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VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, and it’s a system that means that voice data is sent digitally via the internet, rather than in sound waves via the landline network.
Because VoIP by-passes the landline, it avoids the costs associated with connecting calls over long distances. Instead, a set fee is paid each month (a bit like a phone contract), and includes things like calls abroad, call data allocation, and call features, such as an auto-attendant.
VoIP phone systems can be cloud-based (hosted on an off-site server) or on-premise (hosted on a server in your office). Either way, you’ll benefit from a whole host of phone system features that we will go into later.
And VoIP isn’t just about having a physical phone system, either. VoIP suppliers also offer softphone apps (a bit like a more sophisticated Skype), allowing businesses to turn computers, tablets, and mobile phones into full blown VoIP phone systems.
PBX is short for Private Branch Exchange. Most businesses already have a PBX phone system installed. But how does it actually work?
A PBX phone system is made up of a PBX unit and additional phone system hardware. When someone phones, the PBX diverts the call to the required office extension number. And because everyone has their own office extension number, employees can also communicate internally by calling each others’ handsets.
For the most part, this analogue phone system is cheap to run, and it’s perfectly suitable for calling up UK clients and companies. However, in this day in age the basic capabilities of the hardware combined with the lack of software integration limits how businesses can communicate. That’s why many businesses are turnin their heads towards VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).
But if VoIP isn’t on the cards for you just yet, sticking with a traditional PBX phone system offers you three main benefits:
SIP trunks are virtual phone lines that act as a bridge between your VoIP system and the PSTN (traditional phone network).
Voice, video and digital fax data travels from your VoIP handset via a SIP trunk to a hosted or self-hosted private branch exchange (PBX), before being released to the external telephone system network.
This ability to carry voice, video, and fax data on one line enables your business to make the most out of your VoIP system, without paying over the odds for seperate lines to carry each data type. This means SIP trunking is ideal for businesses looking to cut down on outgoing costs.
Your phone system will be able to decipher whether the receiving system is traditional or VoIP. If the receiving system is VoIP, digital call data travels from your SIP trunk to a data center, before continuing as digital data to the receiving SIP trunk.
If the receiving system is a traditional phone system, your digital call data is repackaged into analogue call data by an FXO switch. The call then continues its journey from the switch to a PBX, before entering the traditional telephone network, where it is rerouted via the local telephone exchange"
Do VoIP services work universally with all office phones? Generally speaking, you can use any VoIP service with any VoIP-enabled handset. However, some VoIP providers offer special integrations with particular handsets that you won’t get with another supplier.
Vonage, for example, boasts unparalleled support for Panasonic and Polycom phones, while RingCentral favours Cisco handsets.
Our advice is to choose a VoIP service provider before you start looking for office phones, but many of our partners will offer both. Click here to get quotes
Aside from purchasing the handsets themselves, what other costs do I need to consider?
The softphone is a software application that uses a VoIP service provider to make audio and video calls over the internet. While softphone software offers many of the same features as a traditional phone, it also has several benefits that make it a better choice for some businesses. Those benefits include:
Affordability – One of the biggest benefits of softphone software is cost. The technology can often be accessed at a fraction of the cost of traditional phones.
One number forever – Instead of changing phone numbers every time an employee moves, softphones stay with the user.
Free long distance calls – Traditional phones still come with long-distance charges. Softphone software eliminate this cost, saving businesses money.
Quick installation – Softphones feature plug-and-play functionality, allowing employees to access phone services using software installed on a PC and a headset plugged into a USB port."
A hosted VoIP system typically costs between $25 and $40 per user per month. Total costs will vary depending on the number of users, one-time hardware costs, and any needed network enhancements. For a medium-size operation, VoIP systems do invariably work out to a better value than traditional landline PBX systems by thousands per month. This is due to their flexibility, cost-effective licenses, and low hardware requirements making them considerably cheaper to purchase, run and maintain.
The best way to find out how much a phone system will cost is to receive quotes directly from a supplier.
There are a number of factors that will influence the total amount you can expect to pay, including:
Number of users - Most VoIP providers will offer cheaper per-user costs, the more users you have.
Hosting structure - On-premise systems will cost significantly more up front, but could work out cheaper in the long term for larger businesses with a permanent location.
Support - Some VoIP providers will charge extra for a dedicated support advisor. If you don’t need this, you might be able to save some pennies. However, the cost may be worth it if you don’t have the internal resources to substitute.
Contract length - If you can commit to a longer contract (2 years+), this may reduce the monthly cost for your business. If this option isn’t offered up front, suggesting a longer commitment to your potential provider might help you negotiate lower rates.
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