INSIGHT

Did you know analogue phones switch off in 2025?

How do you and your team make calls? Phone lines that rely on copper wire networks have been around for decades, but they’re scheduled for switch-off sooner than you might think. So what’s going to replace it – and is it time to move?

Voice tech is changing. The world is moving away from the traditional blend of mobiles, landlines and conference services and embracing cloud based, fully integrated solutions. For businesses, this represents an incredible opportunity to move to a phone system that works seamlessly with the technology that’s already second nature to their employees and customers, whether they’re communicating through cloud applications, smartphones or over the top services like Skype.

Wherever we’re doing that thing we call ‘work’ – the office, downstairs at Starbucks, or sweeping stuff aside to use the kitchen table, it’s more than likely we have an internet connection, or at the very least, a smartphone within easy reach. The tools that will empower the next generation of business communications are readily available, so all we need is a service that brings them all together.

For those in the tech business, this brand of magic makes use of internet connections instead of copper cabling and is referred to as Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP for short. It’s been around for a while, but huge advances are now turning it from a relatively niche tool – to something many of us are using as the main way to make calls every single day. Because once you’ve got going, it really is simple. Thanks to the power of fibre optic cabling and 24/7 support from your ISP, you’ll have the reassurance that your call quality will never be compromised. And with many providers offering incentives like unlimited calls as part of a standard package, you’ll be saving on call costs too. 

But why should I care?

BT has announced that it will migrate all its customers to an IP system by 2025, but that’s really only part of the story. Compared to the infrastructure and management requirements of copper networks, VoIP is faster, easily customisable and fully integrated as part of a business’s digital communication structure. The number of companies using traditional phones is already falling – 17% fewer calls were made from landlines in 2017 and it’s expected to halve over the next few years. As digital forms of communication become the norm, businesses will need to ensure they're well placed to keep up with an increasingly digitally savvy marketplace. 

It’s not necessarily corporate giants leading the way however. Thought leader The Cavell Group puts small business owners at the centre of this revolution. Its 2016 report on VoIP found that companies with less than 50 employees, “Now account for 59.4% of the growth.”

Are you future-proofed?

And it’s not just costs that are enticing companies to switch. For companies split over multiple sites, even in different countries, everyone has an internal extension. And that makes dialling another time zone just like calling down the corridor.

Plus, you still have complete control over call routing – to the next available sales person, to a call centre abroad during busy times, or to voicemail when you’re visiting clients. But these calls are all free as part of your data plan. And, on top of this, you can easily scale your system – adding or removing a line at the flick of a switch - rather than waiting for an engineer and a road to be dug up. Up to 60 days can be reduced to less than a minute. 

It’s not only the phone lines themselves that are undergoing a VoIP revolution. The technology itself sits within the Cloud, allowing businesses to take advantage of a further raft of features and functionalities, like multi-party conference calls, secure file sharing and instant messaging with colleagues and customers around the globe. Even better still, a single cloud based communications network means that no matter where they are, everyone from colleagues to clients are now part of the conversation. Whether they’re using their mobile devices to join video calls or access collaborative projects through tools like Office 365, instant, productive collaboration has never been easier.

How does it work?

It’s definitely not actually magic. Traditional phone networks use physical switches in ‘exchanges’ to connect landlines. But VoIP digitises your voice into small packets of information and sends it down a broadband connection – just like your emails. When the packets reach the other person’s device, they’re reassembled to provide the information they’re carrying. Which is your voice. It’s all very tried and tested.

How could you use it?

There are two ways to get VoIP into your business. And the good news is that you’ve probably already got most of the kit. A smart phone might be, for instance, your key component – just download the right app.

For laptops and tablets you might also want to plug in some headphones. But most modern devices are capable of being used as for VoIP. And cloud phones are also available.

But whatever kit you use, there two basic ‘flavours’ of solution:

1. Go Cloud-based

If you pay a monthly fee you can ‘rent’ the service and all the technical stuff will happen in someone else’s big, well-maintained server farm – leaving the techie bits to people who specialise in that type of thing. This option is brilliant for small businesses that want all the advantages of a cloud voice
solution (the unparalleled mobility and instant collaboration for example) but don’t want or need all the hassle and hardware that goes with maintaining a cloud server on site.  

2. Keep it in the office

Some people prefer more control and decide to buy and keep the servers at their own offices. Which means the upfront costs increase and you need to do the tech support and maintenance yourself. It’s called SIP Trunking and it just replaces your copper telephone wires with the internet, making the most of your existing network investment.

Anything else to know?

Well, that’s about it. But do bear in mind that the speed of your connection is a factor. The faster it is, the clearer and smoother your calls will be. That’s why lots of people turn to their broadband provider for a VoIP solution. We’re here to help guide you through and make sure you’ve got the right set-up.

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