Even if you already have a Voice over IP system installed in your office, you may be missing out on several maturing technologies that you could be taking advantage of. These four breakthroughs can help you to reduce costs in your place of business and provide a higher level of customer service. The best thing is that they shouldn’t cost much to set up. In fact, you might already have them with your current subscription package but might just not be using them.

Business woman making a VoIP call

1. VoiceXML Code

While you’re probably already familiar with how XML and HTML code is interpreted in a Web browser, you might not be as familiar with VXML code. VoiceXML is a standard for composing digital documents in a format that allows for an interactive voice dialog between humans and computers. This makes it easy to author banking phone menus and customer service portals. The technology uses a similar code to that used in a Web browser, which means almost anyone can write code that will power their automated phone menu.

VoiceXML uses tags that provide instructs to a voice browser. The browser performs the speech recognition and speech synthesis tasks needed to put together a phone menu. You could use this to put together anything from a real estate information system to a flight-tracking portal. The possibilities really are quite endless.

Changing a phone menu can be very difficult, but VXML technology makes it as easy as authoring a few new lines of code. This is vitally important for businesses that have to change things on a daily basis, and this makes it especially attractive to anyone who has to provide directions or instructions that will often change depending on conditions.

While you might be concerned about how a speech synthesis program will pronounce different words, VXML code provides support for the Pronunciation Lexicon Specification (PLS), which allows programmers to specify how each syllable of a word is pronounced. Many businesses use it to specify the right way to say names.

2. VoIP VPN Service

While virtual private networks are usually associated with secure browsing environments, there are now VoIP VPN systems that combine these networks with voice telephony systems. Since VoIP already uses standard data-encryption algorithms, it’s easy to use the mechanisms that are inherently available in the VoIP protocol specifications to implement a virtual private network. This creates a system that’s extremely secure.

While this does lead to a slight increase in overhead, the security benefits more than make up for it for most users. Security isn’t even the only reason that people are turning to VoIP VPN installations. The Session Initiation Protocol data that most VoIP networks generate can be difficult to pass through a firewall. It establishes connections across random different port numbers, which means that it doesn’t play nice with boxed firewall solutions. Installing a VoIP VPN system can get around this problem. Telecommunications executives like Don Burns and some of the top engineers in the industry have even started to promote this technology as a way to connect local Internet security systems with local telephone systems.

Making a VoIP call

3. Internet Fax Gateways

Many businesses have to use fax machines because of legal reasons. While they might seem like a dinosaur in the office, fax machines allow offices to received faxed documents with handwritten signatures. These are necessary when closing certain types of business deals due to archaic laws.

Fax otherwise has no real technical advantage compared to sending information in an email attachment or as part of an SMS message. New paradigms make it possible to completely get rid of fax machines without violating these legal requirements.

Unless you happen to have a T.38-compliant line at both ends of the transmission, you can’t usually use a VoIP connection with a fax machine. Internet fax technology makes it easy, however. Using a fax server gateway system allows a person to send a fax right from a desktop, laptop or tablet computer over the regular office LAN.

Hardcopy can be scanned in and converted to PDF or TIFF before being sent via TCP/IP as part of a regular email message in the MIME format. The email heads to a fax gateway, where it gets sent to its final destination. Received faxes are transmitted in the same way. You’ll receive a PDF or TIFF file that is technically a fax. This process cuts out any long distance charges you’d otherwise incur. It also saves on ink and paper while getting rid of an uncomfortable dinosaur sitting in your office.

4. Audio over IP

Audio over IP (AoIP) allows one way broadcasting of digital audio across an Internet Protocol network. This can be used to provide high-quality audio feeds, and Ethernet-wired systems are often employed inside of single buildings in order to avoid messing with audio data compression codecs. This means that it’s possible to tie your public address system into your VoIP system. Some businesses are even replacing older outdated background music systems with an AoIP installation that allows them to stream music and announcements throughout their office space.

VoIP technology continues to mature. Make sure that you stay abreast of new developments. There might be something in the near future that provides a solution for a specific problem in your office.