After years of hype and unfulfilled promises, IP telephony—also known as VOIP (voice over IP)—has finally evolved as a true option for small and medium-size businesses. The technology of sending voice packets over data pipes has been refined and has matured, offering a number of benefits over traditional phone networks.
Not only do todays VOIP systems match the voice quality of regular phone systems—based on the TDM (time division multiplexing) system—theyre adding features that businesses never would have imagined. For example, with VOIP, callers can reach you no matter where you are by dialing your office number. And with a Web browser, you can retrieve your voice mail.
The main benefit, of course, is cost savings. Though initial equipment costs can be considerable, with most implementations of VoIP the distinctions between local and long-distance calls go away almost completely. And when signing up with a hosted service, such as an IP Centrex provider, you can keep up-front costs to a minimum.
VOIP calls made over a private network—for example, from a main office to a branch office—are free. And even if youre calling someone who is not on the network and doesnt have VOIP, you can still realize significant savings. Through deals with broadband service providers or other hosted services your calls are still carried either free via the Internet or at highly discounted flat rates—about 2 cents to 3 cents per minute.
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