Hybrid working, employee flexibility and structural changes to the UK’s telephone network mean that it’s more crucial than ever for businesses to consider the suitability of their current phone system. The two futureproofed contenders are Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking. But how do these differ, and which is right for your business?
An effective business phone system enables seamless communication both internally among employees and externally with customers. While both groups were willing to put up with disruption in the short term at the start of the pandemic, now patience is wearing thin. Businesses need to come up with a long-term solution to provide effective voice communication in the new working world.
The convergence of several simultaneous changes to working practices and systems has signalled a fitting moment for businesses to consider the appropriateness of their phone system. Throughout the pandemic businesses found new ways of communicating, collaborating and delivering customer service. Some even found more effective solutions. Yet the greater focus on virtual communication hasn’t been reflected in the equipment businesses choose.
According to the Future Forum Pulse Report, the percentage of people working split between the office and home has increased from 46 per cent in May 2021 to 58 per cent in January 2022, while less than a third of employees are working exclusively from the office. Traditional office phone systems where each employee has a designated landline does not align with this new approach to working. Employees need a flexible phone system to match their new flexible working arrangements.
The situation becomes even more pressing when you consider the digitalisation of the UK’s phone system. The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), which currently connects any Private Branch Exchange (PBX) phone system — like an office landline — will be switched off from December 31, 2025, so even for businesses that aren’t looking for more flexibility, upgrading is an absolute must.
Same hardware, new technology
The first solution to tackling these issues is SIP trunking. It’s a protocol that connects a traditional PBX phone system to a provider’s network over the internet. Once the SIP trunks are in place, the legacy hardware can be used for end-to-end communication through voice, video and chat both internally and externally.
Opting for SIP trunking allows businesses to futureproof their existing hardware and make it compatible with internet enabled telephony solutions. Once the PSTN is switched off, office landlines left in their current state will no longer work, so if a business is keen to keep its current equipment, SIP trunking is essential.
It’s also possible to divert calls to an alternative number, which supports remote working. If an employee is not in the office that day, or works remotely full time, calls to their number can be diverted to a mobile. This means that customers receive the same quality of customer service and their queries are handled in a timely manner, regardless of employee location.
Complete, scalable, flexible
A more comprehensive alternative is VoIP — a direct internet-enabled replacement of the traditional office landline that transmits voice calls over the internet in digital data packets. A VoIP phone system performs all the same functions of a traditional landline but also offers additional benefits.
It’s a completely scalable telephony solution, meaning new phone lines can be added in just a few minutes, and employees have the flexibility to access the system through any device they wish — laptops, desktops, smartphones or tablets.
It’s also more cost effective, since you only pay for the phonelines you need. Being able to add or remove additional phone lines in just a few minutes means the system can grow with your business. Conversely, for seasonal businesses where more phonelines may be required for just one time of year, it prevents unnecessary costs or complex logistics during low season.
While employees and customers were initially tolerant of communication disruption caused by the pandemic, the ‘COVID excuse’ won’t work for much longer. Remote working in some capacity is the norm, and it requires an aligned phone system, to keep employees connected, customers happy and businesses successful.