Confused by digital phone services? Read on.
Understanding “what’s possible” with new digital voice services is important for taking full advantage of capabilities that are here today—and coming tomorrow.
With more than 100 years of analog telephone history behind us, it can be difficult to grasp the new possibilities that digital phone technologies bring. Too often these new technologies are used merely to mimic the past. Sometimes, it’s even a struggle to find the language we need to describe the changes. For instance, we continue to talk about "phone lines," when it is often no longer really what we mean.
VoIP (Voice over IP), the technology that digitizes and delivers voice via the Internet, has the potential to change how we do business. While phone services delivered from the Internet may offer cost savings, the most significant benefits can be seen in the ways it empowers businesses to think and work differently.
A look back... to look forward
The invention of the telephone began in 1875 when Alexander Graham Bell, while attempting to improve the telegraph, discovered he could hear sound travelling down the wire.
As the device was perfected and a wire-based infrastructure grew, it wasn’t long before phones became an indispensible part of doing business. Indeed, it was often the local store that first provided telephone service in many communities. As rural lines extended into private homes, people cranked a unique sequence of rings to signal a specific household on the line to pick up. However, since rings were heard on all devices, it wasn’t unusual for others to pick up, listen in and even join the conversation—the first social network!
As telephones grew in popularity and number, challenges also arose. Making a call from one device to another required that a physical connection exist between the two devices. Directly connecting every device to every other device was clearly impractical, so switching was used to connect a path between devices for the duration of a call.
Even today, this concept of a physical telephone “line” tied to a physical location continues, with many providers still requiring businesses to change their numbers when they move.
Switching—and private business exchanges
At first, live operators manually connected lines using a switchboard. When placing a call, the operator plugged the caller’s line into the proper jack on the switchboard to make the connection. Internally, companies ran similar switchboards to connect callers with employees.
Over time, automated switches and standard phone numbers were developed to make the physical line connections and eliminate the need for human operators. Dialing a phone number automatically sent a call to a specific phone line at a physical location.
To automate control over how best to share a set of phone lines among employees, businesses installed their own automated “private branch exchange” or PBX on site—a smaller version of the public exchanges operated by telephone companies and common carriers.
With ever more cost-effective and powerful computer technology, these business PBX systems began to offer additional services, such as voicemail, intercom, and call transfer. Nevertheless, onsite PBX systems still required that employees be on-site to answer their business calls.
Mobility—and cutting the cord
With the advent of mobile phone technology, individuals have gained a new freedom to conduct business on-the-go.
But for the business as a whole, cell phones introduced a whole new set of issues. They operated outside of the company phone system. They added new costs and even security risks. Employees found themselves spending significant amounts of time juggling multiple voicemail boxes and customers were often given multiple numbers to try to reach the people they wanted.
Fortunately, new technologies make it possible to seamlessly integrate mobile services into a single, unified business phone system, presenting customers with a professional experience and brand image and enabling employees to receive calls transparently in multiple locations on multiple devices, so they can work much more effectively and efficiently.
Voice over IP - Cloud-hosted phone systems
Voice over IP (VoIP) combined with a Cloud-hosted PBX eliminates the limitations of physical phone lines by connecting calls using any Internet connection. Unified voice services are delivered to multiple business locations from the Cloud, just like other data applications, using the same Internet connections that businesses already have.
As a result, companies no longer have to adapt their business practices to fit technology. They no longer need to purchase and maintain expensive phone lines, PRIs, and PBX equipment onsite. They no longer need to have their business phone numbers reflect an actual physical location. And they no longer need to get a new phone number if their company moves or expands.
Cloud-hosted VoIP opens new possibilities for businesses to connect all employees, stores and office locations in ways that make business sense. For instance, businesses can set up their phone system so that their customers call just one customer service number and are transparently connected to service personnel working in multiple locations. In short, Cloud-hosted VoIP empowers businesses to dynamically expand, consolidate, and customize their phone services in ways that are simply not possible with on-premises phone systems.
WebFones: A different kind of phone company
With WebFones, where you choose to work is no longer determined by technological limitations or the local phone company. Whether you are sitting side-by-side with co-workers, or on the other side of the country, you can see if their phone is busy, dial another extension, or transfer a call as though you were in the same office.
Here are just some things you can do with WebFones:
- Hire remote employees and open remote offices without adding phone systems or lines
- Empower employees at different locations to work as a group serving customers
- Centralize or decentralize customer service or sales based on the requirements of your business
- Reserve local numbers for any calling area, regardless of your physical address
- Move offices without changing your phone number
- Improve your business phone services with features such as: Find-me, voicemail-to-email text, call queues, simultaneous ring, remote busy-light, and ">more
- Stop paying for phone system maintenance contracts or expensive phone system equipment