VoIP Phone Systems for Business: Our Office Experience

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VoIP Phone Systems

Are you’re tired of paying the high prices for a traditional phone system?  Would you like a phone system that is less expensive and offers more features?  Maybe you should consider VoIP.  VoIP, or Voice Over Internet Protocol, is the technology to run your phones over the internet, rather than traditional phone lines.  Since VoIP is software based you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to purchase a PBX system.  Most VoIP phone systems are user-friendly and can be managed yourself.

Our First VoIP Phone System Experience

Our first experience with VoIP took place in 2010 with a company called RingCentral.  Their system was easy to set up, gave us more features, and a lower cost.  It only required we replace our traditional phones with VoIP phones, which we purchased for around $100/each.  We loved the features and cost, but our experience was bad because we had poor call quality and their foreign-based tech support was not helpful.  Poor call quality on a VoIP system can generally be traced to a few sources: slow or poor-quality internet, and improperly configured or poor-quality networking equipment.  After spending months troubleshooting our problems, we gave up and switched to a different VoIP provider.

Our Second VoIP Phone System Experience

Our second experience with VoIP took place in 2011 with a company called Telesphere, who has since merged with Vonage Business.  What made Telesphere unique is they offer a fully managed system.  This means they provide a dedicated T-1 internet connection, a switch, the phones, and software, and 24×7 tech support from their Arizona data center.  The call quality on this service was so good that it sounded like your caller was speaking live, directly into your ear.  We loved the reliability, quality, and knowledgeable US-based tech support.  However, after 6 years we felt that they were falling behind on features and we were struggling with the cost, around $1150/mo for 20 lines.  So, we began to investigate alternative VoIP phone system providers.

Our Third VoIP Phone System Experience

Our third experience with VoIP took place in 2017 and brought us back to RingCentral.  We did this with a lot of reservation and testing beforehand.  We attributed the source of our problems the first time around to poor quality internet and networking equipment.  A few years earlier we spent $3,000 upgrading to Cisco enterprise grade networking equipment and a GPON fiber internet connection with Centurylink.  We kept a slower internet connection with Cox as a backup.  These changes made RingCentral work 95% as good as Telesphere and we decided it was worth the $400/mo savings and additional features.  RingCentral still has foreign-based tech support for most customers, but they are significantly better trained than six years earlier.

Advantages of Using VOIP Phone Systems

  • Less expensive startup cost.  It could be as low as the price of a decent quality headset if you use a softphone.
  • Less expensive monthly cost with a deep discount on an annual pre-paid plan.
  • More features, such as unlimited calling, texting, faxing, call recording, voicemail transcription, and video conferencing.
  • Easier to implement with help with a professional implementation team.
  • Easier to manage yourself with help from 24×7 tech support.
  • Portable.  The softphone allows you to answer calls from a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Disadvantages of VOIP Phone Systems

  • Slightly less reliable. It can be a nightmare if you don’t have it setup correctly.
  • Requires some technical knowledge if you try to implement and manage it yourself.
  • Emergency calls can be a problem. It’s harder for 911 operators to trace your location since your number is not fixed to a location.

Guide to a Successful Business VOIP Phone Systems

  • Do your homework. Research VoIP providers and find one you feel comfortable with.
  • Purchase a high-quality internet connection. Fast does not mean high quality.  Your connection needs to have low latency, low jitter, no packet loss, and consistency.  T-1 connections are the ultimate in quality and reliability but are slow and expensive.  We’ve had good luck with our GPON fiber connection through Centurylink.  Many VoIP providers have free tests on their website to check the quality of your connection.
  • Purchase enough internet bandwidth. A single VoIP phone needs about 100 Kbps of bandwidth.  Add 20 phones and 20 computers and that requires a lot of bandwidth.  I like symmetrical connections such as 50/50 Mbps.  With VoIP upstream is just as important as downstream.
  • Purchase high-quality networking equipment. VoIP will work with SOHO (small office home office) equipment, but I wouldn’t recommend it, especially if your office has a lot of phones and computers.  Invest the money to buy enterprise-grade equipment.
  • Configure your networking equipment for QoS (Quality of Service). This means VoIP data gets priority and moves through your local area network faster, which improves call quality.
  • And lastly, test a VoIP provider before committing. Before switching back to RingCentral, we had two employees test them for two months before we felt comfortable.

VoIP phone systems are great if you want to save money and add extra features. It’s not as reliable as a traditional phone system, but it’s 95% there and reliability is improving as the technology continues to mature.  VoIP made sense for us and we’ll never go back to a traditional phone system.  Maybe it’s right for you too.

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