VoIP Phone System

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December 18, 2007

VoIP Phone System Q and A

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Associate Editor


VoIP phone systems—you probably hear a lot about them, but maybe you’re not sure exactly what a VoIP phone system is or the features available. To provide some basic background, TMCnet asked Nick Branica, president of IPitomy (News - Alert), to explain a few things.
Branica answered TMCnet’s questions about what a VoIP phone system is, how this type of solution can benefit small businesses, and what features you should look for when picking a vendor. As president of VoIP phone system provider IPitiomy, Branica also provided some perspective regarding what customers are looking for.
TMCnet: How would you define a ‘VoIP phone system’?
NB: I would define a VoIP phone system as an IP PBX. That is to say, the system is based upon a pure IP technology as opposed to a key or hybrid system with some ability to attach an IP gateway. 
A pure IP PBX (News - Alert) will contribute much more value to a small business over the years. IPitomy IP PBXs are all-inclusive business communications systems that include the basic business features and applications required for the success of any small business. These major components are PBX features, voice messaging, music on hold, unified messaging, conferencing, intercom paging, automated attendant, reporting, remote extensions, remote administration, and Web-based user applications to fine tune their services. 
The flexible nature of the IP PBX design will allow any business to tailor the applications and features to their unique business requirements drawing from an extremely rich and powerful palette of feature components. What adds to this power is the extreme simplicity and ease of use provided by the Web-based user interface.  
TMCnet: What are some of the ways VoIP phone systems are helping small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) transform the way they operate?
NB: Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have been locked out of some of the more important technological advances in telecommunications during the past 10 years. This is primarily because the features have been far too expensive to produce enough benefit for businesses that have fewer than 200 employees. 
With the availability of lower cost IP PBX systems such as IPitomy, these advanced features are now available to businesses of any size at a price on par with traditional key and hybrid systems. This allows SMBs to add advanced features that save time, enhance communications and save on recurring expenses. 
Remote extensions are providing business owners with more flexibility regarding when and where they or their employees can be make and receive telephone calls. The IP PBX extensions have no geographical boundaries. This provides SMB’s with the added benefit of having remote tele-workers, remote extensions at home and a new dimension for road warriors to stay connect with headquarters and customers whereever they are.
Unified messaging is a feature that most SMBs have not had the opportunity to take advantage of. Now any sized business can enjoy the efficiency of their e-mails and voicemails being accessible from an e-mail client. This saves time and money while providing extended abilities like forwarding voice mails to someone not subscribed to the voice messaging system.
The branch office networking ability of an IP PBX is helping multi-site locations of all sizes to create a business network including all of their branch locations. Where this may have been cost-prohibitive in the past due to the expensive nature of the hardware and proprietary nature of the equipment, the IP PBX has dramatically changed everything. Now any business can link together all of their locations eliminating the cost of intra office calling saving money and increasing communications efficiency.
SIP trunking is another area where the IP PBX systems such as IPitomy will transform the recurring costs of a small business dramatically. The IP PBX can connect to SIP providers that reduce the recurring costs of telephone lines by up to 50 percent. Since an IP PBX does not require special hardware to connect to SIP trunks, the connection if fast and reliable.
TMCnet: If you could pick three features SMBs expect a VoIP phone system will include, what would those features be and why are they important?
NB: The first feature to mention is the ability of a VoIP phone system to act as much like their old system as possible. This is important so the customer is comfortable with the change and the cost of transition is minimal. 
Another important feature is the enablement of remote tele-workers. Once a company realizes the power of having remote extensions, they understand how great it is to be connected to headquarters even when traveling or working from home. The cost savings by using broadband in this way are significant.
Finally, a VoIP phone system gives SMBs greater control over their communications system. Since the IP PBX has a simple, Web-based interface, users find that many tasks once requiring a service call are now easily accomplished in-house. This saves time and money.
TMCnet: If you could pick three features SMBs may not think about or consider when picking a VoIP phone system, but that should be part of the decision-making process, what would those features be and why?
NB: First, I advise SMBs to look at the phone system features they’re using now. It’s important to keep an open mind, but also to ensure sure that you gain more than you lose in terms of features and functions.
It’s also very important to use the best quality phones you can, making sure they meet your minimal requirements. Make sure the telephone is capable of supporting the features you need—like intercom paging, busy lamp fields and automatic configuration. Don’t compromise on an inferior telephone; pay a little more to get what you want. Make sure you have control of the telephone buttons to save costs on service calls.
Also keep in mind that business hours/schedules with a VoIP phone system should have the maximum flexibility. Try to choose a system that has no limitations on when and where business hours can change in a call route. Hardware and SIP provider lines should have independent business hours/schedules per line and calls should be re-routed based upon the schedule at any point in the call path. 
Finally, ensure that call routing has the flexibility to support inbound and outbound calling patterns that you need. Make sure you have the ability to identify the number the calling party dialed as part of the display on the telephone. When the need arises to answer a call differently on a per line basis, this could be a big asset. The same goes for outbound routing: make sure your system has the capability to assign an outbound class of service to each extension so they can be routed over the lines you choose.
TMCnet: Based on feedback from IPitomy customers, what are some of the prevailing trends regarding VoIP phone system use by SMBs?
NB: The biggest trend we see right now is multi-site deployments. The ability to network branch offices together at an affordable price is driving sales. We have seen some excitement based upon the SIP DECT (News - Alert) wireless application, particularly in automobile dealerships. The savings from SIP trunk deployments is also driving technology upgrades. In some instances, we have seen phone bills reduced so much the customer experiences a positive cash flow even after the lease expense for a new system.
TMCnet: What are IPitomy’s most noteworthy achievements for 2007?
NB: 2007 was a strong year for IPitomy. We signed up a record number of re-sellers, brought the IP1000 and IP1500 into the market with much success and created relationships that will drive sales in 2008.
TMCnet: Looking ahead to 2008, what are some of IPitomy’s initiatives for the coming year?
NB: Our strongest initiative for 2008 will be increasing our market share. We’ll do that by continuing to drive sales through our dealer network and increasing the competitiveness of our dealers by increasing the performance of the products and introducing some new products that will increase the market attractiveness of IPitomy.
To learn more about the topics discussed in this article, please visit the VoIP Phone System channel, brought to you by IPitomy.

Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers whitepapers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users. Today’s featured white paper is VoIP Doesn’t Require Any Phone Equipment Investment.

Mae Kowalke is an associate editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae’s articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.

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