History of VoIP and What’s Changed Now

Like so many modern advances in information technology (IT), VoIP is one of those technologies that everybody has heard of but very few know what it is, how it works, or why they might need it. Regardless, VoIP is pervasive and is part of just about every communications system and every call that we make.

Below we take a brief look at what VoIP is, its illustrious journey over the last two decades, and what new advances in VoIP technology we can expect to see.

What is VoIP?

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. In a nutshell, it is the transmission of voice and multimedia content over Internet Protocol (IP) networks.  VoIP historically referred to using IP to connect private branch exchanges (PBXs), but the term is now used interchangeably with IP telephony.

Although VoIP is the technology that lets us use the Internet to make and receive telephone calls, it is more than just that.  It allows us to communicate over a wide range of IP based networks including corporate Local and Wide Area Networks and global carrier networks

How Long Has VoIP Been Around?

Technically, the first successful VoIP transmission occurred in 1973. However, the first mass-use software on the market emerged in 1995 via the company, VocalTec, the same company that developed Magic Jack. At the time, Magic Jack was so ahead of its time, that most people believed that it was a scam. However, Magic Jack operated on the VoIP concept of converting phone calls to IP packets and using an Internet connectioninstead of a standard landline.

In 1996, VocalTec developed the first software that created the template for VoIP technology and launched an entire industry. By 1998 1% of all voice communication was VoIP-based including phone-to-phone and computer-to-phone software and devices. Once industry leaders recognized VoIP’s viability as both a marketable product and game-changing communication technology, it wasn’t long before tech giants such as Cisco, Lucent, and Microsoft began adopting VoIP. By 2000 nearly 3% of all voice traffic was VoIP.

As Ethernet expanded throughout corporate and carrier networks, it gave VoIP the engine it needed for fast and reliable performance.. Mass marketing efforts started as early as 2004 for VoIP technology. VoIP-based phone systems began to compete with digital PBX systems and hosted voice solutions based on VoIP began to emerge as alternatives to premise-based solutions.

VoIP Technology Today: What Has Changed?

VoIP technology has consistently shown both expansion and improvement over the last 20 years. Any issues that you would expect such as dependability, quality of sound, cost, or latency have all but disappeared, making way for more improvements.

Some of the latest advances in VoIP include:

  • Drastic reduction in cost:  Calling costs have become insignificant with the expansion of VoIP technology.  And as hosted VoIP phone system pricing has dropped, it eliminates the capital expenditures required to maintain, update and/or replace old digital PBX’s.More powerful: Cloud-based technology and better equipment have given VoIP the kick it needs to perform in less-than-desirable environments with slower bandwidth. They have also reduced or eliminated the need for dedicated and expenses circuits for voice.
  • Mobility: VoIP has become increasingly valuable, as businesses have more employees working remotely. Corporate communications systems can now be accessed from anywhere in the world across multiple devices such as phones, computers, and tablets.
  • VoIP and AI: When combined with AI, VoIP now offers features such as smart messaging, smart attendants, and greater capabilities in call forwarding, trunking, and dozens of other customer-centric functions.
  • VoIP and 5G: Thanks to 5G technology, VoIP users can expect faster call speeds, higher-quality signals, fewer dropped calls, fewer echoes, and almost no packet loss. This is a benefit for both remote and on-site callers.

Voice and Data Technology and Services in New England

If you are looking for a complete VoIP service provider for your business in the greater New England area, then contact Barry Communications. We offer a wide range of VoIP solutions and applications to fit any business requirement.

To find out more or to schedule a consultation, call us at 888-853-7120. You can also send a message on our contact page.

Hosted VoIP Solutions: 3 Tips when Shopping for Providers

hosted_voip_solutionsI recently attended a client meeting where I found myself having a familiar conversation. The prospective client is already using a hosted VoIP network (although “struggling with” may be a better description). So far, he’s had disappointing experiences with not one, but two separate providers, and unfortunately his complaints are pretty common:

• The phone and data service quality are poor.
• The support people he’s been dealing with to resolve his issues? They’re even worse.

Ouch. He told me he still likes the concept of a hosted VoIP solution, but he feels the promise he was sold on (better technology and cost savings) has not been delivered.

This is a good segue into how we, at Barry, do hosted VoIP solutions differently. Rather than have the conversation in your office, after your initial vendors crash and burn, maybe the following advice can save you some time.

Because hey, it’s easy to make claims like “feature-rich” or “all-inclusive.” But how often do you see providers getting deeper on these points—spelling out what their sales bullets really amount to? If you’re curious about the substantive factors that distinguish Provider A from Provider B, here are some key points to keep in mind:

1. When it comes to hosted VoIP and UC technology, the “how” is as important as the “what.”

Today’s unified communication systems can do things your predecessors probably never imagined. Phone-based coaching tools, conditional call forwarding, find me/follow me mobile reach, personal auto attendants, the ability to upload your own preferred hold music… (That last one’s huge. Just ask Twitter.)

Hosted_Voip_Solutions

Meanwhile, business VoIP offerings are difficult to compare. It’s easy to get caught up in the features of different products/services—especially when sales and marketing teams do such a good job blurring real distinctions.

Just don’t lose sight of how all these features will come together for you. Ease of use—both for your end users and your administrators—should always come first. As ShoreTel partners, we’re fully onboard with the tagline “Brilliantly Simple.” We believe communications technology should give you the power to conduct business across continents, time zones, and devices—with tools that are always reliable and comfortable. In fact, a big part of our job is staying current on available and coming innovations, so we can recommend optimal equipment/configurations for your business needs.

2. The new normal in customer service should make you uncomfortable.

Across the board, customer service has become mechanical—completely removed from personal, direct relationships. Instead of reaching someone who recognizes your voice and understands your problem, you reach an operator who asks you to enter your account number and choose from a list of pre-programmed issues. From there, the aggravation continues…

This is particularly true among the larger, hosted VoIP solution providers, where support staff turnover is high and training is questionable. Most customers now accept poor service as the new normal. If you’re younger than me, you may not remember a time when standards were any different—when you could get a knowledgeable person on the phone without wasting half your day. (Sigh.)

But that’s not to say customer service is dead. As you shop for hosted VoIP providers, use Net Promoter Scores (NPS) to weed out the lowest performers in customer satisfaction. NPS is calculated by taking the percentage of customers who are “Promoters,” and then subtracting the percentage who are “Detractors.” Brands like Apple and Trader Joe’s routinely score in the 70’s. Telecommunications companies, as a whole, score in the single digits.

We’re different—dramatically different, if you consider our NPS (somewhere between 95 and 100 at last check). In striving to be the best VoIP provider, we focus on earning the trust, respect, and loyalty of each customer. It’s how we do business. While we wish there were more industry metrics to prove our commitment in this area, the NPS distinction and our many VoIP customer testimonials are a good start.

3. Support isn’t just a courtesy issue; it’s a bottom-line factor.

When phone communication is central to your business (e.g. you maintain a call center, an order department, a help desk), you need a reliable phone system with a top-tier support company working behind the scenes. Some carrier/cloud organizations are promising the moon and the stars via “network-based” phone systems. The hidden cost? Your IT department will end up saddled with help requests, picking up slack for the provider—eating up resources and working hours in the process.

At Barry, we deliver unparalleled support from the very beginning: onsite meetings to review the implementation, onsite training, and ongoing service support with quick access to high-level technical resources. It’s part of our mission to be customer-centric, but it’s also how we ensure you achieve the full cost benefits of hosted VoIP solutions.

Want to see for yourself? Read how we combine advanced cloud-based technologies with old-fashioned service and delivery values. Browse our customer case studies.