With more and more people using webinars, video conferencing, and webcasting for their conferencing needs, to some it may seem like phone conferencing is less needed, or a thing of the past. Can’t you just use the typically free VoIP audio built into a web conferencing service?
Well, the answer is yes, but the overwhelming feedback is that it just doesn’t work as well as good old fashioned phone lines, which is why they’re still used in addition to online services. Here’s why many people choose to integrate phone conferencing into their web conferencing service.
VoIP is subject to internet connectivity
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) takes analog audio signals and converts them into digital data to be sent over the internet. It makes sense that VoIP audio is built into web conferencing services, as conference call hosts and attendees can easily stick to one technology to participate in a call, and they won’t incur any applicable phone charges.
However, many people experience technical issues with VoIP due to changes and inconsistencies in internet connection, upon which this service depends in order to function.
Say you’re traveling and not in the office (when you need web conferencing the most!) so you have to use public WiFi or another crowded WiFi network on your laptop. Or you’re connecting through WiFi on your phone and end up moving in and out of WiFi signals. Or you simply don’t have a WiFi connection available at all.
By now we’ve probably all experienced the crackling and cutting out that occurs on a call like this in spotty WiFi, whether it’s on Skype calls, weekly meetings, or other conferences with online audio. It’s frustrating and wastes time to miss what people say and ask them to repeat it, or have the audio cut out altogether. This is where using phone lines can be a lifesaver when WiFi is unpredictable.
Phone lines are dedicated and available
In addition to bypassing Wifi concerns, phone lines can also provide more consistent audio due to the ability to have dedicated lines reserved for the call. Conversely, VoIP relies on servers that are potentially crammed with other users, calls, and data.
Just think about how having more and more tabs open at once on your internet browser will bog it down, or how data-heavy applications cause crashing and lagging. Your VoIP audio can get bogged down by heavy use elsewhere, either locally or on the part of your web conferencing service, depending on your provider.
But many conferencing services that feature traditional phone line use offer dedicated lines with much more reliability. At Conference Calls Unlimited, for example, our phone conference call bridges are backed with redundant technology for 99.9% reliable calls. You get a permanent phone number with unique dial-in codes, so you know your line is dedicated to your call—and only your call.
You should consider as well that phones can be more available in a literal sense. While not everyone may be able to get to a computer or tablet, connect to the internet, and log into a conference with VoIP within a given time, they can typically pick up a mobile phone or landline and quickly punch in a number. This leaves open the possibility that one can at the very least listen into a conference, even when technology prevents one from accessing the web.
Computer speakers and microphones are unreliable
Most attendees on a web conference will typically be joining in from their computer, whether desktop or laptop, at work or on the go. And unless their office environment is set up for frequent calls, recordings, or other projects for which sound quality is paramount, the chances are that they’ll only be working with their built-in speakers and microphone.
This means that the quality of VoIP audio can be greatly reduced by poor quality built-in hardware. Speakers on the conference can’t be heard or are far too loud to others when they use a poorly positioned or calibrated microphone, and others might have audio cutting out or at the wrong volume simply due to their built-in speakers. If they want to maintain quiet and privacy of the call content, they may not have headphones of a good quality available.
Many conference attendees may not even be on a computer, as the popularity and portability of smartphones and tablets frequently replaces them for many tasks, especially while traveling. However, this reduces audio quality even further, as the built-in microphones and speakers on these smaller devices may have even less power to handle the web conference audio.
While traditional phone conferencing doesn’t guarantee callers are using high quality hardware either, a simple phone headset generally offers more consistency in the audio, as that’s what it is designed for. Whether on the phone or web, most any audio can be improved with a high quality headset.
Phone conferences offer professionalism
Due to all of the above technical advantages and disadvantages, using phone lines for conference audio generally imparts a measure of predictability that VoIP audio cannot. On a basic level, there are just more components at play with VoIP that can cause something to go wrong, or that attendees can misunderstand.
These technical and user-error issues can come at a high cost when dealing with sensitive and high-stakes conference call events for business. You want valued partners and stakeholders to get an overall impression of quality, professionalism, and timeliness, especially if it might be their first impression of the way you run your business. Of course, you also want your own time to be used effectively as well, without wasting it on hang ups and glitches.
Conference calling using phone lines can also include features for hosting a call with live operator support. Assistance facilitating all of your attendees, parts of your call, and other features like polling and recording really help to create a conference that runs smoothly and with an extra touch of professionalism.
The great news about phone conferencing is that you don’t need to sacrifice any of the features you want to use in your web service. You can simply integrate phone service audio with the video and other web components available online. Conference call participants will thank you for this extra step in ensuring quality and reliability, because it ultimately shows that you value their time.
The takeaway from all of this is that you may not need phone conferencing, but it could be much simpler to integrate it into your web conferencing to begin with—before you discover the potential problems of relying on VoIP for important business calls. Learn more about how Conference Calls Unlimited can customize your web conferencing package with dedicated phone conference lines, and start upgrading to easy, quality, professional audio solutions.