VoIP Providers Overview
What is VoIP Technology?
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It is technology for delivering voice and other forms of communication over an Internet Protocol or IP. VoIP providers offer communications services that the business world relies on for collaboration. Typically, phone, video conferencing, and live chat are conducted on the VoIP platform, without assistance from the public switched telephone network (PSTN). There are also hybrid solutions that combine VoIP with PSTN.
VoIP presents the underlying technology for Unified Communications Platforms.
Benefits of IP Telephony
Compared to regular telephone networks, IP telephony aims to be:
Equally or more reliable
VoIP Providers vs. Unified Communications as a Service
Some VoIP providers are geared for SMBs who want a business phone with advanced telephony-type features and maybe some conferencing capability or minutes.
More sophisticated providers offer a highly scalable, end-to-end unified communications platform designed for larger enterprises. These UCaaS vendors tend to offer more reach and flexibility compared to point tools for collaboration, live chat, and web conferencing. They also aim to encompass all communication within the enterprise and across its boundaries, including integrated contact center functionality.
The top vendors offer both a unified communications platform as well as a low-cost VoIP solution.
VoIP Provider's Features & Capabilities
VoIP Providers generally support the following functions:
VoIP System Collaboration:
Mobile app for iOS
Mobile app for Android
Integration with contact & customer information systems (e.g., CRM, Outlook, etc)
Ring group (splitting calls or rotating them within a group of employees)
VoIP Providers Comparison
To more easily compare VoIP products, consider evaluating different options based on these 3 key factors:
1. Standalone voice software vs. UCaaS suite
: Are you looking for a simple voice-only solution, or a VoIP product that is embedded within a larger unified-communications-as-a-software (UCaaS)
suite? Think about which type of solution will best serve your business needs. If you already use other online communication applications (e.g. video chat, messenger, team collaboration features), then being able to centralize these capabilities within one platform might be worth the extra cost. On the other hand, if you’re mainly looking for voice solution to use while traveling or in place of your own personal phone number, a lighter weight VoIP solution might be the best fit.
2. Pricing model: Does it make the most sense for you to pay for VoIP services per user per month, or on an as needed basis? Many large VoIP vendors offer packages that charge on a per user/month basis. However, other products include free calling to any other individual using the same application, and charge by the minute for other types of calls. If making a large number of calls is part of the job description at your company, as it is for sales reps or call center agents, then you may want to consider a per user/month package.
3. Mobile compatibility: Today’s workforce is becoming increasingly mobile, and making sure your employees can access VoIP services while traveling or working remotely is more important than ever. Many VoIP vendors already offer both iOS and Android mobile applications, but make sure to check that the products your considering have mobile applications that support all your devices. Look for mobile application feature ratings on product scorecards.
Additional Factors to Consider
Security: Authorization, Authentication, Transport Layer Security (TLS), Media encryption (SRTP)
IP networks can be vulnerable, so various methods of providing communication privacy and security should be considered. Vendors may vary in how they attempt to secure communications.
Business Phones & other Hardware Components
Vendors must offer hardware to support their platforms' capabilities, such as phones, headsets, servers, and other infrastructural devices. Subtle differences between these devices may contribute to very similar and relatively equal software platforms being perceived very differently in terms of quality or fit. Therefore, these subtleties should not be discounted.
Call & Communications Analytics
A great deal of data is transmitted through these systems. Owing to this, VoIP solutions provide analytics to evaluate agent, channel, and call performance. These analytics can be used to seek out inefficiencies or anomalies, endpoint status, and more. Integration with VoIP analytics platforms might help monitor system performance.
Field, Telework & Telecommute
One potential benefit of VoIP and virtual offices is the ability to interact with personnel (or support personnel as they interact with customers) as though they were in the office. This includes dashboard interfaces, a reliable connection, quality streaming, and security protocols and methods (e.g. Virtual Private Network / VPN). Products may vary in their ability to function outside the boundaries of the enterprise.
VoIP providers often charge on a per month, per user basis. Prices generally start at around $20 per month, per user, and will increase from there with more advanced features.
Another factor to consider in the cost structure is the hardware. Many providers offer hardware rental as part of their service, at additional cost.