It was 135 years ago that Alexander Graham Bell uttered his now famous words "Mr Watson – come here – I want to see you”.
It is testament to Bell’s genius that while his fancy telephone forever changed the way humans communicate, the way the invention works remains largely unaltered.
However, it is time we relooked at the technology, with smart and price savvy people harnessing the power of the internet for phone calls.
Where do you start?
The first place to start is to contact two or three established and respected telecoms wholesalers or providers. All of us in the business run comprehensive websites where you can get a good idea of the tasks involved in setting up 21st century telecoms.
Key ingredients are plenty of support backed by a reliable and established brand that can provide reasonably-priced services.
Your customers will need the equipment that best suits their voice and data needs. On the voice side, for businesses with more than about seven or eight staff, it’s best to go for a PABX-based system – especially one that supports Session Initiated Protocol (SIP).
It’s important to choose a good brand because this piece of equipment is the gateway to your customer’s business for phone call services. Telcos tend not to support PABX issues, so your support – or that of the vendor or manufacturer – will be needed.
If clients are running fibre, most suppliers will provide them with the equipment to act as a gateway. That will get the service 90% of the way to their offices. But they’ll still need to choose a router to push the data into the office. There are many vendors to choose from, with Cisco being an industry favourite.
In today’s connected world, broadband is a necessity. Standard broadband DSL will do for small businesses, where multiple phone connections are not required and internet speed and stability are not major concerns.
Dedicated commercial services are essential for clients who can’t tolerate any down time and want consistent performance. Standard broadband won’t do as no suppliers guarantee performance or stability. The catch with these services is that they will cost between $400 and $2000 per month.
Fibre can be supplied by a number of vendors and it’s great for a dedicated solution because it’s fast and reliable. Alternative lower-end solutions such as SHDSL – which is essentially multiple DSL connections paired together to provide a stable dedicated service – provide a cheaper but perfectly suitable alternative.
It is important to choose the right amount of speed/data for the performance required. For example, architects and photographers are going to need more bandwidth than accountants and doctors. Talk to your telco or ISP if you are in doubt as to your needs or the best solution for your customers.
Smaller businesses should avoid installing multiple standard phone lines. This can fast become inefficient as each line costs upwards of $40 and most business locations can install only around four or five per site.
We recommend VoIP for smaller businesses or SIP for larger ones. This saves money as you aren’t paying multiple monthly fees. It also means clients utilise their data connection to transmit voice services rather than paying mirroring access for phone services.
VoIP services mean you can have one DSL internet connection and upwards of eight or 10 lines running over it. It’s ideal for smaller businesses which don’t want a dedicated fibre service but have multiple calling needs.
SIP is similar to VoIP but runs over a dedicated service such as fibre. It uses a large ‘pipe’ of data to transmit voice calls and the quality is often better. You can have literally hundreds of direct dial lines for minimal cost with loads of calling functionality such as call forward and voice mail for each DDI.
Orcon and other telcos often provide far cheaper calling rates on an SIP solution as well, so if your client is going to be making lots of calls every month then this is the one for them.
My best advice? Pick up the phone and call your preferred telco provider or supplier. They will be able to talk you through their options, and what’s new in their world.