Many small to midsized business (SMB) operators dismiss mobile Voice-over-IP (VoIP) because they believe it doesn’t have any benefits. After all, mobile devices are already data-enabled so what does it matter if they’re running on a local or provider network? However, the answer to that question isn’t nearly as obvious as one might think and it also doesn’t revolve exclusively around cost. Sure, if you search online, then your search will reveal a number of mobile VoIP services that are likely unknown to you and much of their market will revolve around cost benefit. But the fact is that, for business phone service, VoIP or otherwise, being cheap should rarely be your primary consideration.
What a business really needs is for its phone system to fit into its overall business strategy and to support its requirements. To accomplish this, the phone system needs to have some specific characteristics. Here’s a look at five of those things:
1. Consistent presence – This means that you should be able to answer your business phone wherever you are, not just when you’re in the office sitting at your desk. You should also be able to make a call to a customer or business partner that appears to be coming from your business, not necessarily your cell phone. This capability is more useful than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic when almost no one is working from the office.
2. Integration – You should be able to transfer calls to an extension within the company and people should be able to transfer calls to you. They should also be able to reach you by dialing an extension. Also, if you have a receptionist, then that person should be able to tell if you’re available and then transfer calls to you. Again, during the pandemic, this ability can be crucial to employees used to contacting each other quickly and easily via extensions on desktop phones.
3. Security – Business phone calls are more than just chitchat. You have to know that the contents of your phone calls are safe, that they’re protected by encryption, and that access to your part of a phone system is also protected. You also need to know who’s running the VoIP part of your phone system so that you don’t find your critical business needs being routed through a nation that’s subject to bureaucratic whims or legislative or executive actions.
4. Reliability – Your phone system has to be there when you need it. Even a few minutes of outage can cost your company thousands of dollars, and a long-term outage can risk the business itself. While a lot of attention gets paid to your company website, and that’s certainly critical, your company’s phone system is at least as critical. It’s how you actually talk to clients and customers, how you collaborate with your colleagues (at least for routine matters), and how the quick conversations that make your workflow happen get done. While you probably can do all of this with instant messaging (IM) and chat rooms, like those in Slack, speech is much more efficient.
5. Quality – Your phone calls have to sound like you’re in business. You don’t want garbled and broken up conversations, distorted voices, or static. A consistently low-quality phone connection will lower your credibility as a business, not to mention impeding your basic communications.
Efficiency Not Cost Should Be the Primary Consideration
You’ll notice that nowhere in that list did I mention cost. This is because running a VoIP client on your cell phone will cost money in addition to whatever you’re paying for the cell service and possibly even the base cost for the VoIP system. The costs come from two places: the cost of the client itself (or a per-user cost for some systems) and the cost of data from your mobile carrier. And that’s not counting other costs you’ll probably incur, like those from a mobile device management (MDM) agent as well as from implementing endpoint security.
As you can see in PCMag’s reviews of business VoIP providers and phone services, including Editors’ Choice RingCentral Office (for Business), your mobile phone’s client is often considered a separate line by the phone system. In many cases, it is charged like a separate number. So investigate exactly how your provider charges for mobile devices and plan on spending about $20 per month per mobile phone client.
Exactly how a provider’s mobile client interacts or replaces the same provider’s softphone is also an important consideration. Many providers work hard to ensure that their mobile clients are functionally equivalent to their full-fledged desktop softphone applications, but that’s not always possible given the difference in computing horsepower between desktop and mobile devices. If the features of a softphone are important to your company’s workflows, be sure to check them specifically against the capabilities of the mobile client before purchase.
The cost of data on your mobile phone plan depends heavily on your carrier and on the contract you’ve negotiated. But whether you have unlimited data or whether you’re paying as you go, using your mobile phone data costs something. And your VoIP calls use your phone’s data rather than the cellular network for their connections.
While VoIP isn’t a bandwidth hog in the same way that video is, it still requires a good data connection or it won’t work, or at least it won’t work well, which, if you’re trying to talk to a customer, amounts to the same thing. This may also mean that you’ll need to make sure your in-house Wi-Fi is consistent throughout the company or that you have a consistent signal from your carrier.