The switchover of telephony from old copper wire systems to Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP phone systems is continuing apace, even if you aren’t aware of it. AT&T, the grandfather of wired telephone services, is itself moving away from old technology telephone systems. On a conference call with investors in 2012, Randall Stephenson, Chairman and CEO of AT&T, told investors that the company is starting an “aggressive transition away from” legacy phone systems based on copper wire.
But there are some businesses that continue to hold onto their traditional phone systems and are wary about switching to VoIP. Here are 5 common reasons businesses hold back on switching to VoIP and, why they should reconsider.
1. If the electricity goes out, we still have phone service.
With older copper wire systems, this is indeed true. With most of today’s VoIP systems, you get about eight hours of standby service if the system is equipped with a backup battery. However, most of today’s landlines work on fiber optic systems (or hybrid-fiber systems) rather than copper wiring. Generally, telephone providers do not warn customers that their phone connection cannot stay on indefinitely if there is a power outage. You may think that your legacy landline phone system will work fine if the power goes out, but that may not be the case.
2. Call quality with VoIP is not good.
If your business does not have a fast, reliable internet connection, your call quality can deteriorate. This is particularly true if there is heavy data traffic at the same time as your call. With enough bandwidth, however, your VoIP call quality should be about the same as with a landline phone. In fact, some types of VoIP problems — like echoes — are caused by an issue at the other end of the phone line, over which you have no control. If you want to be sure of call quality, choose a VoIP provider that offers a trial period so you can try out the service yourself. Don’t cancel your existing phone service or change your phone number before you’re sure you want to keep the VoIP service, however.
3. Our phone system is paid for and it works.
Older, copper wire systems were definitely made to last. If you have an extensive landline system that is paid for, it’s understandable that you want to get the most from it, particularly with a tight budget. However, fewer technicians know how to work on these systems as older techs retire and younger ones receive different training. With older systems, you require a technician to add lines or move phones to different offices; plus you’re tied to your existing phone company’s annual maintenance contracts and service fees. In most cases, the initial cost of a VoIP system is soon offset by monthly savings and the convenience of having a flexible phone system that doesn’t require an on-site technician to modify.
4. We don’t want any problems with 911.
Every company wants to ensure there won’t be problems if a 911 call should be necessary. However, VoIP vendors are responsible for entering customer information correctly using a verified street address and the phones’ correct electronic serial numbers (ESN). Landline systems are not immune to problems with 911 calls, and local 911 systems that use VoIP technology themselves find that they can do things they couldn’t do with older, copper wire systems. If a cable carrying 911 calls is cut, a VoIP system can quickly reroute calls through a neighboring system. With a traditional system, a cut cable could result in prolonged 911 downtime.
5. Our legacy phones are made to withstand anything.
True, you can’t slam down a cell phone or a lightweight modern phone with the same finality that you could with the old-school desk phones, but what you give up in heft is more than made up for by flexibility and portability. If you move offices, wires don’t have to be re-strung. If employees use mobile VoIP, they don’t even have to be in the office to handle business. You can’t, after all, take an office landline call on the train home from work in the evening.
If your company wants to keep its traditional landline system as long as possible, you should be aware that your phone provider may well have already intgrated VoIP technology into the system. With big players like AT&T shifting to VoIP technology, support for your traditional phone system may be harder to get in coming years. Switching to VoIP can save money on phone costs, while adding tremendous flexibility. And with adequate bandwidth, you should have no problem with call quality.
Photo Credit: Robert Linder