While small businesses have always been price-conscious, and recent financial doldrums have increased the need for thrift, one technology that provides top-notch cost savings is a modern Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system. IP telephony systems save money on hardware, installation and calls (long-distance is free or costs just pennies per minute).
Companies tend to change their phone systems when they move or their equipment lease runs out. If a move is in store, switching to an IP telephony system can cut installation costs considerably. Because IP telephones connect to the same network as users’ computers, there’s no longer a need to run two types of cable to each user, then back to two separate pieces of termination equipment.
Don't expect your new office installation costs to be cut in half, because it never works out that neatly. But there will be less wiring required, and the phones for each user start in the $100 range, even for name brands. IP telephone system hardware  costs less than old-fashioned system hardware from TPC (The Phone Company), yet it has more features.
Once installed, IP telephony cuts long-distance costs to nothing or next to nothing. Costs accrue when IP calls connect to the traditional phone system, or PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network, the Ma Bell of old). Long-distance costs drop because calls go across the Internet to a connection point that's a local call to the number being dialed. Of course, when one IP telephone dials another, Ma Bell stays out of the loop — and out of your pocket.
But those who buy only for price rarely improve their business, so it's particularly nice that IP telephony makes calling more convenient as well as cheaper. A small IP telephony system today has all the features of a major enterprise PBX of a few years ago.
My absolute favorite feature is dual-ring. When you call my number, my desk phone and cell phone both ring. I can answer no matter where I am, and people don't have to guess which number they should call. If I don't answer, the IP system takes a message.
Some prefer to use Find Me Follow Me, where a call rings one phone, then a second, then a third, or however you configure your system. Most people use this feature to ring their office phone, their cell phone and then another person. No matter how you configure your number, you can control your calls in a way never before possible at this price point.
Auto Attendant features come with every IP telephony system, so you can set up the “Press 1 for James” or “Press 2 for Sales” announcements right out of the box. Consider this feature another way you can control your communications, rather than vice versa.
Because the Internet has no “there,” numbers are no longer tied to location. Remember the pain of changing your phone number if you moved from one part of town to another? That’s gone. You can put your IP telephone in Cleveland and have it ring when people call a number in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Extensions no longer have to be in one building. Your office phone number can ring phones at the office, at home, at remote offices and even in hotel rooms when you travel (assuming they have Internet access). Try getting Ma Bell to be that flexible.
Every business needs communications. When you upgrade your phone system, check the features available for VoIP, justify your upgrade based on the three features you need most and join the modern world of IP telephony.