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Selecting a Business VoIP Solution
Appropriate VoIP service options for companies of all sizes.

By: John Shepler

You may be considering a move from a traditional analog or PBX business phone system to VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol telephony. Before you jump into a major “forklift upgrade,” you should know that there are a number of good business VoIP solutions to consider. Which one you pick will depend on your particular situation. Pick the right one and you’ll get the most for your telephony dollar.

Why even consider VoIP in the first place?
The reason is to save money, add calling features or both. Let’s start with the needs of very small businesses and work our way up to enterprise solutions.

Needs of the Small Business
The smaller businesses will have one to four outgoing phone lines and under 10 handsets. This is typical of small sales offices, retail stores and independent professionals. You may well be using individual analog phone lines and perhaps 2 or 4 line phones that you can buy at office supply stores.

Broadband Phone
A system this small doesn’t justify a PBX phone system or PRI digital trunking. But you do have the option to change to a broadband phone or SIP trunking solution. Broadband phone is typified by the Phone Power VoIP service. You connect a device called an ATA or Analog Telephone Adaptor to your broadband service, typically Cable Internet, and plug one or two telephones plus your computer or router into the ATA. You no longer need an analog telephone line because your broadband connection is used for both phone and Internet.

SIP Trunking
A step up from single phone number VoIP is called SIP trunking. This service uses a T1 line or other business grade private line to provide multiple line telephone service plus broadband to a small to medium size business. By using dynamic bandwidth management, phone calls have all the bandwidth they require for maximum call quality. Remaining bandwidth is assigned to Internet access. As calls hang up, the bandwidth they were using is automatically or dynamically reassigned for Internet service. This way the full capacity of the line is always put to good use.

PBX Options
Companies large enough to have an in-house key telephone or PBX system generally have many handsets and at least 6 to 10 outside lines. If your system is getting to the end of its useful life, you have the choice of replacing it with a newer IP PBX system or going with a hosted PBX solution. Hosted PBX means that you don’t have any PBX equipment in-house. Your service provider connects to SIP telephones or analog phones with adaptors on your LAN and performs both the internal and external call switching.

Hosted PBX & SIP Trunking
Enterprise VoIP telephony also consists of using SIP telephones in place of regular telephone handsets. These SIP phones allow you to converge your telephone and computer networks into a single LAN for both voice and data. You can choose to host an IP PBX system in-house or elect to go with a hosted PBX solution. The tradeoff is capital equipment cost and online maintenance versus paying a monthly fee to a service provider. Think of hosted PBX as a cloud service for business telephony. Even if you install and operate your own IP PBX system, you still have the option to use SIP trunking to connect with a service provider that will terminate outside calls to the public telephone system. The more traditional solution is to use ISDN PRI telephone trunks for the same purpose.

Enterprise VoIP Services
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