VoIP use among small businesses is growing. Ensure service doesn’t go down with the Internet.

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Many small businesses have been making the call to Voice over the Internet Protocol (VoIP). In its 2015 VoIP Software Small Business Buyer Report, Software Advice, the resource for software buyers, found that 36 percent of survey respondents use VoIP versus 24 percent that use Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) and 11 percent Rate Interface (PRI) service, which transmits multimedia data in addition to audio data.

Cost savings is one of the main benefits of switching to VoIP, which hooks directly into existing broadband network so there’s no need to install new phone lines. Also with data and phone systems converged into one network, small businesses spend less time on system management. VoIP also makes it easy to add or delete users and efficiently change phone features from the convenience of a central web portal.

Cost isn’t the only factor driving the switch to VoIP among small businesses. In addition to standard features such as voicemail, caller ID and call forwarding, VoIP also offers a host of other functions such as automated attendant and Find me/Follow me, which routes unanswered calls to a series of phone numbers you choose, including desk, cell and office.

VoIP also enhances productivity and efficiency by integrating applications. For example, a user can be on the phone and check a voicemail received in text via email that may be relevant to the call.  It’s also possible to switch from an audio call to a web or video conference, aided by a noise canceling headset to ensure clear communication.

Ensuring the VoIP connection

Phone downtime can seriously affect any business from small to large. It can disrupt operations and pose serious inconvenience to customers, which can lead to a loss in business.  Since VoIP relies on the Internet, there is a legitimate concern about loss of phone service if the Internet goes down. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to protect against VoIP service going down due to Internet failure.

Secure backup internet connections:  Contract with two ISPs, a primary and secondary provider. If the primary Internet service goes down, calls will be handled by the secondary service provider. Another option is to split the business into two separate networks handled by different ISPs. One ISP provides Internet service to VoIP phones; the other supports computers. If the Internet service to VoIP phones goes down, the system can switch to the other provider’s network. Having redundant Internet service can be peace of mind, but it will mean more costs.

Ensure transfer options: Choose providers that offer call continuity or system redundancy features. They will enable you to route the main office number to designated mobile phones. In this way, when a customer calls into the business, the call will ring on the mobile phone. Optionally, calls can be routed to an automated attendant, which provides the caller with a range of options. Among these, a caller could have the choice of connecting with a specific team member so that the call will be routed to that individual’s mobile phone. Calls also can be routed to voicemail to be retrieved by employees wherever they are. Many VoIP systems also enable outbound calls to appear to be coming from the business. In this way, if a small business team member dials out on their mobile phone, the recipient will see your small business name and number on their caller ID.

Establish a dedicated VoIP only Internet line:  In “What happens to the VoIP phone system at my business if the Internet goes down,” Tele-Data Solutions, a VoIP phone systems and cloud technology provider, says that companies can arrange for a dedicated Internet line if there is only one ISP in the area. The dedicated line called a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) Circuit connects hardware in your IT or phone closet to a data center that hosts your VoIP service. While it is a highly reliable backup plan, it can run into significant monthly fees and that is on top of existing VoIP and Internet costs. Tele-Data says it’s not ideal option for businesses with less than 15 employees.

Reliance on VoIP for business is growing. Mitigate concerns about losing service by exploring one of these options.

About Judi Hembrough

Judi leads Americas Marketing strategy and go-to-market programs for the Small and Medium Business (SMB) customer segment at Plantronics. Judi has been a marketing director at Plantronics for 10 years in various roles focused on Strategic Alliances Marketing, SMB and Home & Home Office solutions. Prior to Plantronics, Judi was President of William-Christie Associates, Inc. -- a management consulting practice, for 10 years where she guided numerous companies such as Palm, Intuit, CBS MarketWatch and HID, in driving new initiatives.