What is VoIP?
VoIP stands for 'Voice Over Internet Protocol'. Whether over a wired broadband connection in your office or over a mobile data connection from your smartphone, VoIP allows you to conduct your business calls over the internet.
Traditional phone systems rely on the PSTN (public switched telephone network) to establish calls, along with physical hardware on your business premises, like a switchboard, that require expertise to operate and costly maintenance to keep going.
VoIP bypasses the PSTN and the requirement for hardware on the premises, instead using developed software to handle calls intelligently and cost-effectively, breaking free from the physical constraints associated with traditional phone systems. A single physical phone line, for example, can only be associated with a single phone number. With VoIP, users, phone lines and phone numbers are all virtual, meaning many users can be associated with a single phone number and vice versa.
Though they don’t have to be, VoIP phone systems are often hosted in the cloud. This means that the platform powering your business phone system becomes entirely location- and hardware-independent. You’ll be able to deploy and configure your phone system from anywhere by logging into an online portal and, with free-to-use, split-second-install mobile and desktop apps, you’ll be able to make and take business calls from anywhere using any device.
Business-grade VoIP systems like Yay.com should not be confused with consumer-grade services like WhatsApp and Skype. Business VoIP is a high quality, reliable and feature-rich service that older telephone systems simply can’t compete with. With business users in mind, business VoIP platforms are built from the ground up to provide flawless service with near-perfect uptime and, importantly, end-to-end encryption to protect your data.
How Does VoIP Work?
Rather than using a traditional phone line to make calls over the PSTN, VoIP converts your call into digital data packets and transports these over the internet. VoIP uses the SIP and RTP protocols to transport these packets.
SIP stands for ‘session initiation protocol’ and is essentially a set of rules governing the way devices can initiate and terminate calls over the internet using VoIP. Really, this boils down to a sequence of handshakes your devices go through when a call is made.
With the session open, voice packets can be transported back and forth as you communicate with your calling partner. RTP stands for ‘real-time transport protocol’ and governs how these packets are transmitted and picked up.
With VoIP, you’ll use SIP users to bring your devices to life. Members of staff will traditionally have one SIP user each, a SIP user being a set of credentials that links your device to your VoIP provider’s servers and differentiates it from other devices.
When VoIP services are cloud-hosted, you’ll be able to configure your entire phone system by logging into an online dashboard. With ever-improving infrastructure and technology in both wired and wireless connectivity, VoIP providers are able to continually improve the quality of calls and the efficiency of their service.
Benefits of VoIP
Make calls from anywhere with an internet connection
Easily integrates with smartphones and computers
Reduced cost of calls, equipment, lines and maintenance
Excellent call quality
Scalable - easily add users, numbers and extensions
Allows features such as Call Recording, Voicemail, Call Monitoring, Call Forwarding
Intuitive online portal for easy management at any time
Take your business lines with you whatever your location
Are There Any Downsides to Using VoIP?
Most of the so-called downsides to using VoIP are non-issues and, for almost all modern businesses, it makes far more sense to be using VoIP technology to conduct your business calls
Internet connection required
VoIP has prerequisites that traditional phone systems don’t, including necessitating an internet connection. However, a VoIP call needs only about as much bandwidth as is required to scroll through Twitter. In other words, hardly any at all. So long as your network meets this minimum requirement, you’ll be able to make and take VoIP calls. If your network isn’t the most capable, however, and is already under significant load, moving to a VoIP phone system and expecting to be able to field hundreds of concurrent calls without any hiccups is perhaps overly optimistic.
Incompatible with analogue phones
If you decide all of your staff need dedicated desk phones, then you’ll need to upgrade all of your existing desk phones to IP phones or, at the very least, use analogue telephone adaptors with each of them. This has the potential to get expensive. Thankfully, good VoIP providers will offer free VoIP apps, meaning you’ll be able to replace your desk phones more gradually or even avoid buying new devices altogether if you wish.
Some older companies might still feel untrusting of cloud-hosted services. In truth, though, cloud hosting services are provided by tech giants like Amazon (Web Services), trusted by global corporate heavyweights including McDonald’s, Disney, UNILEVER, and Google (Cloud Platform) trusted by Spotify, Snapchat, Twitter (and Yay.com!).
Is VoIP Easy to Use?
Making calls with VoIP is as easy as signing up to a provider since, with desktop and mobile apps, you don’t need any dedicated hardware installed before you can begin making calls.
When it comes to inbound calls and creating a great caller experience for your customers with VoIP, any member of your staff will be as capable of designing your system as your IT manager.
This is because of the attention to detail that VoIP providers have put into reimagining the implementation process. Since no installation is required and all the steps of phone system design have been streamlined and given an intuitive user interface, anyone can create a great caller experience.
What’s more, since VoIP systems are managed online, they can be configured from anywhere. It’s therefore super easy to make both small tweaks and major updates.
Best VoIP Phone System Features
VoIP phone systems can offer easier implementation of features typically seen in traditional phone systems, or even new features entirely.
Call recordings can be accessed immediately, filtered intelligently and downloaded quickly to keep you on top of compliance requirements, evaluate the quality of your customer interactions and improve staff training.
Sales and recruitment, plus any other firm that models its business around outbound calls, can use call data to track employee performance, improve sales training and motivate employees.
Dynamic user management
VoIP phone systems are more agile and scalable than traditional phone systems. Users and virtual phone lines can be added or removed from the systems dynamically from an online portal - in other words, instantaneously. There’s no need to call out an engineer to the office to manually configure physical hardware.
The digital nature of VoIP lends itself to integration with all of your favourite SaaS products, CRMs and web browsers. Integrations with platforms like Pipedrive and Hubspot streamline the customer management process so your staff can more efficiently track, manage and win business opportunities.
Mobile & Desktop Apps
Good VoIP providers will offer desktop and mobile apps that make dedicated VoIP phones unnecessary. Instead, you’ll be able to make and take your business calls from your personal devices. This saves you the cost of purchasing dedicated desk phones for all members of staff and would be impossible with a traditional phone system.
VoIP Telephony API
If your business has unique requirements, or if you have your own creative uses for the raw data passing through your phone system, you can make use of your provider’s VoIP API (if you’re lucky enough to have a provider that offers one). Your in-house developers can create entirely new tools and efficiently manipulate your phone system with a level of flexibility unique to VoIP.
How Much Does VoIP Cost?
(Based on 2 users)
- 100 Free Mins. Included
- Free Phone Numbers
- Business Instant Messaging
- Mobile/Desktop Apps
- Standard Feature Suite incl:
- Call Forwarding & Routing
- Hunt Groups
- Custom Hold Music
- Voicemail & Call Logs
- Call Recording
- + much more...
(Based on 2 users)
- 750 Free Mins. Included
- Free Phone Numbers
- Business Instant Messaging
- Mobile/Desktop Apps
- Advanced Feature Suite incl:
- IVR Call Menus
- Advanced Call Routing
- Call Monitoring
- Third Party Integrations
- Call Screening & Blocking
- + much more...
(Based on 2 users)
- Unlimited Calls (UK + 54 Countries)
- Free Phone Number Per User
- Business Instant Messaging
- Mobile/Desktop Apps
- Enterprise Feature Suite incl:
- Smart Call Queueing
- Call Statistics
- Scheduled Call Reporting
- Live Call Wallboards
- Unlimited Call Recording
- + much more...
Most good VoIP providers will offer generous calling plans with unlimited outbound minutes. For those minutes that fall outside of the plan, call costs are still far lower. With BT, you’d pay 62.70p/min* for your landline calls to the US. International calls to the US from the UK cost just 1.5p/min with Yay.com - a saving of more than 97%!
*on the Standard BT International Rate
With all the technology that drives the service hosted in the cloud, and with softphones available for download on your mobile and desktop devices, your business can completely eliminate your current hardware acquisition and maintenance costs when you use VoIP, meaning a maximum potential saving of 100% on equipment.
Traditional phone systems reach into the tens of thousands of pounds depending on the size of your business. With engineer installation costs and overpriced, underpowered phone services the norm, it has taken agile VoIP upstarts to disrupt the industry and provide a better service for less.
VoIP providers are able to keep service costs down due to the cloud-hosted nature of the service. These savings can then be passed on, resulting in even more value for customers.
What do I need to use VoIP?
You will need a VoIP provider in order to make and receive calls. Your VoIP service provider will give you SIP credentials and a phone number in order to make calls over the internet.
Different VoIP providers will offer different features across different price plans. Be sure to compare providers and to look for the perfect balance of features and costs to suit your business.
You will need an internet connection to be able to make and receive VoIP calls. Make sure that your network hardware is sufficiently capable to accommodate as many concurrent VoIP calls as you’ll need. Don’t be concerned, though, as VoIP needs very little available bandwidth in order to conduct a call successfully.
What’s more, through something called Quality of Service (QoS), a feature found in most modern business routers, VoIP traffic is usually prioritised by default to ensure a better caller experience.
VoIP Phone Numbers
Before you can conduct your VoIP calls, you’ll need a phone number. Numbers you already own can be ported across to your new provider. This process usually takes a couple of weeks but is conducted in such a way as your numbers remain online throughout the entire process. If you need, new business phone numbers can usually be selected and purchased during the sign-up process with your new provider.
A VoIP desk phone is one that connects directly to your local network via ethernet and allows you to make and receive calls like a standard, analogue business phone. With an analogue telephone adaptor (ATA), you can even connect your existing analogue phones to the internet for VoIP calls.
Since VoIP apps exist, you certainly don’t need to purchase a dedicated IP phone to use VoIP. You always have the option of using a laptop, smartphone or even a tablet to conduct calls.
However, since many larger companies still prefer their staff to have dedicated desk phones, there are a lot of quality IP phones available on the market. These range greatly in price from as little as £30 to more than £400 each. Thankfully, all the essential features, including multiple lines, off-the-hook auto dialling and onboard storage for hundreds of contacts and call records can be found on even the most affordable VoIP phones. Even these affordable models usually have PoE power, too.
VoIP phones at higher price brackets, like the Yealink T58V, begin to feature large colour screens. The most expensive models, like the Grandstream GXV3380, feature the largest, touch-sensitive colour screens (very convenient for video conferencing), with a built-in Android operating system and even downloadable apps. The experience with this is closer to a full-size tablet with a high-quality telephone handset attached.
Featured VoIP Phones
The Grandstream GXP1625 2-line IP phone offers all standard office phone functions like call hold, transfer, forward and mute. This model also incorporates several advanced features, including 3-way conference calls, off the hook auto-dialling, hot-desking and dial planning.
The T41S delivers superb audio quality and a rich visual experience with a 2.7" LCD screen and support for 6 SIP accounts. Enjoy enhanced performance and support for a USB port, the Opus Codec and a faster interface.
The Grandstream GRP2613 is a carrier-grade, 3-line IP phone. Zero-touch provisioning enables mass deployment and easy management. Enjoy a suite of next-generation features including 24 virtual multi-purpose keys (VPKs), dual Gigabit ports and a colour LCD display.
The Yealink T58A provides an enriched HD audio and video calling experience, featuring a 7” multi-point touch screen, integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. With an Android OS, the T58A offers a built-in web browser and calendar with support for third-party apps.
Gigaset C430HX & N300IP bundle
The Gigaset N300 IP is a hybrid DECT IP base station enabling calls over both PSTN and VoIP. The C430HX handset has a large 1.8" TFT colour display with an icon-based UI and supports hands-free calling via loudspeaker or wired headset.
If you don’t want to buy new hardware to make calls, you can use a VoIP softphone on your smartphone or computer instead, allowing you to make and receive business calls wherever you go. The best VoIP apps offer all the functionality of an IP desk phone and more, so you miss out on nothing when using them. Added functionality can include services like secure instant messaging for your business, meaning these apps can offer incredible value at low cost.
How To Switch to VoIP?
Step One: Choose your new provider
The first step is to decide who you want to move to. This isn’t a decision you’ll want to make lightly - there’s a lot of choice out there. Thankfully, many VoIP providers offer a free VoIP trial, so you’ll have some time to test the various services first.
Both before and during your testing, decide what VoIP phone system features you want to have. VoIP offers many features that are either greatly enhanced or entirely new versus traditional systems, but the execution of these features can vary greatly between providers.
If you feel unable to make the switch in one go and would prefer a more phased move, check that your chosen provider offers a SIP trunking service or similar means of adapting your existing hardware to VoIP.
It might also be worth conducting a survey of your existing network. Good VoIP providers will offer an efficient service that needs very little bandwidth, but it’s worth stress testing your existing network anyway, especially if you use older hardware and have poorer speeds. If what you have right now isn’t up to scratch, upgrade your network hardware before making the switch.
Step Two: Leave your old provider
Unfortunately, many telecoms providers don’t make it easy to leave. Hopefully, you’re making this switch at the end of an existing contract. If not, you may have to pay an exit fee, so get in touch with your existing provider and make sure to communicate with them throughout the process. This way, you know where you stand.
They’ll likely give you a counteroffer to persuade you to stay, so make sure you’re clear on all the exciting new features and upgrades you’ll get when you’ve finished moving. This way you’ll know if their counteroffer is of value.
Step Three: Port your existing numbers
You’ll want to keep your existing phone numbers when you switch. After all, your existing customers know you by your existing numbers. The porting process is usually fairly straightforward:
Request a phone number transfer
Pay the transfer fee
Upload proof of ownership
Once you’ve completed the above steps, the gaining provider (your new VoIP provider) will submit a formal request to the losing provider and, once accepted, the port will begin taking place. This usually takes a couple of weeks.
A good VoIP provider will notify you before your port completes, and will give you the option of configuring your numbers beforehand to ensure zero downtime.
Step Four: Set up your new phone system
Now it’s time to create your new phone system. Your team may desire to do this themselves, or perhaps you prefer to have your new provider walk you through this.
The steps themselves are simple:
Set up your SIP users
Set up call routes and assign your phone numbers to them
Set up your out of hours call route
You’ll set up your SIP users to link them to a device so that you can begin making outbound calls. Then, you’ll set up call routes to tell the platform what will happen when someone rings one of your numbers. This is where you can get creative with all those exciting new features we were talking about. Once that’s done, you’ll set up another call route to handle calls you receive outside of your business hours, ensuring you never miss a business opportunity.
Step Five: Provision new phones / deploy apps
You might be wondering, ‘Do I need a VoIP phone to take calls over the internet?’. Whilst you’ll certainly need devices with which to make and take your calls, VoIP offers some flexibility over just what these devices are.
If you decide on using VoIP phones, your provider may be able to provision them before sending them out to you. This means that they’ll assign the phones to their SIP servers for you, so you’ll only have to link each phone to a SIP user/staff member when they arrive with you. If not, you’ll need to set all of your VoIP phones up from scratch when you receive them.
Alternatively, some or all of your staff can use VoIP apps (aka softphones) on their work or personal devices instead. The best VoIP providers offer apps for desktop and mobile across all available operating systems, meaning your staff will be able to make calls within minutes no matter their favoured device.