What are the advantages of using Voice over IP (VoIP) technology?

My IT director says that we should implement a system where our employees are using Voice over IP. What are the advantages of such a system for a growing company?

A. John Coulthard of Microsoft writes:

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) refers to the use of the internet to make phone calls rather than traditional telephone networks and is becoming a genuine option for more businesses as the take-up of broadband grows.

The major advantage of VoIP is the potential for huge cost savings on telephone calls. VoIP offers a flat-rate fee for call charges with companies paying only a monthly subscription after initial setup costs. Subscription costs start from as little as £40 a month.

Subscribing to the services of a VoIP provider means calls can be made to any landline or mobile number, whether local, national or international, at no extra cost. It is possible to make calls entirely for free over broadband without paying for the services of a VoIP provider by using purpose-built telephones or PC headsets. But you can then only call other users with similar equipment. Businesses with offices located across the country or with international bases may benefit from an internal VoIP telephone system to provide free calls across the business.

Given that the cost savings are attractive there are other elements to exploit, such as voicemail integration with email, which means that all messages can then be found in one place on your PC’s desktop. Savings on hardware are also available by reducing the need for using both mobile phones and PDAs. VoIP is also a useful way of making the integration of home and flexible workers more cost effective.

If the business frequently transfers large volumes of data, it may be necessary to invest in more bandwidth to ensure your business retains the full benefit of broadband.

On the downside, the fact that it isn’t always possible to transfer existing telephone numbers to a VoIP provider may count against the service. And making calls over the internet is, of course, an option denied to businesses in those areas still awaiting the roll out of a broadband network. Businesses taking a lot of customer phone calls may also prefer to bide their time until concerns about call quality have been addressed.

However, for those that wish to bring together different forms of digital communication or integrate flexible workers, VoIP clearly has role


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