If you are still using an in-house telephone system based on older technologies, then you need to be aware that BT will be making it obsolete over the next few years. However, the need to upgrade is an opportunity to rethink your entire communications strategy and to improve working patterns. The good news is that the new technologies available can not only give you more business functionality but in addition can save you money!
The main issue is that older phone systems connect to physical lines of one type or the other, usually PSTN or ISDN, which are technologies dating back to the 1980s and 1990s. You don’t need to worry too much about exactly what these acronyms stand for or the technologies they represent. However, you do need to be concerned about the fact that BT, being the only provider of such lines, will finally be switching off its PSTN and ISDN networks in 2025. Furthermore, they will be gradually phased-out as from 2020. In fact, BT has indicated that they will stop taking orders for new lines of this type from 2020 meaning you could face difficulties before 2025 if you decide to add an office location or move premises.
The improvements in Internet connectivity over newer fibre connections have rendered these older technologies outdated and obsolete. For some considerable time now, they have been being replaced by IP (Internet Protocol) voice services. If you are not already using an IP-based telephone system, then you should be thinking seriously about the process of switching to one.
Without getting too technical, some of the terms associated with the newer technologies are VoIP and SIP. In simple terms, VoIP is just voice (calls) over the Internet. SIP is another technology that utilises an Internet connection and it has many advantages. Firstly, the charging structure is greatly simplified, and line rental and call costs are typically much reduced. Savings will vary according to your own situation but cost reductions of around 25% – 33% could be expected, possibly more. You can also save costs by consolidating your telephone and data communication lines. SIP has other benefits including the ability to connect more types of devices and much more control over your telephone system, for example more flexible disaster recovery options.
The power of these newer technologies is that they allow other facilities such as multimedia sessions (video conferencing, phone conferencing, etc.) between groups of people using the Internet. So, in addition to simple telephone calls, these technologies can also be used to set up video and audio meetings or instant messaging conferences. If you want to picture an example of how these work, then just think of Skype where you can start with a phone call, add video and share documents, all with multiple people.
Modern telephone systems take advantage of the technologies mentioned above to offer the benefits of unified communications (UC). UC has many benefits, here are some of them:
- Improved collaboration between staff and clients.
- Video conferencing, including the ability to share your screen and to work on documents together.
- The use of Instant Messaging.
- Presence – you can see the availability of someone you want to reach. For example, are they available, on the phone, in a meeting, on holiday, etc.
- ‘Soft’ phones – dialling from the desktop and the ability to use headphones and eliminate handsets altogether if you wish.
- ‘‘Logging-in’ from any desk handset and easier switching of calls between landlines and mobiles.
- Presenting your clients with a single number which you can respond to whether you are in the office, working at home or on your mobile.
- Getting voicemails by email or emails by voicemail.
Once you look to upgrade your telephone system there are other advances in technology that you might want to consider. You should particularly investigate hosted telephony. Having your phone system in the cloud can bring significant further costs savings as there will be no requirement to maintain and eventually upgrade physical phone system hardware. Furthermore, like other hosted services, you can quickly ‘flex’ your usage of the system up and down according to changes in the size of your organisation.
In summary, if you are still using an old phone system then consider a replacement project as a priority. If you have already started down the road of using newer technologies on-premise then consider moving to a hosted solution. Either way, you will be protecting your business and will probably see improvements in processes and an effective return on investment.