A decade ago, it would have been rare to meet someone who could carry out their profession from anywhere. For most, “going to work” involved physically going to a place of business. Today, because of the swift development of collaboration tools and the ubiquitousness of connectivity to the internet, working from anywhere is not only an option, but is often preferred by both employer and employee. Studies have shown that a mobile workforce tends to be more productive and experience higher job satisfaction.
Voice over IP (VoIP) technology is one of the major facilitators of employee mobility. Here we highlight some of the functionalities and tools that allow for a seamlessly mobile workforce.
SIP client on your phone. Both Android and iOS mobile phones have many free SIP clients available for download from their respective app stores. A SIP client allows you to register your mobile device on your SIP server (that is, your IP PBX) via your data connection or Wi-Fi and have the internal extension of your office desk phone ring on your mobile phone. You can also provide your mobile device with a unique internal extension, essentially supplying your office with an additional telephony device. With the appropriate network configuration and security, this extension can be used from anywhere in the world as long as your phone is connected to the internet.
Follow me. This is a feature that allows someone to call a single phone number and have that number ring either on your office desk phone, your mobile phone or any other phone you choose, depending on where you are at the time. This could function either as a hunt list, where each of these phones would ring in sequence if not answered after a predefined amount of time, or you could manually set your location so that the call will terminate on the appropriate phone. Some advanced systems can even use information from the GPS of your mobile phone to determine which phone should ring.
Teleconferencing. SIP is a protocol that supports both voice and video. As such, it can be integrated into a teleconferencing or even a telepresence system. With the appropriate hardware, a teleconferencing system can interconnect multiple endpoints regardless of the capabilities of each. For example, a videoconference can take place with one location having a full audio/video system, another participant using her mobile phone via the internet with both audio and video, a SIP phone user connected via voice only, and a PSTN user that has called in using his telephone.
Roaming headsets. Headsets are used with many types of devices, including mobile phones, desktop phones, computers, tablets, car audio systems and televisions, to name a few. A single wireless headset that can connect to all these devices can vastly simplify their use while providing a simpler teleworking experience.
Unified Messaging. This feature provides a single interface for accessing all types of electronic messaging including email, fax, text, voicemail and others. All of these messages can be sent via email, thus giving you only one interface to check for all of the messaging services. Adding features such as text-to-speech will allow you to literally hear your faxes or listen to your emails while driving, for example. Click here for more details about voicemail-to-email.
Hot desking. Closely related to extension mobility, this feature allows you to log into the IP phone at any desk and obtain your personal extension on that phone. This includes all of your settings such as speed dials, ringtones, number of rings before going to voicemail, and even the brightness of the display.
It is important to note that, as useful as these functionalities are, they must be employed with caution. Because many of these features function outside of the relative safety of the corporate network, it is vital that the appropriate security measures be taken to mitigate potential security threats. These may include:
- The use of VPNs to connect mobile phones that register with the SIP server through the internet.
- The employment of the appropriate firewall configurations on the edge of the corporate network that will perform deep inspection of packets to verify their source and type.
- The implementation of measures to avoid toll fraud from users of internal extension numbers on their mobile phones.
- The configuration of encryption for all voice communications to eliminate the possibility of eavesdropping, either from inside or outside of the corporate network.
VoIP technologies enable a more productive, more mobile workforce in multiple ways. As more and more employers realize the benefits of working remotely, we can expect a steady increase in the implementation of these technologies worldwide.
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