Limitations to VoIP and How to Overcome Them

For many small businesses these days, switching their phone service from the standard landline telephone to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) makes sense from both an economic and technological point of view. However, VoIP also has some disadvantages, and you may need to take steps to compensate until the technology catches up. Let’s explore three prominent limitations of VoIP and what you can do about them.

Dependent on Power Supply

If your electricity goes out, your landline phone still works because it’s connected to a separate grid. However, VoIP is an Internet-based service, which means when the power goes out, you lose your phone service as well. If your business depends on the Internet, phone or both, every minute of downtime can translate to lost revenue.

How to compensate: We recommend that every computer network include a backup power supply that can keep your Internet and VoIP service running in case of an outage. Larger companies may invest in backup generators to accomplish this goal, while small businesses may be able to get by with battery-based backups.

Dependent on Broadband Reliability

The quality of your VoIP service hinges largely on reliability of your Internet service, as well as the amount of bandwidth your business uses. If you have numerous computers streaming large amounts of data all at once, voices and video can become garbled or pixelated, or you may drop your connection. This can also occur if your Internet service provider delivers inconsistent Internet quality.

How to Compensate: Talk to an IT professional for recommendations on making sure you have enough bandwidth to accommodate all your connected devices and applications. If your ISP delivers an inconsistent connection, consider choosing another carrier.

911 Calls

One of the most consistent points of concern with VoIP service is that it can’t currently provide a geographic address for emergency 911 calls like landline phone service does. When you call 911 on VoIP, the operator doesn’t immediately know which local emergency responders to send, or where to send them. The FCC has posted some important information about this issue on their website.

How to compensate: Until developers find a way to integrate enhanced 911 information into VoIP, consider all of the following alternatives:

• Ask your ISP about third-party 911 VoIP services that can connect your physical address to the appropriate services. (See here for a partial list of providers.)

• Write down your physical address and keep it next to each handset. (It seems old fashioned, but it works.)

• If you call 911 from a cell phone, make a note of your location and mention it to the operator.

• If you still have concerns about 911 access, consider installing an emergency-only landline phone under the cheapest plan available.

Here’s the good news: These and other limitations will eventually be addressed as VoIP technology continues to evolve. Meanwhile, many small business owners feel the advantages of VoIP still outweigh the limitations. To learn more, call us at 1-877-NetServ for a free evaluation of your needs.