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Saturday, Sep 23, 2023

VoIP Gaining Popularity at Valley Firms

Propelled by increasingly lower costs and a growing familiarity with the technology, businesses in the Valley are starting to implement voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) telephony. As recently as one year ago, many businesses had expressed a skittishness towards a technology then viewed as “not quite ready.” But times have changed as the average cost to implement a VoIP system is down 20 percent from two years ago, currently costing $20,000 to $30,000 for 15 to 20 connections. Valley companies have found the technology, which allows for the transmission of voice and data over the same fiber line, increasingly cost-effective and useful. The vice-president of the networking division at Chatsworth-based systems integrator Pacific Coast Cabling, Allen Horwitz has seen a marked increase in the amount of VoIP installations the company has done in recent months. “It’s moving from we’ve heard about it and we’re wondering what it is, to it’s something that we have to have. The real value today of VoIP is over applications,” Horwitz said. “It’s the ability that you have to interface your telephone system with your computer system. Everybody continually asks us if we install VoIP. I haven’t seen anyone make a decision to buy a traditional legacy system in the last six months.” With phones linked to computers, VoIP systems display the names of callers on the computer screen with each call. Additionally, voice mails are saved onto the system and available for retrieval via a computer .wav file. Other appurtenances include the ability to route incoming work calls to one’s home phone or cell phone, as well as the ability to keep a comprehensive computer list of every call made within an office, detailing who called whom and for how long. Richard Randle, the senior technology consultant for Westlake Village-based Millenium Business Solutions Group, has found VoIP indispensable to help connect Millenium’s workers that are out in the field with the company’s home office in Westlake Village. Additionally, Randle extolled the savings on the phone bill that VoIP has allowed. “We have our headquarters in Westlake but we also have virtual offices in three cities. Now that all of our virtual offices have VoIP telephony, we’re able to be connected with them all the time. In the old telephone days, everything was very complicated,” Randle said. “Now we can deploy a phone on someone’s laptop and USB headset in a remote location. When they click to dial, they dial right out of our Westlake Village system and they are able to dial any extension in the office. We can effectively monitor workers hundred of miles away from our consolidated phone base. It’s been wonderful having VoIP.” Tracking system The Burbank-based Bassett Sales Corporation fit the typical profile of an ideal candidate for VoIP. With salespeople scattered across Southern California and Arizona, the manufacturing representative firm needed a tracking system to ensure that it offered effective customer service to its thousands of active customers. After moving into a new headquarters, Scott Bassett, president and CEO of the company explored all telephony options before settling on a VoIP system. “The system is seamless. The software that we have implemented allows me to manage and track all of the phone calls we make. It ensures that we can provide superior customer service,” Bassett said. “In our business, it’s all about relationship management and VoIP helps us with that. From caller identification, to caller history and call tracking, I can see who my reps called and for how long they spoke to each client. We’re very happy with it. I would recommend it to everyone. It future proofs us so we can grow with new technology.” Though some critics sniped at VoIP’s initial delay in making inroads into the business market, it seems that the fledgling technology will only become more ubiquitous in coming years. “I absolutely think it’s on a forward trend. If you look at product development plans from vendors and users, IP telephony is definitely where the market is headed,” Sam Lucero, an analyst at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based In-Stat Research said. “People are still installing traditional systems but the number will be less and less each year. It’s like draining the ocean and eventually the circuit switches will be drained out.” Even non-profit organizations like the Pacific Lodge Boys’ Home in Woodland Hills have found benefits from the technology. Previous to getting VoIP, Pacific Lodge had been plagued by voicemail capacity limitations and continual phone system crashes. Tom Martin, an executive assistant for the home for troubled adolescents, lauds VoIP’s reliability. “It helps everyone stay in constant communication. The people on our development teams really enjoy the phone forwarding feature. If they are out to lunch they can always have the phone calls forwarded to their cells. The general reliability of the service is critical on a day to day basis,” Martin said. “Everyone has been satisfied. I would definitely recommend it. The options are endless and it’s built into the computer system. A general phone system can’t compete with the options it can provide a business.”

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