Because of the bandwidth efficiency and low costs that VoIP technology can provide, businesses are gradually beginning to migrate from traditional copper-wire telephone systems to VoIP systems to reduce their monthly phone costs.
VoIP solutions aimed at businesses have evolved into “unified communications” services that treat all communications—phone calls, faxes, voice mail, e-mail, Web conferences and more—as discrete units that can all be delivered via any means and to any handset, including cell phones. Two kinds of competitors are competing in this space: one set is focused on VoIP for medium to large enterprises, while another is targeting the small-to-medium business (SMB) market.
VoIP allows both voice and data communications to be run over a single network, which can significantly reduce infrastructure costs.
The prices of extensions on VoIP are lower than for PBX and key systems. VoIP switches may run on commodity hardware, such as PCs or Linux systems. Rather than closed architectures, these devices rely on standard interfaces.
VoIP devices have simple, intuitive user interfaces, so users can often make simple system configuration changes. Dual-mode cell phones enable users to continue their conversations as they move between an outside cellular service and an internal Wi-Fi network so that it is no longer necessary to carry both a desktop phone and a cell phone. Maintenance becomes simpler as there are fewer devices to oversee.
Skype, which originally marketed itself as a service among friends, has begun to cater to businesses, providing free-of-charge connections between any users on the Skype network and connecting to and from ordinary PSTN telephones for a charge.
In the United States, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is converting its field offices of 63,000 workers from traditional phone installations to a VoIP infrastructure carried over its existing data network.
VoIP can be a benefit for reducing communication and infrastructure costs. Examples include:
Routing phone calls over existing data networks to avoid the need for separate voice and data networks.
Conference calling, IVR, call forwarding, automatic redial, and caller ID features that traditional telecommunication companies (telcos) normally charge extra for, are available free of charge from open source VoIP implementations.
VoIP can facilitate tasks and provide services that may be more difficult to implement using the PSTN. Examples include:
The ability to transmit more than one telephone call over a single broadband connection.
Secure calls using standardized protocols (such as Secure Real-time Transport Protocol). Most of the difficulties of creating a secure telephone connection over traditional phone lines, such as digitizing and digital transmission, are already in place with VoIP. It is only necessary to encrypt and authenticate the existing data stream.
Location independence. Only a sufficiently fast and stable Internet connection is needed to get a connection from anywhere to a VoIP provider.
Integration with other services available over the Internet, including video conversation, message or data file exchange during the conversation, audio conferencing, managing address books, and passing information about whether other people are available to interested parties.
Unified Communications, the integration of VoIP with other business systems including E-mail, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Web systems.