VoIP phone

Understand how VoIP telephony can benefit your business

voip-phone-on-a-desk.jpg

VoIP phone

Understand how VoIP telephony can benefit your business

voip-phone-on-a-desk.jpg

VoIP phone

Understand how VoIP telephony can benefit your business

voip-phone-on-a-desk.jpg

VoIP phone

Understand how VoIP telephony can benefit your business

voip-phone-on-a-desk.jpg

In business communications, you need reliable technology to stay connected with clients and employees. You’ve probably heard that VoIP phone systems are the way forward, but you might be wary of upgrading.

The good news is that VoIP systems are easy to set up, far more efficient than landlines, and will save you money! What’s not to love?

If you're not sure you get what we're talking about, we're here to help. We’ll cover the following:

What is VoIP?

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. It’s basically a set of technologies that enables users to make and receive phone calls over an internet connection, instead of using the traditional Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).

A VoIP telephone service lets you make and take calls via a dedicated IP phone, your existing phone via an adapter, or software on your computer. Newer VoIP solutions (some people call them virtual phones) typically host advanced phone networks in the cloud, including phone features such as:

  • Call routing
  • Caller ID
  • Call recording
  • Long-distance calling

VoIP is a critical part of unified communications, which is a business comms approach that includes video conferencing, instant messaging, and other web-based communications on top of voice calls.

How VoIP works

To place or receive a VoIP call, all you need is a stable internet connection and suitable software or hardware to access your VoIP system.

The technology uses “protocols” to convert voice signals (phone calls) or multimedia (documents or SMS text) into “packets” of data.

These packets are transmitted over broadband or Wi-Fi connections within a Wide-Area Network (WAN) or Local Area Network (LAN). The phone at the receiving end then decompresses the data and plays it back for the recipient to hear or see.

The protocols are responsible for establishing the connection and making sure the packets reach their destination. A set of control protocols, each with different functions, works together in real time to replicate the functions of traditional telephony. The main protocols are:

  • Session Initiation Protocol
  • Real-time Transport Protocol
  • Transmission Control Protocol
  • User Datagram Protocol (UDP)

Session Initiation Protocol or SIP

This is the signaling component of the technology. It initiates the call (when you dial a phone number), establishes a connection, and terminates it when you’re done.

Real-time Transport Protocol or RTP

RTP is responsible for carrying the digital voice audio data packet back and forth during VoIP phone calls. It uses codecs (devices that encode or decode a data signal) to decompress the data so the recipients can hear it.

Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP)

These are the two main transport protocols used for data transmission in VoIP.

TCP is slower but more accurate, while UDP is super-fast but can experience “packet loss”, which can lead to poorer voice quality. The best VoIP companies (like 8x8) use both to ensure the best quality and efficiency.

What are VoIP phones?

A VoIP phone is a piece of software or hardware that allows users to make VoIP calls. As we mentioned earlier, there are several options to choose from:

1. IP Phones

IP phones (or internet phones) look and behave pretty much like analog phones or desk phones—so you don’t need to worry about learning how to use them.

The difference is that they’re connected to a VoIP gateway modem instead of a landline network. Simply plug the phones into your internet connection and you can instantly make or receive calls.

2. VoIP conference phones

A conference phone is a special type of phone that’s designed for conference calls with several people. Originally, they looked similar to desk phones—but these days, they’re much more sophisticated and may offer features like touch screens, as well as designs that maximize spaces like conference rooms.

Conference phones like the Polycom VVX are optimized for the best audio quality, meaning everyone can hear just as well as they could at an in-person meeting. They have smart features like speakerphone and speed dials.

3. Analog Telephone Adapters (ATAs)

If you don’t want to upgrade to IP phones just yet, you can use a VoIP adapter to turn your existing analog telephone into a VoIP-enabled device.

ATAs convert analog audio into digital signals, meaning regular phones can become part of your VoIP network—and can take advantage of all those extra features.

4. Softphones

Another option is to make VoIP calls via your computer or smart mobile device. With an app (voip app) or software (softphone) from your VoIP provider, your smartphones and computers can be used to call your contacts.

There are plenty of VoIP phones on the market, all offering different functionality and features. The jargon can be a little overwhelming—you might see:

  • Video phones
  • Bluetooth and wireless phones
  • DECT (digital enhanced cordless telecommunications).

If you’re not sure which is best for you, it’s worth checking if your VoIP provider also offers hardware. For example, 8x8 offers a range of VoIP phones, routers, adapters, and accessories such as headsets, all of which work with their unified communications solutions.

What are the benefits of VoIP phone systems?

There are so many benefits that it’s hard to know where to begin! Here are just a few of the best:

  • Cost
  • Convenience
  • Flexibility
  • Scalability
  • Functionality

Let’s start with cost. VoIP technology can translate to major savings for businesses of all types and sizes, thanks to the reduced infrastructure required to deliver phone calls. Even international calls cost lower with VoIP when compared to a traditional phone service's rates.

Business phone systems with multiple lines used to rely on an on-premises private branch exchange (PBX), which directed and routed calls to and from a private phone network to lines inside and outside of that network. With this model, you need large and costly equipment to be stored on-site—plus specialist staff to install and maintain it.

Although many PBXs now use digital technology, it’s definitely more cost-effective and efficient to choose one that works with a cloud-hosted VoIP system. With this setup voice calls are routed through a central data center with no need for PBX hardware on your end (and no maintenance to deal with).

Here are some more advantages of VoIP PBX:

  • It can be accessed anytime, anywhere—perfect for remote working
  • System updates and upgrades appear automatically
  • If you go with a leading provider, you can use your existing internet connection and phone number with their service

VoIP systems can be set up for PoE (Power over Ethernet) by using a network cable instead of a traditional power adapter. This means fewer transformers plugged into the power supply. Just connect your handsets, apps, and adapters to the network, and you’re good to go.

VoIP gives you plenty of flexibility as a business phone system, since it can be used across multiple devices (including traditional phones with adapters). And it’s scalable as your business grows, since it’s easy to add extra users to VoIP accounts without the cost or hassle of physically installing extra lines.

The best VoIP service providers will include a wide range of advanced features, which were previously not affordable for many small businesses. Look out for call recording, instant messages, voicemail-to-email, on-hold music, andcommon business app integrations.

Plus, if you choose a unified communications provider like 8x8 for your VoIP system, you’ll also benefit from tools like file sharing and video conferencing.

Business phones and business VoIP

VoIP telephone systems can be used for either your business or your home, as the cost savings and efficiency are equally valuable for companies and households.

There is, however, a difference between business and home VoIP, in that systems designed for business use will require extra features—and need to be robust enough for heavy usage.

As we’ve explained, a VoIP phone service is simpler and faster to deploy than a traditional system, and represents a much lower total cost of ownership. Business VoIP services come with advanced and customizable features, which are updated on a regular basis for efficient workflow.

Alongside the typical functions of traditional PBX phone systems—such as voicemail and call transfer—business VoIP can also offer useful features like:

  • Unlimited long-distance calling
  • Mobile apps for remote teams
  • Call recording
  • Voicemail transcriptions
  • Automatic call routing
  • Interactive voice response (IVR)
  • Analytics

* Note: some of the above-mentioned features may not be available in basic plans offered by your provider. Research your vendors carefully to get the most value for your money.

This level of functionality helps businesses optimize their workflows far more efficiently than they could with regular phone service. For example, 8x8 offers a multi-level auto-attendant, which not only acts as a virtual receptionist but also allows personalization for different clients and scenarios.

It also enables you to set up “ring groups”, which distribute calls to a specified set of phones in the network and can be configured for high call volume. VoIP extension dialing lets you control whether a call is routed to your desk phone, computer, or mobile device.

Businesses will also find it useful if their VoIP system integrates with existing systems, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software like Microsoft Dynamics, Zendesk, or Salesforce.

VoIP for unified communications

One of the major advantages of implementing a VoIP system is that it plays well with a unified communications infrastructure. Using protocols related to IP telephony, your voice calls can operate on the same platform as other modes of communication like video conferencing and team messaging.

If you explore unified communications providers like 8x8, you have the benefit of expanding your capabilities beyond calling. The 8x8 XCaaS offering includes solutions many businesses need today, such as:

Video conferencing

Video conferencing is a great way to collaborate with remote teams, have face-to-face meetings with colleagues based overseas, and liaise effectively with clients.

If all communication channels are integrated, you can easily switch between them—go from a chat to a phone call, flip a call into a video, or send follow-up messages after a meeting.

The best VoIP and unified comms providers will ensure maximum security so your teams and clients can confidently make and take calls (and attend meetings) on multiple devices.

Call center solutions

If your business operates a call center for customer support and sales, choosing a VoIP solution makes even more sense. VoIP systems (especially sophisticated ones like 8x8's) enhance your speed and uptime so your customers can get in touch with you 24/7.

With a VoIP system as part of a unified communications package, your call center phones can be connected to your other internal channels such as team messaging—meaning your agents can collaborate quickly with colleagues. Meanwhile, call center managers can see real-time call analytics that can inform workforce optimization strategies.

What’s the best VoIP provider?

Your choice of VoIP provider will depend on the nature and size of your business. But there are certain criteria you'll still need to look out for. Use this checklist when comparing providers, and work out exactly what you’ll be getting for your money. (Pro tip: you get a lot more with 8x8!)

  • Pricing
  • Ease of use
  • Call quality
  • Scalability
  • Features
  • Integrations
  • Security

Remember that price isn’t everything, though—make sure it includes all the features your business needs.

VoIP for business should at least have basic features like voicemail, call forwarding, and call waiting, plus more advanced functions like auto attendant, call recording, and ring groups. You should also ask:

  • What’s the video and audio quality like?
  • Do you get a choice of devices with the service, such as a USB phone?
  • Will this system scale up with my business?

Security is another important factor you need to consider,