VoIP phones have come a long way. Though some people might see them as irrelevant now, they were really helpful some time ago, and can still be helpful. In this guide, we shall see how helpful VoIP phones were, and how helpful they can be now.
What is a VoIP phone?
VoIP phones use voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) technology to deliver an internet-based telephone service.
Calls are delivered over the internet rather than the traditional legacy technology of the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) or Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN). Both the PSTN and ISDN networks are set to be decommissioned shortly.
Due to the reduced infrastructure needed to deliver phone calls on VoIP technology, voice calls can be provided at a very low cost.
VoIP services also use the internet to deliver phone system functionality to the end user. Many new features and useful services are available to small/medium businesses that were previously unaffordable to SME budgets. These include voicemail-to-email, call recording, instant messages, international calling, music-on-hold, and call divert.
How does a VoIP phone work?
VoIP phones convert voice calls into digital signals that are transported through IP networks, such as the internet. VoIP phones may work through physical phones that use VoIP technology or as virtual phone software installed onto a computer or mobile device.
Several networking components are required to make VoIP phones work. Phones are assigned IP addresses through the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, which automatically configures the network and the VoIP parameters. A domain name system tracks the IP addresses to enable devices, such as IP phones, to connect to each other.
VoIP phones require several protocols to facilitate the delivery of voice communications over the internet. Scroll down to read about the different VoIP protocols and their purpose.
What is the difference between VoIP phones versus traditional phones?
The biggest difference between a VoIP phone and a traditional landline telephone is that a landline phone is hardwired into a physical location using copper wires. A VoIP phone, on the other hand, makes and receives calls over the internet and is not bound to a specific location, i.e. you can use that phone number from anywhere you have internet access.
Because of this, there are two big differences in functionality between VoIP phones and traditional phones. The first is that a VoIP phone will work no matter where you are. As long as you have an internet connection, you’ll be able to make and receive calls without being tied to one place.
And the second difference is that you technically don’t even need a physical phone to make calls. You can make a call from an app on your computer.
Advantages of a VoIP Phone System
VoIP phone systems use your existing internet connection to make phone calls. Therefore, the days when you need multiple phone lines are over! In today’s ever-changing economy and global market, switching to a VoIP phone system will prove to be cost-effective for your business. With VoIP, your main costs are your monthly charges from your ISP and licensing fees with your cloud phone provider. Making a call over traditional phone lines can be very expensive.
By switching to a VoIP phone system, you are using the internet to relay call data which makes a long-distance call cheaper overall. Traditional phone lines charge for each minute of call time, therefore switching to a VoIP phone system will instantly save your business money.
VoIP systems offer an extensive number of features that can improve operational proficiency. For example, voicemails can be forwarded to emails or text, the use of a mobile app, instant messaging, and more. For those customers who prefer texting over making a phone call, a VoIP phone system has them covered. By sending notifications to customers via business SMS, you have the ability to keep up with your busy life, while managing your business as well. VoIP phone systems allow for an option to use mobile apps and softphones to transfer calls and check voicemails. Therefore, a desk phone becomes less valuable during your busy day but does not negatively interfere with the needs of your customers by not using one.
VoIP phone features grant more control over your calling experience with advanced call routing, call forwarding, the use of one number for multiple users, virtual receptionists, 3-digit dialing, voicemail-to-email, and more.
With the high demand to work from home, VoIP services can be a tremendous benefit because you have the freedom to move as your business demands without any limitations from your phone system. With VoIP, your business can remotely operate voice services from your office through the internet. Mobile apps and PC softphones are meant to emulate the desk phones in your office and offer the ability to transfer calls, put calls on hold, and make outbound phone calls with your office number.
A common objection to VoIP phone systems is that if a business loses internet, they would be without their phone system too. In a sense it’s true, but also inaccurate. Although the physical desk phones at the location would fail, a major benefit of a VoIP system is that in the event of office phones going down because of an internet outage, calls can continue to ring on a mobile app or PC softphone. If those services are not enabled, then you can activate them in a matter of minutes for little or no cost. With this in mind, a power outage or ISP failure no longer presents the risk it once did.
Easy to Manage
VoIP phone systems are designed for straightforward use. Administrators and employees can adopt fast and will learn new features as they go, without feeling like they need a degree in telecommunications.
Employees who are used to a traditional phone system will find that VoIP phone systems are easy to operate. They were designed with two users in mind. The first user in mind is the ‘change is hard’ user. For them, VoIP systems were built to emulate certain functions of the traditional system that you’re coming from. The feature Call Park was designed for users that are used to ‘multiple lines’ with visual indicators on their phones.
Due to the robust features a VoIP phone system offers, communication within your business will be more effective. For example, you can have a phone call sent to your desk phone for the first few rings, then to your mobile phone, tablet, or laptop if the call goes unanswered – or how about having them all ring simultaneously?
You will never miss important phone calls and you’ll spend less time checking your voicemail. With your employees working from a range of locations such as their homes, within the office, or around the world, effective communication is crucial to the success of your business.
Disadvantages of VoIP phones
VoIP phones, however, do have several disadvantages:
- Performance constraints. VoIP phones require a reliable internet connection and are susceptible to bandwidth constraints. With insufficient bandwidth, phone calls may experience latency, which can result in delays and dropped calls. Additionally, if an organization has a power or internet outage, users cannot make calls from their VoIP phones.
- Emergency calling. Emergency calls with VoIP phones can be difficult because IP addresses do not offer the exact location of callers, which makes it difficult for 911 operators to route VoIP phone calls to the appropriate emergency call center. VoIP providers are required by the Federal Communications Commission to support Enhanced 911 (E911), however, and may use third-party providers to meet that requirement.
Types of VoIP phones
The two main types of IP phones are hardware-based and software-based phones. Many VoIP service providers offer both types.
Physically, a hardware-based VoIP phone resembles a traditional hard-wired or cordless telephone. These phones include physical features, such as a speakerphone or microphone, touchpad, and display hardware to show user input and caller ID. VoIP phones also feature call transfer, multiparty calling, and support for multiple VoIP accounts. Some VoIP phones can transmit and receive image data during calls, so they are considered video telephones.
Software-based IP phones, also known as softphones, are virtual phone software clients installed on a user’s computer or mobile device. The softphone user interface often resembles a phone handset, with a touchpad and caller ID display. A headset with a microphone that connects to the computer or mobile device is encouraged or sometimes required, to make calls. Users can also make calls using their device if it includes a built-in microphone.
Softphone clients offer similar capabilities to hardware-based IP phones, such as voicemail, call conferencing and call transfer. Some clients may offer additional capabilities, such as video conferencing and instant messaging (IM).
Traditional analog phones may also be converted into IP phones by connecting to an analog telephone adapter (ATA). Analog phones can be converted by plugging the Ethernet network jack into the ATA, which then connects to the phone. The analog phone will connect to the internet rather than the PSTN, and it will appear to the phone system as a VoIP phone.
Integration. VoIP phones can also integrate with other business applications. For example, organizations can integrate their CRM software with VoIP phones to view call records and analytics for different customers and sales leads or to make phone calls straight from CRM applications.
In conclusion, VoIP phones offer greater mobility and scalability than traditional handsets. If an organization moves to a new location, it does not need to acquire new phone lines, which it would with a traditional phone system.