Business phone service can be as simple as a single phone line on up to the use of T1’s or other types of circuits to handle higher call volume. Depending on the nature of the business and the expected call volume, phone service for business can become quite complex and require the use of more sophisticated solutions to deliver phone service.
For smaller businesses, standard POTS lines are used to terminate into a phone system that then routes calls out to individual extensions. POTS or “Plain Old Telephone Service” is the same exact type of phone line that would be used in the home. To accommodate the call volume, business phone service would use multiple POTS lines to provide the capacity needed when installing for use by a business. Although suitable for small, stand alone businesses, this type of setup is not practical for larger businesses where thousands of calls may be made each day.
ISDN is a common type of circuit used for business phone service. ISDN or (Integrated Services Digital Network) allows the transmission of digital signals to travel over traditional copper telephone wires. Suitable for most types of communication transmission, ISDN has become somewhat of an industry standard for most phone service for business. This type of circuit can be used for voice, video and data transmission. Each ISDN T1 gives you 23 outside lines. There are 24 channels in an ISDN circuit with the last channel being used for switching signals and data such as caller ID. Each ISDN circuit can be configured for outbound or inbound traffic as well as being assigned long distance or local capabilities depending on the needs of the business.
When speaking about business phone service, the term “trunk” usually comes up in conversation. A trunk is the term used when talking about grouping circuits or phone lines together. They are configured in the business phone system as a “trunk group” where each of the members of the group is called a trunk group member. Each trunk group member consists of one line in which a call can be made or received. In the case of the ISDN, 23 trunk members are configured for each ISDN T1. Trunk groups can have as little as 1 trunk group member up to 100’s of trunk group members depending on the type of phone lines coming in and the capacity of the phone system.
Most business phone company providers offer various packages that are geared to a particular business’s needs. The type of service provided is implemented using considerations such as call volume, the type of phone system being utilized and any features that the business might need or want. VOIP is fast becoming a commonly used technology that allows businesses to leverage their network for the transmission of voice conversations between locations. This type of setup allows the business to save money on long distance costs as well as create a telecommunications environment where multiple locations use one phone system.
VOIP can be implemented through either the use of dedicated circuits in the business’s network, or can be used over the internet. However, since the internet is not controllable, a VOIP system should be configured on a private network. This way the business can control traffic priority and insure that the voice conversations are given priority on the network. VOIP requires higher bandwidth and a properly configured QoS setting to insure that in times of high traffic demand, that the voice traffic receives the highest priority and is routed first.
New to the world of business communications, SIP is the latest signaling protocol for VoIP and data networks. SIP is a specialized protocol whose sole purpose is to control the network session. SIP controls the opening and closing of a network session in much the same way as HTTP. A large benefit of SIP is its ability to control many different types of media within the same communications session. A user could surf the net, watch an online video and make a phone call all on the same communication session. This means that SIP has a larger trunking capacity than many circuits in use today.
Phone service for business should have some provision for disaster recovery or redundancy in the event of an outage. Redundancy utilizes a backup system in the event that the main system fails. Larger businesses typically have a duplicate system in a remote location that becomes active in the event of loss of connectivity of the main system. In those businesses with many locations, each location should have the ability to operate as a standalone system in the event of a network outage that prevents it from communicating with the main telephone system. This way, each of the locations still has the ability to communicate with the outside world and engage emergency services if necessary. This is done through strategically installing circuits and network connectivity through the business phone company. Having redundancy minimizes the risk of loss of communication in the event of a natural disaster or inclement weather where the main phone system is located. To further minimize potential risk, it’s also a good idea to make sure that the company providing business phone service has also taken measures to insure business continuity in the event of major power outages or loss of communication.
Business phone service can take many forms as well as offer businesses more cost effective ways to provide communication for their associates. No matter what the size or the complexity of the business is, there is a suitable solution that can provide features and benefits that allows the company to save money and improve communication with both the customers and the employees. When assessing business phone service needs, determining how the company uses communication and what they find most useful are going to be key in determining the type and capacity of business phone service needed. Whatever solution is decided upon should offer a significant return on investment in terms of better communication and cost savings for the company’s overall communication costs.