Looking for one of the top Business VoIP providers on the market? Find a VoIP solution provider that helps your business achieve its goals, works with you and most importantly – saves money, whatever the size of your business!
What is a VoIP phone, or Voice over IP?
Who needs landlines anymore?
VoIP – ‘Voice Over IP systems’ – operates over high-speed broadband, meaning it makes calls over the internet. The acronym VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. Some people may also call VoIP phone services, IP telephony, or Internet phones. These all mean the same thing, simply making calls using the internet instead of traditional phone lines. Because all the voice data is sent over the internet rather than POTS (Plain old Telephone System), you actually don’t need a physical phone at all any more. Some businesses will still use phones of course, but others can get all the advantages of business VoIP using their desktop or laptop computers, or through mobile apps on their mobile phones.
VoIP phone systems have been around for longer than you might think, with the first voice transmission back in 1973, and the first Internet Calling solution in 1995. But it was the advent of Skype that really made VoIP for small businesses so popular. Unfortunately – it also gave VoIP solutions a bad name, suffering from voice issues and quality problems that made many businesses worried about trusting their communications to business VoIP. Modern-day virtual phone solutions are worlds away from Skype, both in terms of quality of service (QoS) and the functionality you can enjoy.
How Do VoIP Providers Phone Services Work?
The keyword here for understanding how VoIP phone systems, from VoIP business phone services to any kind of IP phone, is packets. Packet-switched protocols allow voice signals to be literally put into packets, (think of it like an e-envelope) and then sent over any internet line, using your local area network or Wide Area Networks. These packets can carry huge amounts of information, which means you can benefit from more than just voice, including media, video, file sharing and more. These packets are translated into data that can be sent across an IP network, and then reverted back into voice data at the other side. Your users then use various end-points to access this data again, whether that’s desktop VoIP phones, softphone applications through their PCs, Macs, Laptops or mobile phones, or even WebRTC-enabled browsers.
Hardware-based IP phones Vs Software-based IP phones
|Hardware VoIP Phones
|Software VoIP Phones
|Looks like a traditional phone
|Use software installed on a computer or mobile
|Can be hard-wired or cordless
|Can be provided with a telephone handset interface for ease of use
|Uses features you might recognise like speakerphone or microphone
|Often uses a headset and microphone attachment
|Can include features like voicemail, or call transfer
|Can be used with computers alone
Unlike traditional phone systems, VoIP does not use circuit-switched networks, which means that they have less costs in terms of hardware and network infrastructure, and can let enterprises amalgamate their voice and data networks.
Why You Need a VoIP Provider
The advantages of using VoIP systems over standard landlines for businesses are multifold: in short, they can save your business a lot of money, but they’re also incredibly flexible, easy to use and easy to scale alongside your business.
From the Budget-Conscious to Profit-Watchers: Cheap VoIP
Whichever VoIP system you’re interested in implementing, there are no two ways about it – it’s a cheap solution, and one that all businesses can easily switch to. Features such as voicemail to email, or call transfer or monitoring for various team members are much cheaper and better value than you’d get with a traditional landline.
That’s before we even get into the costs of long-distance calls: with a landline, these can get very costly, very quickly – which isn’t ideal if you have customers worldwide! Because a cheap VoIP system is hosted online, it immediately eliminates any extra costs – for example – on traditionally highly-priced long distance calls.
Additionally, the hardware for VoIP definitely contributes to the lower cost of using VoIP for your business, in comparison to traditional telephony. It would be tough to think of a business who doesn’t need the internet in one way or another in today’s day and age. That means that your company is already paying for an internet service, and already has everything they need to take advantage of VoIP. Rather than pay extra for a business phone line and business phone services, why not make it all one easy monthly cost?
You can take advantage of free or extremely cheap VoIP systems, but these will often have poorer quality than the VoIP providers who charge a simple and manageable monthly fee. Balancing the cost reductions with offering great quality of service is important, so it pays to ensure you’ve checked that a company isn’t too good to be true.
As well as saving money via hardware and technology, you’re also moving over to a system which is fully managed. If you choose hosted Business phone VoIP your VoIP provider will be maintaining and managing your network, hardware and software – everything you need for communications. There’s no need for your own IT team or IT support to get their hands dirty so to speak. Your IT can be freed up to do more intricate or important tasks, and any troubleshooting or crises is not your problem.
This is why it’s so important to make sure that you have good customer support for whichever Business VoIP solution you choose to sign on the dotted line with. You need them to be available to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, because you never know when you might have a question or be getting service issues.
Productivity: Use a Virtual Phone for Small Business VoIP
Cost savings can also be given in the form of productivity for your company. This might seem more roundabout, but the more efficient your team can be, the more money they are making. Firstly, as we said, even with cheap VoIP – someone else is on top of your IT support for network and communications. But many of the other features you can enjoy with Business VoIP services will also encourage productivity.
Take vFax for example, which is virtual fax machines. Faxes come straight into your users inbox, much like email communications. No waiting for the fax machine to warm up, turn on, or solve a paper jam. Just one set of unified communications, able to be shared and communicated across a team without any visits to the copier.
Other features which support productivity for small business VoIP include Auto-Attendants. This is the automated assistant you might be used to when you call a large company or are put on hold. When used correctly, this can be a valuable tool for your business, and free up receptionists and admin staff to work smarter.
Some examples of tasks that your auto-attendant can take off their hands include:
- Informing customers of opening times
- Giving directions to your place of business
- Transferring calls to the right staff member or department, using extensions or names
- Directing customers to your website
- Giving contact info or seasonal changes to business
- Provide information on service problems
All of this can save your employees constantly repeating themselves, saving valuable time and frustration.
You can also use Business phones and VoIP to streamline business process, organizing ring groups or time of day routing. For example, if a customer calls at 9pm, they can be met with Night Mode, which gives them an automated message and directs them to the voicemail of the right staff member to get their query in the morning. During the day, they can be automatically transferred to the right personnel who is the most available, taking into account peak calling times, or staff schedules.
VoIP Phone Services are Flexible and Easy to Setup
Businesses naturally experience fluctuations – sometimes, you may have a bad month or need to scale back on your freelancers, contractors or overall workforce, and other times, you might suddenly scale up quickly, and need to expand your staff.
As well as this, when it comes to Voice traffic from your customers, you never know how many calls you’re going to be receiving. Seasonal changes might cause more business or questions to come in, or events you can’t prepare for in advance. Imagine you’re a provider of fans and air conditioning units. While you may expect your busiest months to be June-August – a sudden May heatwave could catch you unawares. VoIP phone services are an ideal solution for any business looking to be able to scale quickly in such situations, allowing you the flexibility to make changes quickly and easily, often with no hardware whatsoever.
VoIP is also known for being an incredibly easy solution to get started with. When it comes to mobile VoIP for example, it could be as easy as downloading a mobile app. With softphones or VoIP through your desktop or laptop, you can often get started in no time, just by downloading a link or installing the software the Business VoIP company provides. Even when you request hardware like physical IP phones, once this arrives it is usually just a case of plugging the internet phones into a wall jack or power outlet. No lengthy installation period, no difficult maintenance to keep up with at all.
Choosing the Right Type of Business VoIP For You:
Even though VoIP phone systems are cheap to implement, the different type of system you choose could have an impact on your bottom line. There are a few types of Internet phone business VoIP systems which you should know about before choosing one:
- Hosted systems – just like website hosting, a hosted Business VoIP system means the provider owns the actual platform your VoIP system and IP phones are operating on, and your business is a subcontractor, renting or leasing the phone line. This is a great solution for those looking for something more budget-friendly, as the upfront costs tend to be lower and any maintenance needed is handled by the provider. You would have to pay a subscription fee to use the line, and it’s less customizable than the other options.
- Managed systems – with these types of systems, your business owns all the equipment and the line, but the vendor takes responsibility for the setup and maintenance of the hardware and software. This is the ‘middle ground’ option, getting the best of both the hosted system and the on-premise system. The costs are slightly higher than the hosted system option.
- On-Premise system – this is the most self-reliant and independent type of VoIP system – with this type, your business owns the hardware and the software, and any need to update or maintain it falls squarely on you. There are higher initial setup costs, but more customization options and potentially tighter security. This is a popular option for big businesses.
- Cloud VoIP – Cloud VoIP is an increasingly popular option for many companies. A lot of MSPs are offering VoIP as part of their cloud-based IT offerings to streamline your operations. This is similar to hosted VoIP, except all of your data is held on the Cloud. This often makes it faster, more secure and more scalable, and can reduce costs substantially. Cloud VoIP is a great choice, so make sure your VoIP providers have spoken to you about their Cloud offering.
What You Need to Know When Choosing a Business VoIP Provider
When it comes to choosing the best Business phone VoIP service, or knowing which are the best VoIP Providers for your business, it really depends on what‘s most important to you. Once you know your priorities, it’s time to look for the following in each potential VoIP provider –
- Service quality – Also called Quality of Service, check the quality of the provider’s calls – you don’t want any glitches, jumps or otherwise, as it hinders communication. Some of the most common errors with Business VoIP that can cause real frustration are Jitter, Lagging and Latency issues. Ask your provider specifically what they do to combat these issues.
- Support – if you have an issue or need assistance, will the VoIP provider be able to help you? Do they have 24/7 support, and with which methods can you use to get in touch with them?
- Reliability – how often does the provider schedule maintenance and upgrades, and in which time zone? Could this impact your business negatively? What does the company do to limit any interruptions or issues to your internet phone service?
- Flexibility – how flexible is the provider’s plans? Can their plans scale up as your business does, or shrink if your business does? Does the VoIP solution need warning for these changes, or can you pay for what you use – scaling up and down seamlessly as and when traffic increases?
- Cost – Do their plans (and extra features) seem cost efficient? Do you have to sign a contract, and what happens if you aren’t happy with the service? What hardware costs are there, and what is the warranty procedure? Make sure there are no hidden fees which the VoIP service is not being transparent about.
- Potential problems – Make sure to ask your potential VoIP service provider what they dont offer, or check reviews for why customers left their service. Some companies charge extra for basics like Voicemail, or don’t offer workarounds to call emergency services if you’re left without power for example and can’t use your business phone. Seeing what the worst case scenarios are is essential before you sign on the dotted line.
Everyone’s deal breakers are different – so you need to check that your small business VoIP provider fits your needs as much as possible.
Additional Features for Business VoIP
Each VoIP provider has a range of extra features and services – the key is looking through each provider’s plans and seeing how much they have of what you need, and if there’s a plan that suits you and your business. Some of the most popular features for your virtual phone system could become must-haves for your company.
Mobile Business VoIP
Mobile VoIP in and of itself is extremely powerful. Many employees would rather have flexibility than a pay rise! That means that giving them a business VoIP solution that can follow them wherever they go, allow them to work from home or from a coffee shop, or be accessible when they’re needed but free up time elsewhere is a great benefit.
Mobile VoIP usually works through an app that can be downloaded from the app stores like any other. Their phone then becomes a Business VoIP system, all from the palm of their hand. Here are some great mobile VoIP features to look out for that can make a real difference.
– Find me/Follow me: This means that any calls made to your employees desk or primary phone will go through to their mobile immediately. You can even make more than one number ring concurrently, so that if you aren’t with your mobile – your home phone rings, too.
– Unified Communications: Some people might want to keep their business and personal communications separate, and with mobile VoIP this is really easy. You can use one business number and one personal number, all from the same device. Send and receive calls, use SMS messaging capabilities, and even send emails and faxes from one account. Then use your personal account when you’ve switched off from work for the day, or during a break.
– Video Calls: It’s not just voice calls that you can use the best mobile VoIP apps from. Conference into a web meeting with video capabilities. Just make sure you have good WiFi!
– Monitoring Capabilities: Ask your Business VoIP provider if they offer presence monitoring. This means you can see if your contacts are away, online, or on another call. You can set your own status so that you’re not disturbed when you aren’t at work, and can let people know when you’re available for meetings.
– Call Flip: This feature is really helpful, and allows you to seamlessly transfer a call from your office business phone to your mobile, without the caller ever knowing there’s been a change. If you’re in the office and a meeting is running long, simply transfer to your mobile and continue in your car or on the move. No interruptions.
It’s not just about mobile though. Your office extension and virtual phone line can include powerful new features that you could never get with a traditional phone line.
One good example is door buzzer integration. Being able to use your business phone line to admit or block entry to your offices is professional and helpful. It also upgrades security, so that you’re always sure who is in the office.
Some productivity extras include features like Voicemail to Email. If your staff are involved in busy office calls, they may not have time to listen to their voicemails. Having this service come through as an email can be a real time saver, allowing them to scan the message while they listen in to their meetings. Call screening helps staff to take only the important interruptions to their working day.
Other features could be to do with customer service and support rather than business VoIP extras for your staff. On hold music or call routing extras are good examples of this, giving a more professional business environment, and making life easier or more pleasant for anyone calling in.
Of course, there are also technical extras to look out for. The latest VoIP trends include
employing Artificial Intelligence behind the scenes to discover and fix issues in quality of service. AI can actually detect and troubleshoot in real-time, which means that the problems can be fixed before any customers even notice. Bandwidth utilization allows for better quality even on shared cloud VoIP or hosted VoIP systems.
Conferencing tools are some of the most popular reasons for companies to choose Business VoIP, and a great extra for virtual phone solutions. Manage invitations and requests for who you need on your call, set up conference flows, and manage the in-call settings like hand raises, muting etc. Everything you need all in one console.
One great extra that Business VoIP is getting better at, is coaching tools through your internet phone. A lot of workshops and training sessions are a struggle to get people to attend, and can be unhelpful as they deal with faux scenarios. In contrast to this, there are Business VoIP tools that can be used in real-time. Barge is one great example of this, allowing you to listen in and monitor your staff while they talk to customers. Whisper is another tool that gives customer service reps the ability to get advice from a manager while they are on the call. The client or customer will never know anyone else is on the line, and won’t hear the extra conversation happening whatsoever. This is a plus you could never experience without a virtual phone.
How VoIP.Guide Can Help You Choose The Best VoIP Provider For You
Here at VoIP.Guide, we’ve put our money where our mouth is: we’ve tried and tested every single one of the Business VoIP providers we’ve listed in our table above, and written in-depth reviews about each one and the internet phones and features they include.
That’s right – we’ve checked the features, the reliability and as much as you could possibly ever want, all in the name of connecting your business with an ideal VoIP provider.
We pride ourselves on –
- The depth of our research: we’ve tried everything, and given you the insider lowdown on what to expect, so you can make an informed, effective decision for your business’ needs.
- We show you exactly what you need to know, at a glance – we tell it to you straight, evaluating all the benefits and potential issues you might encounter with any one provider.
- A range of articles and guides, so if you need a little extra help, we’ve likely got a guide to help you through it!
Ultimately, VoIP services are the communication of the future: if you want your business to flourish and keep up with the times, they’re the way forward.
So what are you waiting for? Check out our range of recommended VoIP providers today!