VOIP Phones Buying Guide

What is VOIP?

VoIP means Voice Over Internet Protocol. It generally refers to all the procedures involved in transferring voice calls through the internet. This type of phone system is most suited for business purposes, especially those involved in making long distance calls. Thanks to the fact that it uses the internet, it is impossible to distinguish between a long and short distance call. This is what accounts for its cheaper rates.

Everything from billing and phone plans are incorporated in the IP telephony. Through IP communications, applications such as video conferencing are also incorporated. Through technologies like Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), unified communications is enabled, which blends all forms of communication irrespective of time and place.

The VoIP services used by consumers and businesses vary. Consumer's VoIP services involves using a normal phone and subscribing to a VoIP service through which calls are placed. For businesses, the VoIP system employs a special system that works with computers in a network, enabling dialling from one extension to another.

How does a VoIP Phone Work?

A VoIP phone is made up of a screen, handset, keypad, Ethernet ports, headsets and software. Although this may sound like a complicated setup, it works in a very simple way. The VoIP phone works by converting analogue voice into digital streams via VoIP protocol and codec. The protocol determines how the analogue voice is transmitted through the network. The most popular protocols are SIP and Cisco Skinny Client Protocol (SSCP). Most VoIP phones produced today use the SIP protocol.

Voice codec on the other hand converts analogue voice to digital packets, and also determines the sound quality. Typical voice codecs are GSM, iLBC, G.711, G.722 and many others. Most VoIP phones will support more than one voice codec. However the trick to having a good experience with IP phones, is to ensure that the VoIP phones and the VoIP phone system supports the same protocol and codec.

The cost of installing a VoIP system will vary depending on the intended use. VoIP phones require internet connection to work and the more users that may be online at any one time, the more bandwidth that’s needed to ensure a hitch-free connection.

Types of VoIP Phones

Sometimes people tend to use just about any VoIP phone for any use. Although this may work, it is not right because different phones are meant for different uses. The wrong use of a phone may lead to a poor VoIP experience. Desktop VoIP phones come with all the features of a VoIP phone and are most suited for business purposes. They are connected by Ethernet. USB phones are connected through the USB port of a computer, and are mostly suited for use with soft phones. Wireless VoIP phones have Wi-Fi installed and can be used at hot spots. Conference phones are used for conferencing and video phones are used for making video calls. With the appropriate software, phone calls can be made from a personal computer.

How to Choose the Right VoIP Phone

The following tips will help in the choice of the right VoIP phone:

  • Have adequate knowledge of the existing protocol and codec, to ensure that the phone you buy is compatible to those of the VoIP provider.
  • Different positions may warrant different types of phone. Try to understand the communication needs of each position before investing in a phone. Depending on what the phone will be used for, some other options like speaker phones may be needed. 
  • In an office, some positions may need more lines than others. This is especially true of positions like those of receptionists and call centre attendants.
  • Ascertain the routing needs of the office. The Ethernet needs may vary depending on sharing facilities. To use power over Ethernet, all IP phones should be enabled for this function.
  • IP phones come in all price ranges, so it's important to have a budget range for your phones.

Choose the right VoIP System

Moving to VoIP can ensure huge savings for your business and in choosing a VoIP system, ensure you understand all the fine print that comes with any contract. Some will claim to have all-inclusive features but maybe don't. However this all-inclusiveness does not necessarily mean that your specific needs are covered. Also be sure that open standards are used on the phones. Most phones use Internet Protocol (IP), but there are some that use technology that may be proprietary. Open standard phones are more cost effective and easily customised.

Understand Pricing

VoIP services usually require a one-off installation fee and a monthly fee to cover follow-up and maintenance. There are many providers in the VoIP industry, so it is wise to compare quotes before committing. For businesses, prices will vary based on existing infrastructure and features required. Whatever the case, before going for a VoIP system, you should be sure that the savings to be made are worth the initial investment.

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