VoIP & The Office of the Future

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Recent studies by Transparency Market Research are reporting growth projections in the global VoIP market from $70.9 billion (2013) to $136.76 billion (2020).

The wonderful world of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) opens up endless collaboration possibilities that embrace mobility and Bring-Your-Own Device (BYOD). VoIP allows businesses to operate their Unified Communications (UC) platforms with incredible capabilities. The employee can now perform such acrobatics as making calls directly from the email inbox with the ability to transcribe the call; have voicemails transcribed and sent to email, have emails converted to voice files and sent to voicemail. Collaboration goes to new levels with VoIP and UC in the enterprise.

VoIP is still an emerging technology that offers today’s business environment several advantages, such as advanced communication technologies and the potential for deep cost cutting. The fact that VOIP is still evolving may be a contributor to it not being well understood.

Industry insiders are suggesting that in just a couple years at least 75% of new offices won’t ever use the hard phone and the public switched telephone network (PSTN). In its place will be VoIP, with heavy reliance on the personal computer as a soft phone with a VoIP client, or mobile phone technology that will act in the same way as your desk phone once you leave the desk. These same analysts are predicting that the norm for interactions will become video plus screen sharing hence the growth of VoIP in this scenario.

If this is true, what will the office space of the future function like and what will offices of today have to do to optimize migrations to a VoIP system, or to improve an existing one, in order to be as technologically savvy as a new office of the future?

    One of the biggest determiners of VoIP voice quality is bandwidth. You can look at it like this: when you move your voice services in with your data services you’re going to need a bigger house, i.e., the IP based network. But simply increasing bandwidth won’t determine the sound quality of your voice services; you will require a proper assessment in the form of a Traffic Analysis to create the audio clarity of someone talking to you in the next room as opposed to outer Siberia. The Traffic Analysis will give an accurate look of usage across the network, with special attention to concurrent call paths to identify peak hour calls, call logs, and the like. Once you have the bandwidth you need to maintain optimal quality at all times of operation, you are able to receive an accurate view of how VoIP is reducing costs across the enterprise.
    VoIP saves companies money in a variety of ways: from the simple fact that capital investment in hardware (landlines, phone equipment) will be reduced by 100% with a complete migration to a full VoIP system, to the more complex fact that you can avoid the rules, regulations and taxes imposed by the government on the traditional communication systems. In the middle of these extremes is that VoIP can function just like a normal telephone system with the right VoIP server to eliminate the need for expensive PBXs and operates identically for a fraction of the cost. There’s no real significant upfront investment to convert. Consolidating voice and data reduces administrative and management costs as well with no need for call logs (the digital footprint is built in) and calls are basically unmetered which greatly cuts costs.
    If your company experiences the fortunate circumstance of growing the workforce, the scalability of a VoIP system has to be one of the top advantages of a migration. Ongoing Collaboration Reporting provides insight into usage across your business and making adjustments to increase your bandwidth to accommodate your new employees will be a smooth process. In fact, when you move to a centralized platform for managing your network, you may even scale down as you produce redundancies in the network. By utilizing Device Level Reporting, you’ll also be able to determine what your staff requires for communicating by knowing exactly what technologies they prefer to use.
  • SIP
    Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is the way to really inject power and versatility into your VoIP system. Businesses benefit from SIP trunking technology because it makes your VoIP solution more centralized and cost effective. When you have many offices, using different technologies and carriers, the addition of centralized SIP trunking allows better management of multiple locations and bandwidth across the company from a single web dashboard. Unused trunk capacity at one site can be used to avoid a loss in quality due to a spike in traffic at another site i.e., you can prioritize voice and maintain Quality-of-Service (QoS). When you have enough bandwidth, upgrading SIP trunks is simple. SIP gives a boost to mobility allowing communication regardless of physical location. In the event of disasters, communications can be re-routed.

The reality is that while VoIP represents a marked improvement to today’s office place, and has many benefits, many businesses have yet to institute it completely for any number of reasons. Reluctance to abandon hard phones completely, due to end-user attitudes and work methods, or just the uncertainty of what would happen in the event of a total network outage, feed into the fear of a total change to VoIP. So while new businesses in the coming years may feel more bold towards adapting a completely VoIP system, the majority of offices will probably be a hybrid of softphones, deskphones, and cloud-based services, operating to enhance employee collaboration while managing costs (as UC teams work to manage support for these multiple devices). In that sense, the office of the future is already here.

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Darlene Jackson is a published writer with many years of experience in digital publishing, advertising, and public relations. Her diverse assignments include stints with Chicago Public Media, The Chicago Tribune, and various print and online media and communication outlets. She is currently pursuing a master's degree at Northwestern University.

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