VoIP has been heralded as a game-changer in the telephony world, promising to bring lower costs, more flexibility and better portability, but with so many systems to choose from it can be difficult for small business owners to find the right platform.
In this article, we look at what VoIP is, how it works and why our Horizon platform is the perfect fit for most small businesses. If you already know you need a VoIP system and would like to request a quote please click here to get in touch.
What is VoIP?
If you read our recent article "What is VoIP", you'll already have a comprehensive understanding of what it is, how it works and how it can benefit your business, but for those of you that are new to our website, VoIP is an acronym for voice over internet protocol, which is a technical way of saying telephone calls that are connected via the internet.
In years gone by, your telephone calls would either have been sent over an analogue telephone line or via ISDN, with the first being the most common form and the latter tending to be used by slightly larger businesses.
What is needed for a VoIP phone system?
You'll be surprised to know that you need relatively little for a VoIP phone system - you don't need to buy expensive hardware for instance. First, and most importantly, you need a VoIP system, with the most common option being to pay for a cloud-hosted service such as our Horizon platform. By renting a hosted VoIP system, rather than buying the equipment yourself, you place all of the responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the system on the provider. So rather than having to host your own equipment and paying for it to be maintained, you can just pay a monthly fee and access a range of advanced features.
In addition to the system itself, you only need two other things, an internet connection and an internet-connected device to make the calls. When we say internet-connect device, we mean one or more of the following:
- A VoIP handset
- A Smartphone
- A laptop or computer with a microphone
Chances are you already have a suitable device to make calls, and with over 95% of us in the UK having internet access, it's more than likely you have an internet connection too - you're reading this article after all! So the only thing you're missing is a VoIP system, which as we've mentioned, you can get for a very affordable monthly cost.
Is VoIP good for small business?
Yes, VoIP is brilliant for small business - in our opinion, it's a game-changer. Similarly to the evolution of other cloud technologies such as Dropbox or Microsoft Office 365, cloud-hosted VoIP gives small businesses access to enterprise-grade technology for a low monthly cost.
Benefits of VoIP for a small business
There is a huge range of benefits of VoIP to small businesses including:
Small businesses are always keen to minimise costs, so the good news is that by implementing a VoIP phone system many of your telephony related costs will be reduced. Firstly, there is no longer the need for expensive ISDN telephone lines, which BT are phasing out by 2025 anyway. Secondly, as the system is hosted in the cloud, there's no expensive equipment to buy or finance, it's all included in your monthly service subscription fee. Finally, as calls are routed over the internet, they are almost always cheaper than calls made via traditional phone services. Many VoIP phone system providers, including ourselves, even include free calls with most packages. Finally, you don't have to have a VoIP handset, but if you do opt for one with us, you can choose between the excellent Polycom VVX450, or the Yealink W52P cordless handset, for free!
Increased accessibility/flexibility over where you work
Aside from the cost savings associated with VoIP, the ability to work from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet connection, has to be one of the primary benefits. At the time of writing the world is still struggling to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, and in the UK employees are being told to work from home where they can. With traditional phone systems, making that switch from office to home working isn't easy and ultimately results in call forwarding and extra costs. With a cloud VoIP system, you can work from anywhere, all you need is a device that can make and receive calls and you're away. Central to this is the ability to take your phone number with you wherever you are. Your office may have a geographic or non-geographic number, but with VoIP it doesn't matter, you can pick up your number from the comfort of your own home or even on your mobile device while you're out and about.
Our Horizon platform comes with both Android and iOS apps so you can make and receive calls on your smartphone from anywhere. The flexibility that a hosted VoIP gives you is truly a significant benefit.
We touched on portability in the last benefit, but essentially by having a cloud VoIP system you can use the same telephone number anywhere. You can give the impression you're in the office while you're actually sitting in a far-flung exotic location, or perhaps just your home office.
For start-ups and small businesses, you want to make sure that the telephony solution that you choose today fits you tomorrow and far beyond too. The last thing you want to be doing is changing your phone system after only a couple of years. The great thing with internet hosted VoIP phone systems, such as our own Horizon service, is that they are scalable. Our own platform, for instance, can scale up to thousands of users, so you can rest assured that as your business grows your phone system will keep up.
Numerous helpful features
We'll get into the detail of the features our Horizon platform provides a bit later in this article, but it's safe to say - they are extensive. If you have a traditional phone service, you'd either need to pay for an expensive controller to access advanced features or suffer from limited and basic controls. With cloud-hosted VoIP you can do everything from call recording to music on hold with a few clicks of a button. Yes, certain features come at a premium, but rather than needing to buy the latest and greatest hardware, you'd merely need to upgrade your subscription to access them. Small businesses today can present a professional impression and belie their size using cloud-based technologies such as VoIP.
Improved voice quality
When VoIP was first developed and internet connections were slower and less reliable, calls often suffered from dropouts and poor quality, but in the last few years as internet connections have improved, the quality of VoIP calls has surpassed that of traditional phone systems. When there's an office of people using our Horizon service we'll often recommend that a dedicated internet connection is installed, primarily so people's internet browsing activity doesn't affect your voice call quality. Of course, with many of us now working from home, we tend to have a dedicated connection anyway, and it's only when the kids get back from school that it becomes shared between your work and their Fortnite.
Disadvantages of VoIP for small businesses
While for many businesses VoIP provides a plethora of significant benefits, there are of course disadvantages and it's important that we share those with you. Crucially, none of these issues are insurmountable and if you do suffer from any of the problems mentioned there is usually a simple way to solve it.
Reliable internet connection is required
To use VoIP you need a reliable internet connection. If your connection often drops out or is very slow, then you'll find that calls get cut off and the quality is poor too. It's therefore extremely important that before you embark on getting a VoIP phone system you solve any on-going issues with your internet connection. Usually, where people are working from an office location, we'd recommend installing a separate connection purely for calls so as to minimise any issues relating to people using the internet for other purposes.
In order to make VoIP calls from your handset or desktop/laptop, you'll need power, and if it drops you won't be able to make and receive calls. Fortunately, with your mobile apps, you would still be able to make calls from your smartphone. That's the great thing about VoIP, if power is cut to your office or home there are still options.
What is the best VoIP service for small business?
Truth be told there's a lot of choice in the market when it comes to VoIP services and providers. The best VoIP service for your business will depend on your requirements but what we can say, as a leading UK VoIP provider ourselves, is that you should look for a company that is well established and ideally has UK support. It's also important to choose a provider that isn't too big as you don't want to become insignificant to them. T2K is a small business specialist and has been providing services to companies across the UK for over 28 years. With 100% UK based support, our team of VoIP telecoms experts provide a 5* rated service.
As a telecoms company, we work with a number of technology providers, from Mitel to Gamma, and have experience working with a huge variety of phone systems. Through our experience, we've selected what we think is the best cloud VoIP solution for our clients, which is Gamma Horizon.
Introducing Gamma Horizon
Gamma is an award-winning provider of Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), meaning among other things, they provide one the UK's leading hosted VoIP services. Gamma provides everything from internet connections and telephone numbers through to SIP trunks and hosted phone systems. They are an international company, operating in the UK, Holland, Germany and Spain and T2K selected them as their hosted VoIP partner due to their incredibly high service levels and the extensive features their platform offers.
Useful VoIP features for small business
If you're a start-up or even a small business that's been operating for some time, then it's likely that while you're obviously familiar with phones, you may not be up to date on what the latest VoIP systems can do. If that's the case then this section is for you, where we'll explain many of the extensive features and how they can benefit your business.
You know the menu options you get when you ring a large company, "press 1 for sales or 2 for customer services"? That's an auto-attendant in action, routing your call to the correct destination. Yes, if it's configured poorly it can be annoying for customers who can find themselves stuck in loops or in the wrong place, but set up well, it's a time saver for both the caller and the recipient. Even if there's only a couple of people in your business, by routing the call to the correct destination you avoid the other person becoming your temporary secretary and ultimately save time. Not only that, it presents a professional image and can give the impression that you're bigger than you actually are. Auto-attendant is an enterprise-grade call management feature that you get as part of your cloud-based VoIP service.
Hunt groups are useful when your team becomes a little larger, but we usually wouldn't recommend using them unless you have more than 4 people using your VoIP Service. Hunt groups are another call routing feature that sends calls to several people rather than a single destination. So rather than one phone ringing, you can have a whole teams' phones ring and whoever picks up first takes the call. That's the simplest way to explain it, but with hunt groups, you can do more complicated ring patterns too, for instance, ringing phones in a set order. Again, this sort of functionality would usually be reserved for companies with expensive telephone systems, but with our VoIP phone system, businesses of all sizes can benefit.
We find that the Call Park feature is one that many users really value- it not only allows you to put a call on hold, but you can then pick it up on another phone or even your smartphone. This is perfect if you've been on a call for a while and you need to move away from your desk. Simply ask the customer if they mind going on hold, park the call and then pick it back up on your mobile and you're free to leave your desk. You can do exactly the same in the other direction too, so if you pick up a call on your mobile via the Horizon app, and then you return to your desk, you can park the call and pick it up on your handset, freeing your mobile phone up again.
Call Waiting & Music On Hold
Another small business favourite is Call Waiting - using it means you needn't ever miss a call again. With Music On Hold you can choose between playing some music to the waiting person, or why not record bespoke promotional messages which they can hear while they wait? Best yet, you don't even need to be the one that answers the call -with the Call Pickup feature, other people in the team can answer each other's calls, whether their phone is ringing or if they're queued.
CLI Flexibility sounds complicated but all it actually means is that you can make calls from various numbers - you don't always need to dial out on the same one. This can be really useful if you're running a regional marketing campaign and want to present a local image, or even if your company has several brands or sub-companies and you want to keep them separate. Again, big businesses use this all the time and will call out on the number they want you to see, so why shouldn't you have the ability too?
Call recording used to be an advanced feature that would require additional hardware and software. Fortunately today you can access it with a simple software license. Even small businesses can benefit from Call Recording and it's especially useful if you work in financial services from a compliance perspective.
Instant Group Call
Once you have your cloud-based business VoIP system, you and your colleagues can have both planned and ad-hoc group conference calls. You have the ability to invite people to your call at any time, which is particularly useful while we're all working remotely from each other.
One number anywhere
We mentioned this earlier, but a significant benefit of a business VoIP system is that you can have a single telephone number regardless of where you are. This feature makes it simple for customers to reach you and gives you the flexibility to work from anywhere without missing important calls. You no longer need to tell clients you're working from home - it doesn't matter - your calls will be routed directly to you wherever you are.
This is only a relatively small snapshot of what we think are the best features of our business phone system - there are lots more that we haven't mentioned that we can discuss with you if you feel they would be useful. These are:
- Automatic callback
- Busy lamp keys
- Call forwarding
- Call rejection
- Click to dial
- Company directory
- Diversion inhibitor
- Do not disturb
- Last number redial
- Sites, groups and departments
As you can see, the cloud-based hosted business phone system we provide - Gamma's Horizon - is comprehensive and almost everything you could ask of it.