Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology has been prescribed as a cure-all for business communication, especially in recent years. Driven primarily by the significant cost savings associated with the technology, small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) have been quick to adopt this technology. While its popularity continues to grow many businesses have found that there are many challenges associated with VoIP, but are seldom discussed. The main concerns revolve around complexity, security, network quality of service and overall reliability. Business owners need to understand the challenges associated with VoIP in order to successfully adopt the technology and reap its remarkable rewards.
The first issue associated with VoIP is its inherent complexity. As with any technological breakthrough, the average IT professional needs some time and experience to get a firm grasp on how to handle new technology. VoIP requires network managers to learn new technical terminology, integrate VoIP into existing data networks and gain expertise in an entirely new skill set. Many business owners are consulting with unified communications providers in order to bypass these hurdles.
Another concern with VoIP is that it isn’t as secure as traditional telephone systems. The nature of IP-based technology exposes businesses to eavesdropping or malicious hackers because when all communications used to run through one entity, the phone company, today’s communications are running through the Internet, and must go through several servers before reaching their intended recipient. Some quick ways to avoid such headaches are by utilizing encryption or other security mechanisms that are designed specifically to counteract malicious acts. In fact, when appropriate preparation is made, many businesses actually experience improved security by shifting their communications to VoIP.
Insufficient quality of service plagues many VoIP implementations because voice traffic must be transformed into data packets before it can be sent. We already experience packet-loss in our day-to-day interactions, but the difference is that packet-loss through email isn’t very noticeable when compared with voice traffic. When sending an email, packet-loss results in a slightly delayed email. However, packet loss during a VoIP phone call results in choppy, low quality phone calls. This is an area of frustration for many companies that use VoIP but it has a simple solution. Utilize an IP provider that has the capability to give VoIP packets priority through their quality of service mechanism. If IT personnel have the tools necessary to view, analyze, monitor and control this traffic this issue can be curtailed rather easily.
In order to ensure the proper implementation of a VoIP system, one must seek the expertise of a professional unified communications provider. While providers vary greatly in technical aptitude, there are a few subtle differentiators to consider before making a selection. Providers who deploy sophisticated remote bandwidth management tools take the necessary steps to ensure that that they are doing their due diligence, and that the phone system will function properly when installed. Furthermore, AT&T recently announced their support of the Federal Communications Commission inquiry for the United States to transition from circuit-switched legacy network to broadband and IP-based communications. As with anything new, we face several challenges in overcoming the learning curve, but the benefits of VoIP far outweigh the potential risks. Business owners are interested in increasing profitability, enhancing productivity and supplying themselves with a competitive advantage and VoIP enables them to do just that.