What Is the Ideal Phone Setup for Your VoIP System?
There are a variety of different uses for VoIP, and ultimately the type of phones you choose depends entirely on what is most important to you. It is all about what your business needs and what combination of features, functionality, etc. fit into your plans for the organization. VoIP offers a lot of great features for businesses, as an entirely Internet-based phone system that doesn’t rely on traditional landlines. Your business can access more features than you probably thought was possible, particularly if you own or operate a small to medium-sized business (SMB).
In this article, we’ll talk about how to get the right setup for your VoIP phone system. At a basic level, we’ll start by distinguishing between hardware phones and soft phones. From there, you’ll find out more about what you could implement at your own organization.
- How VoIP Works
- Types of VoIP Phones
- Implementing VoIP Phone Systems
By the end of this piece, you should have a better understanding of how VoIP phones work and how you can take advantage of VoIP technology at your business.
1. How VoIP Works
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) relies on Internet servers to direct and transmit phone traffic between phones. VoIP can save subscribers a substantial amount of money and offer services and a level of functionality that exceeds what was traditionally available with a typical business phone plan. Costly landline systems in the past offered many of these features, but were very expensive to use and maintain. In many cases, onsite IT personnel were also needed to keep equipment and service operating at peak efficiency. So having a different way to do business phone service is a big help for organizations trying to access better communications features while also being conservative about resources.
At a basic level, you have your provider-maintained phone plan, your phones and your Internet connection. This Internet access should probably be broadband access and you’ll want to be sure you have enough bandwidth to cover your phone calls, since VoIP can use a large amount of data in order to ensure good call quality. Since you are probably already using the Internet as a key part of running your business, you likely already have an Internet connection for your organization–make sure your Internet delivers what you need. If you have any questions, be sure to contact your VoIP vendor for more information.
2. Types of VoIP Phones
Basically, there are hardware phones and soft phones. This first category is very similar to the phones many people are familiar with, while the second category operates online and exists as applications and software-based systems.
- Hardware Phone: If your phone is hardware, it could be a handset or headset–these are fairly typical. Many people have hardware phones they used with landline connections, but there are also Internet Protocol (IP) phones you can use with VoIP connections, and landline phones can be used with VoIP if they have an adapter. You can get guidance from your VoIP vendor on choosing the right hardware phone, which you would usually buy or rent directly from them. Wait until you’ve chosen a vendor before purchasing new equipment, if possible. Many vendors offer bring your own equipment (BYOE) plans, but it is best to get their customized recommendations and take advantage of special offers and deals offered by your vendor than to commit to a phone system and shop around for a vendor who will service it.
- Soft Phones: A soft phone is an application or software-based phone that ‘lives’ on a smartphone, tablet, computer or other terminal and may require other equipment such as speakers and microphones in order to operate. Soft phones are generally provided by VoIP vendors and usually a specific soft phone is designed to work with a particular vendor.
Now, from there, we can start discussing some qualities and characteristics of different phone systems. If you are shopping around for a phone, it pays to think about how the phones will be used and which qualities are the most important to your business:
- Popularity: Desk phones are enormously more popular than many other phone types, with a majority of companies using desk phones as the phone system of choice. While these may be relatively common, however, other phones may rank higher in popularity for comfort and ease of use whenever employees are given a choice and have some experience using different types of phone systems.
- Comfort: For many people, soft phones are more comfortable than desk phones. Of course, a lot of this depends on the configuration–a headset and a system that automatically dials numbers, let’s say, may just be that much easier for people who spend entire shifts on the phone that they may express a preference for this type of arrangement over a handset, for instance. So you’ll need to consider comfort, too. This is particularly true if being on the phone is a vital part of running your business.
- Location: Is the work happening primarily at the office onsite, or is some of this work occurring away from the desk at a remote work location? This is an important factor when choosing between hardware IP phones and soft phones. Soft phones are very easy to use and access away from the desk, so they tend to perform well in remote work situations.
- Call Quality: If you’re looking primarily at how reliable the phone is and how well call quality is, you may prefer desk phones. Soft phones are great but are also more vulnerable than desk phones to problems with quality and reliability. So if these factors are essential to your business, you’ll likely need desk phones instead.
- Integrations: If you want to use software with your phone system, soft phones may offer you more of the options you’re looking for. Custom applications and integrations with other software systems are very easy to offer for VoIP vendors when you’re working with soft phones.
3. Implementing VoIP Phone Systems
If you’re ready to implement a VoIP phone system, start doing research on different VoIP vendors and look for companies that can offer the types of features and functions you’re looking for. Carefully take the time to review possible uses and features, then after you know what you want and need for your business, work with the vendor to get the right equipment and sketch out an implementation process.
Find out how much support your vendor is offering with the implementation process, then go from there. With their help, you can begin using a new VoIP system and start a training program for your staff members to learn the new software or equipment. As you put together your plan, create a realistic timeline that takes into account how long it will take to switch to the new system and get everyone onboarded with it. If you have custom applications or integrations, factor in these too. If your vendor doesn’t offer technical support for the process, you may need to hire support independently or bring in your own IT personnel. In many cases, this process can be very quick and painless–particularly if you’re operating a small business.