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Virtual Phone Systems vs VoIP
For businesses today to be able to thrive in a competitive world communication is essential, and it is no longer practical to rely solely on the fixed line telephone. The Internet has opened up a wider range of communication methods than was even dreamt possible a decade or so ago. Along with the basic telephone, we now have email and mobile technology, and even ‘virtual’ communication in the form of virtual phone systems, which are becoming more popular as the technology improves. ‘Voice over Internet Protocol’ (VoIP) is another technical advance that is making life easier for many businesses as well as individuals.
What is a virtual phone system, and what equipment do I need?
A virtual phone system is a form of communication that takes place over the Internet via computer. Call traffic is delivered to a real phone, and diverted to the virtual phone system on your computer; all the controls and features for you to handle the calls appear on the computer screen. Advantages include features such as call-forwarding and call-queuing, and you can have additional phone numbers if required. The main disadvantage is that a virtual phone system delivers calls via the ‘public switched telephone network’(PSTN) which is administered by the local, regional, or national telephone operator, and consequently needs to be paid for, so the system is not free and can, in some cases, be costly.
What is VoIP, and what equipment do I need?
VoIP is another means of communicating over the Internet, with the added advantage in that is cheaper and, in many cases, free, because it utilizes existing Internet infrastructure to transmit sounds such as the voice. Its wireless capability means that it is extremely flexible and far more versatile than a virtual phone system. Your monthly Internet bill is not affected in any way because there is no additional apparatus required. VoIP services also allow you to make calls in the traditional way, using conventional phones, so you have a wider choice of communication methods. If you decide to replace your existing service with VoIP as your only service, you will have to pay for it, but the calls you make will be cheaper than those made conventionally.
One advantage with many VoIP services, and one which has proved invaluable to family members and friends who live far from each other, is that you are able to see on screen the person to whom you are talking. Most users say that it is the next best thing to being in the same room. From a business point of view, it has huge benefits because it is so much easier to gauge a person’s attitude and demeanor via body language than by voice alone.
These days, communication services providers offer ‘deals’ which enable subscribers to get the most out of the service they pay for. In the case of Internet providers, free telephone calls is one of the most attractive ‘extras’ that can be offered, but such deals are not available to everyone; in many countries, communication is expensive, and this is where VoIP is beneficial. To be able to make a call at minimal cost or even free, as long as you have Internet access, is a tremendous advantage to many people.
To make the most of VoIP as a business tool, you need broadband Internet access such as an ‘asymmetric digital subscriber line’ (ADSL) with a competent speed. Unlimited 24/7 ADSL will provide the very best service because your monthly broadband cost will be fixed, and you will have the advantage of being able to use VoIP at any time, day or night, with no restrictions and for no extra cost. For the business that regularly communicates between countries or over different time zones, this is almost priceless.
What are the main differences between virtual phone systems and VoIP?
The fundamental differences between virtual phone systems and VoIP are:
- Cost – a virtual phone system relies on a real phone and a fixed line for delivery of call traffic, which is then diverted so that it can be handled via computer screen. Calls have to be transmitted over the public switched telephone network, so charges are unavoidable. By comparison, VoIP operates via the Internet service for which the subscriber already has a fixed monthly cost; calls made by way of VoIP do not need PSTN so are either totally free or charged at low cost. WiFi ensures flexibility.
- Availability – as long as Internet access is available, VoIP can be available anywhere, even in areas where traditional communication methods are difficult to set up and costly to maintain.
The future of business communication
New businesses are being established all the time, and for anyone thinking of starting one, there are many considerations, not least the costs of communication. The choice of systems is huge; each one will have advantages and disadvantages, but the overall cost will influence the final decision. VoIP has proved itself over recent years, and continuous development has made it as reliable and efficient as it can be.
While both the virtual phone system and VoIP will create a professional corporate image for your business, VoIP will provide it for the least cost, if not for free, and with no need for long term commitment. Apart from the product or service being provided, communication is one of the most important aspects of a business, and keeping the costs to a minimum enables the owner to concentrate on the task in hand – ensuring a profitable enterprise that has a healthy financial future.