For around 15 years, hosted VOIP providers have been telling business owners that they can save money by abandoning their high priced phone service for a cloud based solution. Initially, that idea was great in theory while real life played a different tune, as features (like hold music, intercoms and wireless handsets) that everyone was accustomed to weren’t available through VOIP phone systems.
Thankfully, steady improvements to the technology have dissipated the usability concerns. In my most recent conversations with small and mid-sized businesses about phone service, most of them have great things to say about their hosted VoIP systems. They’re sold on the convenience of having services off site with one low monthly fee, as well as saving the time and cost of server maintenance, upgrades, backups and other busywork. Some also talk about feeling in control of their telecom budget as opposed to dealing with the costly monopoly phone company.
Those who are still evaluating a move to VoIP running in the cloud often ask about the phone handsets and accessories they’ll need. What features do they have? Does a certain phone system offer cordless handsets? Intercom? Speakerphone?
Then too, even though broadband is ubiquitous, others raise concerns about the bandwidth they’ll need to accommodate all their usual WAN traffic and still obtain good quality VoIP calls. Fortunately, there are a number of calculators that quickly show the bandwidth VoIP requires.
The Erlang B Calculator is online and free to use if you’re analyzing how much bandwidth “x” simultaneous voice calls require. For small and mid-sized businesses with 5 to twenty lines, the calculator advises you’ll use 400 kbps for 5 calls and 1,600 kbps for twenty using the G.711 codec.
What Are My Options?
You can find inexpensive VoIP phones in a number of form factors. Here are some examples:
Desktop phones look much like a conventional multi-line office phone. Many, like the Grandstream GPX 2130, include a color LCD screen, 3 line capacity and conference calling with up to 4 participants
Integrated Handset Phones
Integrated handset phones like the Grandstream GS-DP715 sit in a base unit that provides power and a connection to your router. The handset can be used as a cordless phone and includes speakerphone functionality
USB phones plug directly into the USB port on a PC and are single line phones, such as the Plantronics Calisto P240
VoIP phones range in price from under $60 like those mentioned above, or can run up to a few hundred dollars for premium phones with 12 line capacity from Cisco, Panasonic and others.
However, choosing, installing and configuring a cloud-based VoIP phone system reveals an alphabet soup of acronyms—DHCP, VLANs, PoE, SPCP, SIP, G.722—to name a few. If you’re not experienced with the many tech considerations involved, you’ll be better off contacting an experienced VoIP phone expert.
With all the configuration options and technical requirements, buying a phone and trying to install it yourself is likely to be difficult and time-consuming, at best.
Perhaps last, quality of service (QoS) is a feature of your routers and other network devices between your phone and your broadband connection. QoS as it pertains to VoIP requires support through your entire network, including NIC cards, switches, bridges and routers. If any device along the data path does not support QoS, your VoIP traffic is handled on a first-come, first-served basis. Without QoS, achieving acceptable call quality is unlikely.