The Complete IP Phone System Configuration Guide
Did you know that business phones with richer features that are more affordable to use and maintain than your current landline phones are already available?
Did you also know that these advanced office phones are similar to your personal smartphones — mobile and portable?
These latest communication devices, known as IP phones are taking the world by storm.
Experts predict that Internet Protocol (IP) phones will be a major contributor to the fast growth of the VoIP market worldwide. Global Market Insights, a market research firm based in Delaware, projects the global Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) industry will reach around $55 billion by 2025 up from $18 billion in 2018.
Why are IP phones growing in popularity? Does your business really need one?
Read on and find out.
What Is An IP Phone System?
First of all, let’s understand what VoIP is by defining it.
VoIP is a communications technology that allows users to conduct telephone calls through an internet connection rather than via an analog phone system or a telephone line. It does not primarily depend on physical networks such as wires and cables. Mobile phones or landlines connected to the internet can make and take VoIP calls, which can also be conducted on desktop computers or laptops with microphones, speakers, or headsets.
A high-speed internet connection, some communication devices, and a phone service provider that regularly offers you VoIP service are essentially what comprises a VoIP phone system in your business.
That said, IP phones are actual office phones using a VoIP phone system. They look like traditional desk phones and you may have come across or used these latest devices without knowing it.
An article on the data solutions provider TechTarget website explains that IP phones are hardware and software-enabled devices built to use VoIP technology to make calls via an IP network such as the internet. These phones can send calls through the internet by turning analog audio format into digital format. The incoming digital signal is then changed from the internet to regular phone audio.
IP phones consist of features that are missing in conventional analog handsets. Since phone calls are made through the internet rather than the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), these latest phones need extra performance requirements.
An IP phone system consists of an IP phone and an IP PBX, otherwise known as a VoIP private branch exchange (PBX). The system is run by a VoIP service provider using your office computer network called the local area network (LAN).
What is an IP PBX?
An important part of the IP phone system is the IP PBX. The traditional or standard PBX is known as “on-premise,” meaning that the hardware system is within your office or property. On this platform, you and your staff handle and maintain the system’s equipment and devices.
Conversely, a hosted IP PBX is a system that stores data and information in the cloud, which can only be accessed via the internet. With this setup, there is no need to install a hardware system that needs your routine care. A service provider or a third-party vendor will host and maintain this cloud-enabled telephony service for you in a safe and secure off-site data center.
IP PBX, likewise known as cloud PBX or virtual PBX, is a PBX solution delivering features and services that are not different from an on-premise or on-site PBX. This means you still get the advantages the network brings to your organization, such as remote connectivity, call routing, conference calls, and call transferring. However, all of your communication activities are conducted virtually or in the cloud, so a physical location for storing the necessary equipment is no longer needed.
Additionally, an external provider that offers IP PBX service has experts, professionals, or technicians who can guarantee that your network runs at maximum capacity to deliver high-quality calls and reliable security for your business. The provider also oversees the data centers to prevent serious disruptions in your communications system.
How Does An IP Phone System Work?
With regard to carrying out a phone call, an IP phone works almost the same as a traditional telephone but with a few technical variations.
An IP phone transforms voice calls into digital signals that are transmitted mostly through the internet. It can either run through VoIP-based physical phones or as a virtual phone software installed on a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) or a computer (desktop or laptop).
To switch to an IP phone, the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) requires certain networking components to assign IP addresses to your devices. The DHCP instantly sets your system and its parameters. A domain name system that considers the IP addresses is also needed for your office phones to work.
Features Of An IP Phone System
IP phones provide more capabilities than their counterparts and the number of features depends on the brand or model. The features may include recordings or call logs, integration with customer relationship management (CRM), easy conference call access, online faxing, call recording, call routing, auto-attendant, text messaging, video calling, team chat, mobile and desktop apps, call analytics, and speech-to-text transcription,
IP phones are built with Bluetooth technology in devices for microphones, speakers, handsets, and headsets.
Another unique feature of an IP phone system not found in a traditional one is that you can conveniently transfer your current phone numbers from one provider to another. You don’t need special numbers or to change your existing phone numbers should you switch to a new service provider. This device lets you keep your number when changing your vendor.
You can also achieve a cloud-based business phone system for small businesses or home offices with IP phones. A phone network relying on cloud technology enables your business to make phone calls, organize conference calls, or transmit messages from any VoIP-powered device, whether it be a desktop or mobile device, without acquiring additional phones.
Despite these benefits, an IP phone system has some drawbacks. It’s essential to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before making a decision to adopt the network. The features can be helpful but may not be suitable for your current business situation.
IP Phones: Software And Hardware-Based
The market is packed with IP phones of different shapes and sizes. Regardless of their models, brands, or versions, they can all be classified into two main types: software-based and hardware-based.
A software-based IP phone, more popularly known as a softphone, is a virtual phone software installed on a device. Its appearance is similar to that of a phone handset with a touchpad and a caller ID display. You need a headset with a microphone attached to your computer or an identical device with a pre-installed speaker and mic before making calls.
Some of the softphone’s common features are call transfer, call conferencing, and voicemail, to name a few. Its additional capabilities, that can be from your service provider include instant messaging and video conferencing.
A hardware-based IP phone resembles your regular cordless telephone. It consists of physical features, such as a caller ID display, a microphone, a speakerphone, and a touchpad. This device also provides enhanced features, including call transfer, multiparty calling, support for various VoIP accounts, and video phones that enable callers to see each other.
Types Of Hardware-Enabled IP Phones
Videophones, conference phones, standard desktop phones, and USB phones are all examples of hardware-based IP phones.
- Videophones. These look like standard desktop phones. The main difference is that they have a USB-based or built-in camera and a wide, full-color screen built for video-calling. Although they appear fancy, these devices are not well-known since many users depend on computers and mobile gadgets for their video-calling needs. Only selected industries or businesses still use this technology.
- Conference phones. Designed to improve sound quality during conference or group calls, these phones contain several microphones. Each microphone is electronically balanced to boost call clarity. These devices are commonly shaped like the letter V or Y, with two or three separate speakers. Each speaker is digitally stabilized to ensure the voices are always clear.
- Standard desktop phones. These devices are similar to and function in the same way as traditional office desk phones. Many of these products provide LCD screens with features such as caller ID that displays essential caller information. The new models are composed of rich color touchscreens and can handle multiple phone lines to boost call efficiency. Some brands also feature Bluetooth technology for wireless headsets to help work productivity.
- USB phones. They are convenient and low-cost devices connecting directly to a computer via a USB port. These devices are best for small business and home office users. However, these phones lack LCD screens or advanced features and take calls through the workstations to which they are attached. They are ideal for use \with softphones.
IP Phone System Versus Legacy Phone Systems
Traditional phones are dependent on physical infrastructures for communication services – landlines require physical wiring to the PSTN infrastructure. Cellular phones need cellular sites or towers. IP phones, by contrast, run via IP networks, a collection of computers connected through different IP addresses.
Apart from having more capabilities beyond voice calls, IP phones are more cost-effective to roll out than landline phones. However, this internet-based phone system is prone to online hacking and other cyberattacks as well as sporadic weak connections.
Compared to mobile phones, IP phones offer an affordable business phone system cost when implemented on the same level. No matter how advanced smartphones are nowadays, they are still not as feature-rich as IP phones in the areas of enterprise-focused functions, such as unified communications, analytics, software integration, and CRM.
The Benefits Of IP Phones
Cost savings is considered the main advantage of IP phones over other systems. If your small business uses standard desk phones, then switching to an IP phone system will reduce your costs over the long term. Traditional phones have minimal installation costs but have steep maintenance and upgrading expenses. What’s more, charges to IP phone calls are based on a local rate no matter where they call recipient is, allowing you to save a great deal of money on long-distance and international calls.
Integration is another edge with IP phones. This means you can incorporate other business software or apps with your office phone to improve communication and boost productivity. IP phones allow organizations to combine customer relationship management programs (CRM) to examine call logs and analytics for multiple sales leads and prospects.
Additionally, IP phones are more mobile and flexible than traditional phones. Standard phones work because of embedded physical wiring that cannot be reinstalled at your new office address. Conversely, IP phones are scalable, which means that you add more phones to your system by just requesting a higher network bandwidth from your service provider. You can carry these portable devices with you anywhere, without losing touch with your existing customers or clients. So if your office’s physical location changes, obtaining new phone lines is not needed.
IP phones also work best for a multi-line phone system for your small organization. With a multi-line system, you can simultaneously handle at least two calls. It allows users to perform multiple tasks in a short span of time, including dialing internal or outside numbers, going back and forth between lines, or putting calls on hold. Multi-line networks can be supplied with IP phones that rely on different data centers for redundancy to make sure your business operations go smoothly.
The Drawbacks Of IP Phones
When the internet connection is poor or unreliable, the IP phone performance will be adversely affected. A weak connection leads to bandwidth constraints, resulting in dropped calls, delays, choppy calls, or other latency issues.
Your IP phone system can experience problems during power outages that break off the online connections. It’s recommended to have your own backup power supply when there is a power interruption. Otherwise, you have to wait until the electricity is restored for your phone to reactivate. By contrast, landlines can operate almost anytime even during a blackout because power suppliers are equipped with backup generators dedicated to landlines. These generators enable you to continue conducting calls in the midst of electricity failure.
The struggle of making emergency calls is another disadvantage of IP phones. IP addresses cannot give the caller’s exact location, preventing 911 operators from routing calls made with IP phones to the appropriate emergency call center.
Furthermore, the 911 system is meant for traditional phones, such as landlines and similar devices. Standard phones permit 911 operators to instantly locate the call source upon receiving an emergency call. With an IP phone, the operators will be unable to identify your correct whereabouts. They will only get the address you give them on the date of your phone’s setup.
How Much Is An IP Phone System?
Industry experts say standard VoIP service costs include basic plans and no installation fees. Plans are typically priced for as low as $16 monthly per user. The price difference is subject to the subscription length and number of users. Some external providers offer discounts or lower rates to subscribers who pay on a yearly basis.
Most VoIP providers usually do not ask for a setup fee when no physical hardware is deployed in your office. The IP phone system is accessible almost as soon as the vendor provides your phone numbers or port numbers and account details.
VoIP phone providers can also throw in additional phone features without extra charges. In particular, their high-tiered or premium plans include the most advanced features while the basic options contain limited functional ability. Regardless of the classification, the basic plan that they provide still has much more to provide than the standard phone service well-known telecommunications operators offer.
To install a multi-line IP phone system for a small business having not more than 20 employees, the initial cost is $4,500 give or take a few hundred dollars. Afterward, the service provider will charge you, on average, $700 per month, or $8,400 yearly. Altogether, your hardware and software costs for the first year are placed at close to $13,000.
VoIP providers normally promote the prices of their services as per user, per line, and per month subscription fees. VoIP plans generally cost between $15 and $60 monthly per line. The providers will offer large organizations long-term contracts or discounts of as much as $2 monthly per line.
On the other side, the IP PBX phone systems many large businesses use are the most complex of the high-end IP desk phones, with prices between $200 and $1,000 per unit.
Additional expenses are routers for internet-enabled systems ranging from $75-$400 and headsets for desk phones from $15 to $150. The wide price difference is due to the variety of features service providers offer and their system compatibility.
To install a two-line phone system or any other type of phone network including the IP phone platform, you should set aside a budget of not less than $500 as payment for IT professionals or consultants who will set it up. It takes up to five hours to completely install your system with an average fee of about $100 per hour.
Some experts note that the basic setup cost of a VoIP system is between $100 and $200 for each IP phone. Service providers normally charge an installation or labor fee ranging from $20 to $40 per phone. If your current numbers need migration, then an extra $10-$20 fee should be paid to the vendors
On top of that, an IP phone system has a regular charge for each extension per month, ranging from $10 to $50 per line for cloud-based services.
Based on these estimates, if a company has 10 employees and each needs a phone, the estimated investment should be as much as $2,000 to pay for the migration costs and labor, plus $100-$500 monthly in recurring or regular fees.
Other costs are associated with setting up an IP phone system. These are softphones ($50 monthly per unit), ethernet ports ($150 installation cost per port), additional phone numbers (about $5 per listing), adaptors ($60-$80 per phone), extra features (such as conference calling or call forwarding for $5 or more per month per service), an internet connection (starting as low as $50 per month for high-speed broadband or fiber-optic connection), to name some.
Switching to an IP phone system can result in annual productivity gains of about $480 per user. This means that if your organization has 50 users, you can save up to $24,000 yearly when adopting a cloud-hosted phone network such as an IP phone system.
IP Phone System And Call Flow
Businesses that mainly engage in customer services, such as call centers or contact centers, rely on IP phone systems offering capabilities that maximize customer service process flow.
A number of service providers extend VoIP solutions to enhance call flow, an indispensable tool call center representatives use to effectively communicate with customers. The call flow is important because it assists employees in properly dealing with calls from the moment they respond up to the time of call completion. This procedure is a must-have to take care of the many different call situations, especially the tough calls. After all, great customer experience is always the end goal.
Among the VoIP’s call-flow features is the interactive voice response (IVR). This is an automated phone system that interacts with and gathers information from a caller. Based on the caller’s answer and the details provided, the IVR takes an action when a phone keypad is pushed or the caller responds with a voice.
In addition, IVR boosts the parts of a call flow as it helps with routing customers to the appropriate department or team within the organization. When operated properly, an IVR can manage calls on certain matters, such as bill payment, account balance inquiries, and scheduling.
Do VoIP Phones Work Over Wifi?
An online article on the website for technology resource Lifewire says VoIP phones over wireless networks such as Wifi (wireless fidelity) are now a reality. Communications devices that are not connected by cables or similar wires to access the internet are becoming widely accepted especially in homes. Current wireless network technologies, including Wifi, works for VoIP communication.
Local area networks (LANs) that link phones and other communication devices within your office or property are wired with RJ-45 jacks on an ethernet system. With Wifi, however, wireless routers that connect to the hardware wireless adapters enable internet telephony within a specific range in your office.
Using WiFi for internet access, you can use an IP phone, smartphone, laptop, desktop, tablet, or similar device to conduct a call. You can make calls regardless of your location in the office as long as the device being used is within the WiFi range or signal. Even if your smartphone has a poor cellular signal in the office, the WiFi will pick up the slack.
If you’re mobile or always on the go within the office, then WiFi-enabled VoIP phones are ideal for you. It allows you to talk on a phone anywhere as far as the WiFi signal can reach. This setup not only contributes to your convenience and productivity but also saves time and energy. In particular, workers in a medical organization or in a factory can benefit the most from wireless VoIP since their regular duties involve frequently moving from one area to another within a premise.
Lifewire adds that there are some disadvantages to using wireless VoIP. One is that VoIP on LANs is carried out mainly in corporate settings instead of residences. Another issue is that the service quality is still not on par with wired networks. However, connection reliability is improving as time goes by.
Another drawback is that the financial and technical costs of installing and maintaining a WiFi-based IP phone system are higher than that of a wired network. Lastly, VoIP using wireless technology is more prone to security threats such as cyber intrusion or attacks due to the multiple access points or wireless LANs.
According to online technology magazine Plentyofgadgets, one disadvantage of WiFi VoIP phones is the presence of electronic magnetic interference (EMI). This occurs when one device disrupts another because of the electromagnetic fields resulting from its operation. The interruption causes data transfer breakage and loss. Some of the products that can cause EMI are air conditioning units, doorbell transmitters, power lines, vacuum cleaners, and pencil sharpeners.
How Can I Use My IP Phone Like A Normal Phone?
Your landline phone is restricted to a particular location and requires a wiring system or telephone lines to connect to a call. With IP phones, the limitation of locality is eliminated because all calls are conducted online. Even a global reach is possible.
With recent technological developments, using an IP phone as a regular or normal phone can now be done by following some easy steps. Converting this latest phone will not cost you a fortune.
The first thing you need to do is to buy a VoIP adapter. Also called Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA), this device connects the analog telephone service and the digital network that sends calls. The prices of VoIP adapters are between $20 and $100, depending on the brand or model.
Next, attach the adapter to a wireless router or a modem that uses an ethernet cable. Then switch on your computer and follow the instructions in the manual included with the adapter. Check for the IP address on the adapter and type it on the computer. To configure the adapter, complete the set of instructions on the screen. When the configuration is finished, plug your standard phone into the VoIP service provider.
The ATA and the ethernet cable are the two devices you need to transform your analog phone into an IP phone. Your analog phone will connect to the internet to make calls instead of the conventional PSTN, which will show the phone system as an IP phone.
How Does VoIP Connect To The Internet?
Thanks to the internet, a VoIP system can conduct calls anywhere and anytime. The network that connects all computers and other digital communication devices all over the world acts as a medium between your business phones and the service provider to interact with each other.
IP phones are typically connected to a computer network with cables that come from the communication room in your office or directly from your router. They are operated and linked to the network with a cable. A networking device, known as a power over ethernet (PoE) switch, is needed to activate the IP phones. PoE switches work best for large organizations equipped with their own communication room while PoE injectors or adapters are most suitable for home offices and small- and medium-sized businesses due to their small size and affordability.
In other words, IP phones are linked via an ethernet connection to your network of wires, switches, cables, and routers called a local area network (LAN), which connects to your phone service provider through the internet.
To set up an IP phone system, a single ethernet cable is required for every desktop or workstation. IP phones consist of a 10/100/1000 built-in network switch that can be attached to the ethernet cable from the wall, which is directly connected to the PoE switch. Then install an ethernet patch cord from your phone port to the workstation.
For your IP phone platform to connect to the internet, you need a modem and router. These are the essential parts of the present internet setup. As soon as you download the IP phone’s calling software, you can start making calls from your IP phones or from any digital communication device.
Other types of equipment also need to be taken into account. One is VoIP desktop phones designed to function with IP technologies for transmitting calls. Unlike landline phones, these wireless devices don’t need an outlet to be connected. They have features resembling those of business phones, such as conference calls, do not disturb, and call waiting. These types of phones are simple to install and you can use them immediately upon setup at the office or at home if your team members work remotely.
You should also obtain a VoIP headset. This gadget lets you and your employees talk easily without the need to hold the phone receiver or rely on external sound from the computer. A VoIP headset has a built-in microphone and uses two common types of connections, wired and wireless. The wireless type uses Bluetooth technology to connect to your system in a manner similar to that of cellular phones.
You can also try the other version known as the USB VoIP headset, a device that combines headphones and a microphone. It requires a USB connector to connect to computers or related gadgets. Basic VoIP headsets are priced at about $20; high-end ones can reach as high as $400 depending on the features, version, and model.
How Do I Set Up My VoIP Phone System?
Below are five steps to help you install your own VoIP phone system.
1. Select between a cloud PBX and on-premise (on-site) PBX
An on-premise PBX (private branch exchange), also called on-site PBX, is a type of communication system operated and maintained in your own location. Although this platform involves initial high installation and hardware costs, it becomes more affordable to maintain over the long term. With it, you have great control over your system because all of the components and requirements are physically placed in your office or property.
By contrast, with a cloud-hosted PBX system, a service provider hosts the PBX on its own location, not on your premises. Requiring no setup or installation costs, the platform’s service can only be accessed via the service provider’s internet-based data center called the cloud.
On-premise PBX: the highs and lows
As mentioned above, the main benefit of using an on-premise PBX system is great control over the network. The hardware and equipment including networking devices, servers, desktop phones or handsets, and other gadgets that come with this system are situated within your office or premises.
The long-term benefit of choosing this system is its cost-effectiveness. This setup is recommended for organizations that have the financial resources to afford the network’s pricey hardware. However, the equipment and the phone lines included in this platform are unaffected by price instabilities or hikes. In the course of time, the maintenance costs will go down.
The high upfront and maintenance costs are the on-premise PBX system’s primary drawback. Aside from investing in telephone devices, servers, networking equipment, and other related hardware, you will also have to allocate funds to maintain, update and keep the on-site system. Since it consists of large equipment, this platform needs a storage area large enough to accommodate its sizable equipment. The system is impractical for small businesses and home offices with restricted financial resources and physical space.
Cloud PBX’s: the highs and lows
Low investments and affordability are the primary advantages of having your own cloud PBX system. Since the service provider will carry all the financial costs for the equipment located in its own data center, purchasing expensive hardware can be avoided. The only costs to shoulder are the provider’s service subscription fee, which is either monthly or yearly and the desk phones your employees will use. Also, the provider’s technical team will be responsible for your system’s routine maintenance.
The cloud-enabled PBX is built with flexibility and scalability, allowing you to modify your communication system if a reorganization in your company occurs or when there’s a change in the business situation. It can quickly adapt according to your current business needs, such as switching to a remote working environment, decreasing or increasing your workforce, or moving your office to a new physical address. The system’s flexibility allows customers, clients, and suppliers to conveniently contact you regardless of your location using IP phones, smartphones, or computers.
Since the hardware and other equipment are stored and operated away from your office, the cloud PBX system does not require a physical site. For this reason, the area that would be reserved for the hardware can instead be used for extra workstations or for otherwise more productive purposes.
The cloud PBX solution has its own drawbacks as is the case with other systems available on the market. One of them is its complete reliance on the internet. If the internet connection is poor or unsteady for a certain period of time, then your VoIP phone calls will go through technical difficulties, such as dropped or patchy phone calls and other latency issues.
Not to mention that picking a cloud PBX system will entail less authority over your phone system in terms of overall network management. It also needs a significant amount of time for your employees to get accustomed to it. For one, the platform operates differently from traditional telephone devices and requires staff training or upskilling for efficient operation.
2. Determine the most relevant VoIP features and capabilities
A crucial element to consider before setting up your VoIP system is to determine the specific features you think will work best for your business. Suppose the nature of your small business requires frequent travel. Acquiring a VoIP system providing rich mobile features is recommended. If your business needs at least 10 phone lines, then deploy a VoIP platform that has broad call routing capabilities.
Listed below are the features generally regarded as the most essential elements of VoIP phone systems to help business operations and productivity as well as enhance the customer call experience.:
- Auto-attendant, an automated answering service, is useful to greet callers with programmed messages that route them based on their calling needs and preferences. For instance, “Press 1” is for paying their bills, “Press 2” is for checking an account balance, “Press 3” is for speaking with a customer representative, and so on.
- The “Do Not Disturb” feature blocks inbound calls while you’re on the line answering a critical call with an important client, supplier, or customer.
- A program, software, or application with first-rate conferencing capabilities that can organize video calls while doing other tasks, including sending emails or transferring files.
- Call recordings function is also necessary, especially when you’re engaged in business processing outsourcing. This is an indispensable tool to boost the customer-employee relationship and to assist in training call center agents or representatives.
- Voicemail is needed so that employees or customers can leave messages when one person is temporarily unable to answer the call.
Other VoIP features that can benefit your business are:
- Caller ID. This provides basic caller information before you or your employee answers the phone. It displays information including the caller’s name and phone number, as well as the city and state from which the call originates. This default feature is useful for stopping unknown or unwanted calls and is ideal to use with your personal phone.
- Automatic Call Distribution (ACD). This feature puts callers in touch with the most qualified agent or customer service person according to their particular needs.
- Business tools integration. This allows you to connect your work data with external business apps, such as support ticket systems, email, and chat to consolidate conversation records. Team members working from home will benefit from this. Advanced features offer sales teams tools that join caller data with CRM software. Such a feature allows employees to verify past conversations using a call tracking record.
- Call flip. This function helps users transfer calls from one communication gadget to another. Your employees don’t have to use call parking anymore. All they have to do is press a button and the line will not be cut off nor interrupted. This best fits your smartphone or any mobile device that is running low on battery or about to die out. You can swiftly switch to a desk phone or computer. Those who are often mobile or on the go and want to maintain contact with clients can enjoy this feature.
- Call park. A common and widely accessible feature that lets you place an active call on hold to avoid being interrupted while engaged with your current caller on a different line. This also gives your employees time to answer the phone, swap devices, transfer a call, or swap devices.
- Call forwarding. A regular phone feature that guarantees replies to all customer calls. When used, inbound calls are automatically redirected to a different phone number or extension. This tool is a favorite among salespeople who want to avoid lost potential sales. If nobody answers from a desk phone, then the calls can be diverted to their personal mobile phones.
3. Draw up a budget for your VoIP phone system
First, select the VoIP features you think are essential to your business requirements. A service provider will offer you a VoIP plan packed with many capabilities and add-ons. At least some of these are not applicable to your setting. After making your choices, estimate an initial budget, always keeping in mind to set aside a reserve, if possible, for additional future expenses
Controlling unnecessary expenses is important when selecting the VoIP pricing and plan most suitable for you. Before deciding what kind of VoIP system is best for your business, do research on the different plans and examine each. The pricing and plan should match your existing needs and funds.
A VoIP service provider should meet your business needs. When reviewing each plan, carefully consider the details, including the hardware and software offered, warranty, as well as the charges or fees for installation, maintenance, installation, support return policies, cancellation, and usage limits. Go over the plans and pricing structures of the selected service providers. Prepare an exhaustive list of questions and pose them to the representative.
Don’t forget that many providers charge for their services on a per-user and per-month basis. Requesting add-ons or extra features will raise your expenses. Define which particular plan you intend to subscribe to from a service provider and then check if it is within your budget.
As a rule of thumb, an annual payment plan should be a priority in order to get your full money’s worth. A typical yearly payment to a provider is estimated at $20 monthly per user while its monthly rate per user is close to $30. A quick calculation reveals that you’ll be able to save approximately $240 per year when going for the annual plan. A provider can also grant you more VoIP features or extra services when you avail your business of the 12-month package for its premium or high-end plans.
Being aware of the direct and indirect costs when procuring a VoIP system will assist you in developing a sufficient budget. The different types of costs are upfront costs (the cost of buying the system), implementation costs (the professional fees of a service provider implementing or rolling out the system), operational costs (the monthly or periodic expenses for the VoIP plan you selected), training costs (the expenses on upskilling your workforce to use the system efficiently), and upgrade costs (special expenses related to upgrading or improving your VoIP network’s capabilities).
4. Search and pick your VoIP service provider
After identifying the VoIP features you need, the number of users, and the estimated budget, it’s time for you to decide on the right service provider.
Industry experts offer several useful tips on how to hire the ideal service provider for your business phone system. One suggestion is to check online customer reviews and ratings. This is a proven means of determining existing and previous client satisfaction. Positive feedback can build your confidence in the service provider and is an added factor. Verify the number of subscribers and how many customers are well-known and established.
Another piece of advice is to choose a service provider that offers a quality-of-service guarantee. Your prospective third-party vendor should ensure you first-rate service in terms of call quality, bandwidth, and call traffic. It should give you an assurance that weak internet connectivity and low bandwidth leading to poor customer experience are kept to a minimum.
You should also look into the provider’s service accessibility level and customer support quality. As a general rule, a service provider should be available round the clock, especially on weekends or holidays. Asking their current clients and other references about quickness of response and dependability is recommended. A third-party vendor offering a variety of customer services to hone your VoIP system, including phone support, technical assistance, and live chat support is also advisable.
Last but not least, request several references from a potential service provider. You should also ask your potential partner for case studies and testimonials. Try to avoid prospects that are unable to hand you a number of references; these are crucial to learning more about their service quality and image.
5. Be certain your VoIP system is protected and secure
Not all data that moves across the internet is fully secure. For this reason your planned VoIP system should include stable and robust security with strong end-to-end encryption and multiple authentications to protect your data.
To establish effective VoIP network security, periodically training your workforce with the right tools and knowledge should be a top priority. Staff negligence and security leniency are two of the main reasons why online intrusions succeed.
As much as you can, stay away from making international phone calls. Don’t include a VoIP’ international call feature if it’s not necessary for your business operations. Many hackers strike from countries outside the United States. If they are able to get through your system, they will exploit it to conduct numerous overseas calls with you footing the bill. Internally, always ensure that your system is equipped with passwords that are difficult to guess or know and make sure they are often updated. Ideally, each of your network devices should have a strong password.
Lastly, virtual private networks (VPNs) and firewalls are also vital to strengthen your VoIP system security. The communication session is called Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and the phone network’s software setup is the most exposed part that cyber intruders can take advantage of. A firewall can deal with these weaknesses. Similarly, a VPN is needed to secure your system when your organization regularly uses VoIP phones for remote access for employees working from home or voice-over LTE (VoLTE) that works for mobile phones.
What Is Required For VoIP Setup?
In addition to the hardware and other related equipment (as discussed above) needed to set up your VoIP phone system, the other requirements you should meet are the exact number of users, network compatibility, network capacity, and internet connection speed.
Determining the number of employees or users who will depend on the system is necessary to optimize network implementation and facilitate the process. When identifying how many actual users, you can also determine the number of phone lines required and how fast your internet connection speed should be to address the expected volume of customer calls.
It goes without saying that your entire network setup should harmonize with the planned VoIP system. Examine all your hardware and networking equipment, such as routers, firewalls, security devices and programs, switches, and physical wires, to name some, to check if they match or are compatible with your potential VoIP solution.
It’s also essential that your existing network infrastructure has the capacity to properly manage the call volume and quality. Your current platform should accommodate the projected number of calls while keeping high-level voice quality. Voice calls are susceptible to jitter and packet loss during periods of high call traffic.
Finally, your business internet connection should be fast enough to support the rest of the requirements. IP phones primarily depend on stable, high-quality internet connections for seamless calls. Check the speed to ascertain if it can cope with your chosen VoIP.
Call your internet service provider to determine your exact connection speed. Ask for details about the service quality and reliability in your physical location. Bear in mind that the quality of your online connectivity depends on the types of communications devices you use. You can also regularly and freely check the connection speed and performance by visiting a web service site, such as Speedtest.net, TestMy.net, Speedsmart, and Internet Health Test.