There is a debate floating around the business community at the moment – it focuses on business telephony. The argument centers on whether free tools such as Google Hangouts, Skype or Apple’s FaceTime can provide a reliable business telephone service for small businesses.

Reliability and outages with Free Services

Freemium based services are quite prolific these days and what you get for free is incredible. However, the freemium model is based on scale, i.e. getting lots of people to sign-up. Once through the door, they are then encouraged to upgrade to paid services that add functionality.

However, part of the issue is that whilst they services are excellent and provide your business with free services, they can sometimes be unreliable and impose intrusive advertising.

Whilst no provider wants downtime, when you have millions of users there is bound to be occasions when the service is over used. Take April 2013, users of Facetime had a 5 hour outage – try explaining that to your sales department. Skype has also experienced difficulties with the migration of Microsoft Messenger clients.

The old adage rings true with this type of model. You get what you pay for.

Functionality V’s Intrusive adverts

As a small business, perhaps one or two employees a full-blown VoIP service maybe over-kill. This is where the Skype’s and Facetime’s of the world work well. Low-end users making occasional calls and video conferencing will be content in sacrificing support and functionality. After all, they are gaining access to a service they would otherwise not be able to afford. Finally, there is the obvious cost benefit.

However, ‘High-end’ VoIP Providers offer a more rounded service. Offering extras such as Quality support, (not the email kind), technical know-how and robust hardware installed into your office. There are cost benefits over a typical landline cost too.

It’s also worth noting that paid and free services use different protocols. Without the techie Jargon, this affects the call quality. The quality of your call will be significantly better through a paid version. By way of comparison, think about it in terms of the difference in call quality between mobile to landline.

The protocol at the heart of VoIP systems varies from provider to provider. The free ones generally speaking run G711 e.g. Skype, the paid run G729. That is because the provider needs to pay for a licence to run it. G729 is what we run and gives a superior call quality. Won’t bore you with the technical stuff, but it is essentially the difference in call quality of a mobile phone to landline.

Small businesses need reliability

If you have a team of people that rely on making sales calls. You want the peace of mind that when you pick up the phone that it will work.

Free services can work really well for small businesses that do not need functionality beyond the obvious. But as your business grows there is a requirement to put your business on a more professional footing, with greater reliability and functionality like call forwarding or email, messaging. Try and explain a service outage to the MD prior to making that all-important sales call.

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