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Public vs. Private IP-Based Voice Systems

Skype and Google Voice may seem like attractive, inexpensive options, but business-class IP phone systems offer secure service and investment protection.

I recently wrote about private IP PBX phone systems and the benefits they offer to small businesses, including cost savings compared to traditional PBX systems, easier deployment, and expandability. For small businesses on a tight budget, a free IP phone service, such as Skype or Google Voice, may seem like a more attractive option than having to shell out cash for a business-class IP phone system.

Similar to a private IP PBX, Skype and Google Voice are easy to deploy and offer a variety of voice and data features. In addition, there’s no cost involved up front; they’re free to download. However, both services use the public Internet to make and receive calls, and therefore pose risks in call quality and network security.

Public IP phone service—you get what you pay for

Skype’s and Google Voice’s free or low per-minute and flat rate plans are perhaps their biggest selling points. They also offer some features typically found in private IP-based phone systems. For example, Skype offers voice/video calling, call forwarding, conference calls, file sharing, and call recording. Google Voice also offers call recording and call conferencing, as well as a transcription feature that converts voice messages to text and sends them to your Gmail and a single Google phone number that can route calls to other phones—home, work, or mobile.

However, because both Google Voice and Skype use the public Internet as a backbone, both services are vulnerable to network congestion. So, just as an email can get delayed by a struggling server somewhere on the web, so too can a voice call on Skype and Google Voice. This can result in call latency (a delay in signals) and connectivity issues.

Neither Google Voice nor Skype offer service-level agreements (SLAs), a must-have “insurance policy” for any business in the event the service goes down. In fact, Skype experienced a significant outage just last December.

Also, downloading the Skype software creates a security risk by potentially exposing your network to any malware that infiltrates the Skype network. Skype also uses a peer-to-peer network, so Skype software downloaded on your computer will use your network resources to route other Skype users’ calls.

Business-class IP phone system—quality calls over a secure network

As a business, it’s important for you to maintain a high level of call quality and a secure network—and that’s what you get with business-class IP PBX voice systems. They also offer features and capabilities beyond those provided by a public IP-based phone service.

For example, some of the features you’ll find with Cisco Unified Communications solutions, like the Cisco Unified Communications 300 Series include:

  • Multiple voicemail accounts
  • Call forwarding and call transfer
  • Three-way conferencing
  • Music-on-hold for incoming calls
  • Automated attendant
  • Voicemail to email notification
  • Company directory

Business-class IP PBX phone systems connect to private IP networks and the public switched telephone network (PSTN), which means your voice calls are not routed over the public Internet. This helps ensure the quality of your calls and minimizes the risk of network outages.

Private IP PBX voice systems also have  security features ,making them less vulnerable to malware and other public network viruses. This means your network isn’t exposed to the same risks posed by public IP voice services like Google Voice and Skype. Private IP PBX phone systems are also easy to install and expand, providing investment protection as your business grows.

So, look before you leap to using a public IP-based voice service. Although the cost savings of Skype and Google Voice may be alluring, there are hidden risks. The only way to ensure high-quality voice service and network security is with a business-class IP PBX phone system.

When it comes to public vs. private IP phone systems, what are your thoughts?

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