‘Less Gas, More Gassing’

With the recent rises in petrol prices Russell Whitlock of RW Communications says IP-based telephone systems now make working from home simple to do and easy to set up.

“A friend of mine recently gave me a lift on a reasonably long journey; 90 miles or so, to attend an industry event. I looked at his car’s petrol gauge, which usually gets reasonable mileage, and thought he’d easily get change from £20 – enough to top up his tank. No chance.

This seems to be a recurring story. I remember when petrol first broke the one-pound-a-litre mark: people protested on garage forecourts. As I write this, £1.03-£1.10 per litre is the norm. (Ed: Just a couple of weeks ago folks!)

Petrol prices are escalating. It’s also looking well and truly as though the gloomy predictions of an economic recession are coming true. All-in-all getting to and from work is becoming a fairly costly exercise, and your average Joe is feeling the squeeze on their wallet.

Working from home is therefore looking like an increasingly attractive option. This is true both for employers and employees. Employees want to work from home to cut down on travel costs. Companies often want to cut down on overheads. However for businesses to be willing to adopt home working practices day-to-day operations must continue to run smoothly. In fact, the business should run as well as if the worker was still in the office.

IP Telephony (IPT) is one technology that is quietly fuelling the home-working revolution amongst SMBs. This method of making business voice calls across dedicated Internet channels allows businesses to make the transition from office-working to home-working seamlessly.

Unlike most types of phone service, IPT allows workers to receive calls via their normal business number. Employees can make and receive calls exactly as they would in the office without their car ever leaving the driveway. An individual only has to plug their IPT phone into an Internet connection, log in, and they can receive calls on the same number wherever they are and even pick up on their mobile if they’re popped out for a pint of milk.

Overall, set-up times are minimal as all that is needed is an IPT phone and adapter and an internet connection. A worker’s telephone settings, voicemail, etc., automatically follow them wherever they log in.

IPT generally offers all the features you would expect; voicemail, auto-attendant and call waiting. One feature, Group Hunting, means that when a worker cannot take a call – for example he goes to the toilet, as employees are wont to do – the call will instantly be diverted to another worker. With these phone systems businesses can still look professional, even if their employees are working in their pyjamas.

If you’re a petrol-savvy worker, you have plenty of facts to support a request for home working. For one, IPT solutions, particularly hosted IPT solutions, can be highly cost-effective. Hosted solutions involve the entire telephone system infrastructure being looked after by the supplier offsite. The systems are literally ‘hosted’ by another company. The initial capital expenditure of installing IPT systems is therefore low, as businesses do not have to replace the expensive on-site telephone exchange systems.

Many individuals and businesses have experimented with shop-bought VoIP packages. Commonly available VoIP (Voice over IP) solutions, which route calls along with regular Internet traffic, sometimes suffer from voice quality issues; stutter and pops. Hosted IP Telephony is different to VoIP. IPT maintains quality by routing its calls along special dedicated Internet pathways. Businesses are often surprised to learn that IP Telephony can have better voice quality than traditional landlines.

Many of these IPT packages, including RW Communications’ own, offer free calls between company IPT phones, regardless of geographical location. Call costs for the company really are the same whether workers are in the next room or the next county or even the next country.

Not being able to see staff need not worry office bosses either. Call monitoring allows businesses to keep track of activity levels.

You can even argue that IPT is safer than regular telephone systems. If an office is flooded or otherwise disabled, calls can be automatically diverted to offsite workers. IPT minimises the impact of disasters by having callers in different locations.

Rising commodity prices and market concerns have previously led to economic woes and even job losses. Now, however, we finally have technology that allows us to work smarter and more flexibly. This is good news for everyone, businesses and individuals alike. Telecoms technology can’t control the price of petrol; but it can give us the freedom to decide whether it is a price worth paying.