified communications technology at a fraction of the cost.
In fact, businesses that make the switch to a VoIP phone system save anywhere from 30 to 50 percent on average. If you are looking for ways that your business can save money while improving productivity and efficiency, look no further than upgrading to a VoIP phone system.
Potential downsides to VoIP phone systems
While there are numerous benefits to upgrading your St. Louis business phone systems to VoIP, there are potential pitfalls to keep in mind. Here are a few things to consider before committing to the switch. Most of these are manageable and relate to existing network infrastructure.
If your business doesn’t currently have a fast, stable internet connection, and doesn’t plan on upgrading any time soon, a VoIP phone system likely isn’t a great option. The quality of your voice calls is completely dependent on the stability and speed of your existing internet connection. Each VoIP device should have a minimum of 85 kbps upload speed available to provide high-quality phone calls. Mastor would be happy to help you determine if your internet connection is stable and robust enough to support a Cloud-based VoIP phone system. Often times a simple upgrade is well worth the additional cost to realize the savings and productivity gained by the move to VoIP.
VoIP phone system security has greatly improved in recent years, but there are some common threats that still remain. If you and your team aren’t diligent, your St. Louis business phone systems can be left vulnerable to the following:
- DDoS Attacks – A Distributed Denial-of-Service attack, or DDoS, occurs when a cybercriminal intentionally overwhelms a server with data in an attempt to throttle all its bandwidth. This can temporarily or indefinitely disrupt your business’s services, including your ability to make or receive calls in the case of a VoIP phone system. This can be mitigated on your phone system through the mobile application. But a DDOS attack on your network may disable your physical phones.
- Malware – Like any other system connected to the internet, VoIP phone systems are susceptible to harmful Malware and other viruses that seek to slow down or compromise your network. Ensure that your business’s hardware and software are up to date.
- Eavesdropping – If your VoIP service is set up on unencrypted WIFI you run the risk of unwanted ears connecting to your system and listening in on your team’s internal communications.
Again, all of these potential issues can be mitigated with the help of Mastor and your IT professionals.
A switch to a VoIP phone system can be a great fit for your St. Louis business.
You may feel that a VoIP phone system is not right for your business, but it could be the perfect fit. You should consider the following factors when deciding whether or not a VoIP phone system is right for your St. Louis business:
- Affordability – A traditional phone system can be expensive to purchase and maintain. The out-of-pocket upfront costs are high and that is before ongoing maintenance. A cloud-based VoIP phone system allows you to fix your monthly expense making budgeting a breeze and typically includes your ongoing maintenance. Many St. Louis businesses have found that their monthly expense is far less than they are currently paying for their phone lines and maintenance on their existing hardware.
- Ease of Use – VoIP solutions are easy to use and require very little maintenance from users; this makes them ideal for small businesses that might not have time on their hands to manage technical aspects like updating software or troubleshooting hardware issues during business hours. Moreover, since most VoIP solutions do not require dedicated hardware (such as desktop phones), they allow users more flexibility when setting up their office space by allowing them more freedom in choosing where they place their computer(s).
- Remote Workforce – Cloud VoIP phone systems allow St. Louis businesses the flexibility to let their workforce be productive anywhere. This can be crucial in these uncertain times.
In this post, we’ve gone over some of the benefits of implementing a VoIP phone system for your St. Louis business. We hope that you now feel more confident about finding a solution that works for your company’s needs! Mastor has been helping St. Louis businesses with their communication needs for more than 30 years. To learn more about what options are available to you at Mastor contact us today!