Can I Use An IP Phone System From My Home Office?
Businesses across different sectors are rapidly realizing the potential of VoIP. Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) has revolutionized the way business is conducted. A favored VoIP feature among users is the ability to stay in touch with team members even when working away from the office.
VoIP maintains the same telephone functionality in a remote work setup as it normally would on-site. There’s no wonder why many businesses are choosing to go with VoIP given its cost-efficiency and many benefits. If you have been considering converting to VoIP but still remain unsure, then this article is for you.
Here, we’ll answer one of the most common questions business owners have about VoIP: “Can IP phones be used at home?”
What are IP Phones?
A VoIP phone system enables users to make calls through the internet. IP phones, otherwise known as Softphones, SIP phones, or VoIP telephones are a type of telephone that is designed to support the dispatch of digital signals using VoIP technology. You most likely have already seen VoIP phones in office buildings but did not realize what they were.
VoIP phones are connected to the telephone service through the internet, either by a WiFI connection or using an Ethernet cable. The phone in a VoIP system can be a conference phone. It looks like a typical office phone but is powered by a different technology for conference calls, use as a digital cordless phone, or as a desk phone.
Related: VoIP Phones
How do IP Phones Work?
VoIP phones work by taking a user’s analog voice signal and transforming it into digital signals. The digital signals are transmitted as data to a broadline. In short, IP phones function by getting the phone conversation and redirecting it to a network cable using the VoIP telephone system and out over the internet.
The process of communication with VoIP phones is the same as that of the concept we know but moved over to a network. Similar to an MP3 player, the mic and receiver of VoIP phones take the sounds and convert them to a digital signal. The converted signals are then sent over the internet. In addition to sending signals, IP phones also convert received signals into sounds which it plays back to you.
Further Reading: Parts of Call Flow
What are IP Systems?
IP or VoIP systems work in tandem with physical phones to transmit and make sense of the received digital data. To send and receive signals, IP systems use three very important elements. The parts of an IP system include the IP phone (physical phone), an IP PBX or IP Private Branch Exchange, and a Local Area Network (LAN). The IP phone is attached to an IP provider using the local area network. Contrary to legacy telephone systems that transmit data through a circuit, IP systems send calls online.
Can IP Phones Be Used at Home?
In short, the answer is yes. A defining feature of VoIP phones is that they can be used anywhere so long as one is connected to the internet. The phone itself is not limited by its physical location. You can disconnect an IP phone; bring it to another location where your number, extension, and setting will not be altered; and reconnect it. IP phones can be used regardless of your location, making it easy to scale up and work remotely. Employers can give remote employees an IP phone for the office and another for working at home. This way, the same phone number will be kept and the phones would be notified simultaneously when someone places a call. The employee can pick up the call from either of the two locations. The owner of the phone still has access to all the functions of a business telephone such as dialing extensions, receiving and transferring calls, and paging coworkers –all with one phone number.
Read more: How Does VoLTE Work
How do I Get VoIP Phone to Work From Home?
Now that we’ve answered your question: “Can IP phones be used at home?” Let’s proceed to set up your IP phone system at home.
A common misconception about setting up a VoIP phone is that getting situated is cumbersome, or that hardware is too expensive. If you work with the right vendor and prepare everything, setting up should be quite easy.
Here’s how to establish an IP phone system at home, step-by-step
- Test your internet connection
- Use an appropriate device
- Configure your device
(1) Test Your Internet Connection
You might wonder exactly how much bandwidth your VoIP needs. A good approximation is that a line uses about 100 kbps to download and upload. Since the majority of internet services now provide gigabit speeds, it’s very likely that your internet speed is fast enough to run an IP phone. The exception might be for homes with slower upload and download speeds, such as those with DSL connections.
In conjunction with speed, unreliable connections are often the cause of low-quality VoIP calls. Two metrics to assess are packet and jitter loss. It’s much preferred to have a wired connection such as fiber or cable. Other wireless connections may be too unstable.
Lastly, your network hardware can cause bottlenecks if your router can’t manage high traffic. This will inevitably result in audios breaking up or dropping calls. Most of the time WiFi works well enough, but having a wired connection is better.
You can test your internet connection using a VoIP speed test to detect any possible issues. It should provide you with clear insight as to whether or not your network can manage an IP installation. You can also opt to rearrange the Quality of Service (QoS) to change the hierarchy of packets your internet connection prioritizes. Make sure to put the IP system first on top of other services to mitigate latency and jitter.
Related: How to Connect Phone to Ethernet
(2) Use Appropriate Devices
The next step is to get the right hardware for your needs. Plenty of ground-breaking options are available. If you want high-definition audio for calling then you need a good quality VoIP-capable desk phone. You can go with something like the Polycom VVX601. Cheaper alternatives are available if you’re not too picky about the quality of your calls.
You may also want to look into VoIP headsets. Those are extremely functional and save you from being stuck behind a desk during a call. With a headset, your hands are free to carry out online chat with other team members, search for client information, take down notes or manage a CRM. You can even walk around as you take your call without disrupting the customer service process flow.
Related: Why is a call flow important
Use a VoIP Adapter to Keep Using Your Existing Phones
If you already have a desk phone that you want to keep using, you can still transition to cloud-based telephone systems using an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA). The adapter serves as the mediator between your analog desk phone and your network, which converts the analog signal into digital.
Reduce the Cost of Hardware by Using Softphones
One way to minimize the cost of setting up a cloud-based phone system is to use a business telephone app or a softphone instead of a physical phone. Softphones are a type of application that allows you to make and receive phone calls. It acts like a traditional phone where you can dial numbers, forward calls, record voicemails, etc. Softphones are available for download on PCs and smartphones. Since VoIP is cloud-based and only uses the internet, you can skip the hardware and also skip the installation process for office telephones.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of VoIP features you can access with a softphone:
- Advanced Call Routing: ACD automatically redirects incoming calls to the next available agent.
- Automated Attendant: Automatically welcome callers using a pre-recorded message to help them navigate to the respective department.
- Call Analytics: Businesses can gain access to detailed reporting which shows agent and team performance.
- Call Encryption: Secure VoIP SIP Traffic and audio using call encryption.
- In-built CRM: Client profile may be accessed and viewed during a call.
- Voicemail Transcription: Voicemails can be written out as text and transferred to the recipient through SMS or email.
Related: Automated answering services
(3) Configure Your Device
When you have the hardware, it’s time to configure your IP system. The specific process will depend on the type of device you have. Depending on your provider, the process may include additional steps.
Connecting your phone at home requires a reliable high-speed internet network. You should also prepare a power adapter for your desk phone. If you happen to have Power over Ethernet (PoE) that passes electric power to the device via a twisted pair internet cable then you can do without a power adapter. In many business IP installations, the phones obtain power using the same Ethernet cable as the one you usually use, removing the need for another cable.
Configuring the device without PoE
- Connect the AC adapter into the device or desk phone and then into the wall outlet
- Using a Cat5e or Cat6e cable, plug the IP phone into the router
- Upon connecting, the phone will initialize. When done, check for the dial tone
If you have a PoE-supported router then the process will take even less time.
Configuring the device with a PoE-supported router
- Plug the handset into the PoE-supported switch. Make sure not go beyond the recommended maximum distance for the cable, around 328 feet
- The handset will turn on when the plugin is successful and will automatically connect with your VoIP service provider
Before You Go Away
Can IP phones be used at home? Yes, they definitely can! However, there’s just one extremely important point to keep in mind. Since your device will be registered using your office address and not that of your home, 911 will not work. If you’re fine with this, you can reap the benefits of having an IP phone system. One of the many reasons why users love IP systems is because getting started is extremely easy.
Most VoIP systems are already provisioned so there’s no more need for accessing devices by their IP address or messing with firmware. All you have to do is plug in and go.