In 2017, Openreach announced it would be turning off the old analogue phone lines by 2025 and sending everyone to mobile or online – which immediately started conversations about what we were all going to do instead, and then the pandemic descended and it was no longer front of mind.
But the answer to 'what to do instead' was already here, largely in the form of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), and as complicated as it sounds, there is nothing to fear from an internet-based system, much to be gained and no need to panic, according to Gloucestershire managed IT expert ReformIT.
About the expert – Neil Smith, founder and managing director of ReformIT
Neil Smith is the founder and managing director of ReformIT, a nationwide IT support specialist headquartered in Cheltenham. Its skilled technicians can advise on all IT matters, from security, software and cloud solutions, to IT support and managed services, including VoIP telephone services and website hosting.
ReformIT is a small business specialist, Microsoft Silver partner and Microsoft Office 365 consultant that also provides a customised range of managed IT services for business, too.
For more information, visit reformit.co.uk.
What is VoIP and how does it work?
VoIP is a technology that allows you to make voice calls using a broadband internet connection instead of a regular ISDN or analogue phone line.
Modern VoIP services allow you to call anyone who has a telephone number, regardless of whether they are using VoIP or not - including local, long distance, mobile, and international numbers.
Aside from the benefits, which we will get onto in a minute, why should everyone who hasn't yet be seriously considering VoIP?
BT Openreach is in the process of decommissioning its old ISDN and analogue telephone infrastructure, intending to have it all shut down in 2025. By the end of next year (2023), you will no longer be able to order new ISDN or analogue lines.
Consequently, everyone will have to move to VoIP over the next couple of years. This doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive though – ReformIT can handle the whole process for you. It doesn’t matter if you are a small business or home user with a single phone line, or a larger business with multiple lines, we have solutions to fit.
What are the advantages of VoIP for business?
In short, cost, flexibility and functionality.
Cost is usually a major factor, as you can often save money, as VoIP doesn’t require multiple physical ISDN or analogue lines and calls tend to be cheaper or even free! It is flexible too. You and your staff can literally work from anywhere.
Can you be specific about some of the benefits?
The pandemic showed how businesses need to be able to adapt quickly and most VOIP systems come with 'softphone' capabilities, where your phone is on your PC, laptop or smartphone, which means you can make calls via your devices wherever you are.
Functionality is also usually a significant bonus – most VoIP systems have many features that you would have only previously found on expensive ‘enterprise’ telephone systems.
Functions like IVR (Interactive Voice Response) menus (press one for ‘x’, two for ‘y’, etc) and voicemail to email are two commonly used ones.
What does a business need to have in place to use VoIP to best advantage?
Normally, all you need is a good internet connection with suitable handsets or adapters and off you go.
We handle the process of moving all your numbers over to the VoIP system, so you can get rid of all your ISDN lines and the costs associated with them.
Where broadband isn’t so great, there are options which can still make VoIP work reliably – just ask!
If a business wants to take a closer look, what do they need and what is the minimum they should consider?
Good Internet connection and a good understanding of what they want from a phone system are key.
VoIP does need a good, stable Internet connection. But even if your broadband is poor, we can find solutions that will work.
Does that mean a business needs to invest in new phones too?
You don’t always need to change your telephone hardware, which can help keep costs down. Many VoIP packages include free hardware though.
Whether your telephony needs are simple or relatively complex, we can help match you to a package that fits both your budget and requirements.
Anything else a business should consider and should anyone be panicking, given the planned switch off by Openreach?
Understanding your existing telephony contracts and their expiry/renewal date is also important.
Sadly, some existing providers are using ‘hard sell’ tactics to panic people into moving to VoIP and renewing contracts at less than competitive rates.
There is still plenty of time, there is no need to panic and we can help advise on the best route forward in all cases.