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Moving your Phone System to VoIP

Moving to a new VoIP-based phone system can provide significant cost savings as well as provide users with a very feature-rich phone system.

VoIP stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol.” It is a way of sending voice audio information over the same network cables, and using the same basic technology used by desktop computers, to communicate with a local server or to access the Internet. Desktop voice/video programs such as Microsoft’s Skype use the same approach, and many people now use these kinds of programs to avoid long distance charges.

A business VoIP phone system can save on both ongoing operational costs and on capital costs.

Operational costs are the most compelling cost factor. Traditional business wired phone lines from a provider like Bell or Telus typically cost between $40 and $60 a month, depending on the line options installed and nature of the line contract. If an organization has several of these lines, the costs for basic telephone service (not including long distance) can be many thousands of dollars a year.

Just as an example, say an organization has eight phone lines at about $50 a month, for a bill of $400 a month, plus long distance. The same call capacity from a VoIP provider now costs about $30 a month total, including long distance (VoIP.ms and Unlimitel.ca are two good VoIP line service providers that have good Ontario telephone number coverage).

However, as phone calls now travel over the Internet, an organization needs to take care that their Internet connection has capacity for the additional traffic. Adding a separate Internet connection for VoIP traffic (at a typical flat rate price of $60/month) is sometimes needed, depending on what Internet capacity an organization already has.

Capital costs are also generally less than a traditional PBX system vendor (such as one from Toshiba or Nortel, when Nortel was still around), although these costs have been coming down due to pressure from VoIP systems.

The PBX itself can be free in purchase dollar terms, if an organization already has server capacity to run the software (no hardware is necessarily required for a VoIP PBX system). FreePBX (at www.freepbx.org) is a good choice for the PBX server component.

However, the biggest capital cost savings can come on the phone handset side, as these are designed to an open VoIP standard called SIP not specific to any one vendor. Cost competition in this area means SIP handsets are much cheaper than typical vendor-specific phone handsets. For example, an Aastra 6731i phone handset model just fine for typical desktop deployment in the $120 range, instead of the typical $300 to $400 per handset price from a traditional PBX vendor.

However, it generally isn’t possible to add new VoIP handsets into an existing traditional PBX system (that is, mix-and-match handset vendors). Sometimes, the phone vendor can add a VoIP expansion card to the existing PBX system and provide phones designed to work with this hardware, but the cost savings on the equipment side won’t generally show up in this case as the vendor-specific VoIP phone handsets will likely cost a similar amount to what non-VoIP handsets from the vendor also cost.

So, it’s when a PBX replacement is considered, such as when the old system has reached its capacity, or when an organization is moving physical locations and doesn’t want to move the old system and re-install all the phone wiring, that a new VoIP phone system really makes sense.
 

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