Friday, April 2, 2010

Five Ways to Call Up a Crystal Clear PC VoIP Experience

Jay McBain, Director Small and Medium Business, Lenovo
VoIP (or voice over Internet protocol) calling has been around for awhile now, but with new advancements in PC hardware and software, more and more businesses are deciding now is the time to give VoIP a try. For customers, VoIP can bring reduced conferencing and travel costs, and for VARs, there’s the opportunity for installation, consultation and hardware purchases, which makes this technology worth exploring. The PC VoIP experience has improved dramatically in just the past two years. Now you may be surprised to see lifelike quality pictures and hear your conversations like you are in the same room with the other person. When choosing VoIP PC technology, here are five areas you should take into account:
  • Optimized Hardware for Sight and Sound: Part of the best listening experience starts with the right microphones, speakers and web cameras. Pick PCs that offer high definition, dual array microphones that are two watts or higher. Noise suppression and echo cancellation software also help make a noticeable difference. Web cameras have come a long way and are now up to two megapixels for a high quality image. Look for cameras with a lower lux rating so you can use them in dim lighting. To make the PC as easy to use as a phone, some PC makers include separate speaker, mic and cameara on/off buttons, which can help ensure privacy.
  • Specialized Communications Software: For businesses, Microsoft Office Communicator continues to be a standard for calls, faxes, emails, webconferences and more. MS Office Communicator certified PCs mean these PCs meet standards for a quality unified communications voice and video experience. Skype is another example of a popular software “softphone” application that continues to be adopted by businesses.
  • It’s About the Connection: If you have the right hardware multimedia features, but a slow Internet connection, you will inevitably experience choppy and jittery calls. With the increasing expectation of constant connectivity, WiFi using the 802.11n standard is a must. VARs will need to evaluate based on customer need whether built-in 3G and/or 4G connectivity is required, however, I recommend customers future proof their PCs with at least 3G connectivity given the small incremental cost of including the technology.
  • Keep Security in Mind: Like with any other remote networking tasks, address security around VoIP with measures including a firewall and antivirus software combined with strong user passwords. Fingerprint readers are helpful features that balance user convenience and IT department standards for security.
  • Remember Basic Storage Applies: For businesses solely using VoIP communications and PCs as their “softphones,” make sure to have plenty of hard drive storage for archiving voicemails and other communications data. Solid state drive storage will offer even faster recall.
I personally have seen companies that have traded their landlines and regular phones to now rely on their PCs as their communications hub through VoIP. Improved PC calling features are continuing to improve and converge with the business need to optimize IT equipment costs and generally control expenses. Now is the time for customers and VARs to seriously consider a VoIP and PC combination.