VoIP in a business environment can work very well. A lot depends upon your existing network though. If you have an overly secure network with a lot of traffic then expect the quality to fall. Try and keep your voice traffic on a different network to your data and remember that VoIP/SIP is not as secure as traditional telecoms.
First some of the benefits…. VoIP systems often cost less for recurring maintenance than traditional PBX equipment and are easier to configure when applying moves, adds, and changes. Incidentally, there is normally no configuration change required to move an extension in a VoIP network. Many VoIP systems also let you use the Internet for your outbound calling, which can reduce your long distance bill and displace the cost of a PRI or analog trunk circuits for access to the public telephone network. VoIP also enables Unified Messaging, which integrates email, voice mail, IM, and calendaring.
However there are some drawbacks….. IP phones are more expensive than traditional analog phones and have more stringent requirements for the network to support them than standard email and web surfing. While VoIP systems do generally have a more intuitive interface than traditional PBX equipment, in a company of 20 you’re not likely to see much turnover I would expect.
Additional drawbacks are:
– Voice quality (not all your calls will be as clear as a traditional analog line).
– Reliability. If your Internet or System Network goes down you are left without computers and a phone system.
– Basic Features are sometimes billed a la cart and can end up costing you more per user then a traditional phone system.
– Hosted VoIP solutions require you to buy the phones (and associated routers) and then bill you every month for the service. Where as a phone system (with all its equipment) can be financed over 3 – 5yrs and then you own the equipment and system features & service.
The best approach for determining the viability of such a move would be to have a cost analysis performed for each option and look at the total costs and system benefits, up front, at year five, and beyond.
For a small company, these are conditions that generally would indicate a possible business case for VoIP:
– Your company has multiple sites and pays for Wide Area Network circuits to connect those sites together as well as PRI circuits or Centrex lines for PSTN access.
– You have a number of “remote workers” who work out of remote/home offices, and the company pays for their home phone and long distance as well as their Internet access.
– Your company spends a significant portion of its technology budget on long distance or international calling.
– Your company has high turnover and/or personnel are constantly changing offices.
– Integration of unified messaging and/or advanced calling functions such as on-the-fly conference calls would allow your company to conduct business much more effectively, so much so that it would positively impact your bottom line.
– Your company is getting ready to move to a new facility and would have to pay to run cable.
Outside of those, I would say VoIP may not be your best choice. One option worth considering is a gateway that services traditional analog phones, but converts the call to VoIP when calling external numbers.
Don’t get me wrong I love working with VoIP, but if your current system isn’t broken or costing you an arm and a leg to maintain it, you may not need to upgrade.