Small business VOIP phone system

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VOIP produces sound that is more flexible, more full-featured, and most especially, significantly cheaper than placing your calls through traditional telephone service providers.

Listen to a comment made on this: “The cord-cutting movement isn't limited to consumer cable and Netflix. As Voice over Internet Protocol communication matures and as high-speed Internet becomes cheap and ubiquitous, an increasing number of businesses are ditching conventional landlines and jumping to VoIP. “

But is VoIP really all it's cracked up to be? Are the potential pitfalls worth the potential monetary payoffs? This article will discuss all pros and cons to take you through three commercial VoIP services of complex varieties.

How Does VoIP Work?

It could be generally simple when you search for a hosted service. Many of the top VoIP providers hold all the heavy lifting offsite, delivering calls to your phones and software clients without much hassle, especially if you use phones that are plug-and-play certified for the service in question. Many of these require no additional on-site hardware aside from those phones. What you really need is to find a space for a small box of hardware somewhere on-site.

Although, maintaining a self-hosted, on-site VoIP system requires a bit more work. Look for an IP-based private branch exchange—a VoIP-friendly version of the PBX phone systems that many offices use—to route your calls to the appropriate phones on your network, as well as a device called a PSTN gateway. The PSTN gateway sits between the IP-PBX software and the analogue signals of the public switched telephone network, converting calls to and from digital signals as it is needed.

Irrespective of what you finally decide to do, you can still handle the basic settings for your phone lines or extensions over the phone, while tweaking more advanced options requires diving into your provider's online account medium.


What Do You Need to Implement VoIP?

The size of your company and facilities you already have will determine this. If you move from the VoIP bandwagon, it could cost your company next to nothing, or it could entail significant up-front costs.

Many homes can also have access to broadband connections which can surely handle several VoIP calls simultaneously, though you'll need to be sure to leave bandwidth available for other applications. Moreover, you should know that VoIP requires a broadband connection—and the more simultaneous users you have, the more bandwidth you are in need of. If you work alone out of a home office, or if you have only a few employees, you won't have much to worry about. An instance of this is on my setup, running RingCentral'sConnection Capacity utility which pictures that my 15-mbps home Comcast connection could handle 11 calls simultaneously even if I had Netflix, Spotify, and an instant-messaging client running on the network simultaneously.

The internal network—including your routers and switches—can handle the load. Most providers suggest using a router with configurable Quality of Service settings and assigning VoIP traffic high priority to improve the quality.

Suppose your Internet service provider has a bandwidth cap in place, you also need to give it serious thought. Most VoIP service providers use the high-quality G.711 codec for VoIP communications, which consumes 64kb of data every second you talk. In reality, even a large number of people should be able to chat it up on VoIP without having to be anxious about hitting bandwidth caps. However, you will still want to keep close tabs on your data usage to avoid exceeding that cap.

SIP-enabled phone, such as the Snom 300 would be needed if you are to make VoIP calls. And suppose you therefore subscribe to a cloud-based hosted VoIP service, make sure your phones can communicate over VoIP. Most VoIP systems use session-initiation protocol technology to assign each phone or VoIP software client a specific address; that's how the IP-PBX routes calls to specific lines. So, you really need a SIP-enabled phone to make VoIP calls. (Some VoIP systems use H.323 technology rather than SIP, but those are rare.) If you want to keep your old analogue touch-tone phones or fax machines, all you need to do is plug them into an analogue telephone adapter (ATA), but they won't be able to use many of the advanced features that SIP-based VoIP phones provide.


VoIP Service Comparisons

Here, we will consider three out of many types of VoIP services available. We therefore will begin with a relatively straightforward offering and ramping up the complexity and flexibility.

A Basic Service

RingCentral's overview page gives account administrators a wide view of what's happening in their network. RingCentral Office, RingCentral's flagship business product, provides a good example of a basic VoIP service tailored to the needs of a small business. The company's reputation for reliability is top-notch, but the most notable aspect of RingCentral Office is just how simple it is to maintain running the service plans are straightforward and give no requirement to no new hardware.

Hardware: RingCentral handles all routing and VoIP-to-PSTN conversions in the cloud, which means SIP-enabled phones are needed. Any SIP-enabled phone or any analogue phone with an adapter will surely work with RingCentral, but the IP phones the company sells directly are plug-and-play, while third-party phones require configuring to use the RingCentral software.

RingCentral sells the Cisco-Linksys SPA-2102 analogue telephone adapter for $69; phones start at $99 and go all the way up to $600 for a high-end conference phone.

Price per user: For one user, the service costs $40 per month, $30 per month per user for 2 to 20 users, $22 per month per user for 20 to 99 users, and $20 per month per user for 100 or more users. Grap this clearly that “users” means each individual SIP endpoint, not employees. For example, if you have an office phone, a mobile phone, a dedicated fax machine, and a "softphone" (software client) installed on our PC, what that means is that you have got four separate users on your PC.

Standard features: All features come standard for every user, with no à la carte options available except for the option to buy additional fax lines for $5 per month each. Special "vanity" local or toll-free numbers are available, but you need to pay a $30 one-time fee and $5 per month for each separate vanity line.

  1. Unlimited calling to the United States and Canada, Internet fax lines, and extensions
  2. 1000 toll-free minutes per month for your company
  3. Three-way calling; ten-way calling via Call Controller softphone
  4. Caller ID
  5. Voicemail, with a "Visual Voicemail" graphical user interface for checking messages on phones and computers
  6. Virtual receptionist with dial-by-name, music-on-hold, and departmental support; optional custom prerecorded greetings start at $50
  7. Advanced call forwarding, screening, and recording rules; transfer calls between phones in real time
  8. Microsoft Office and Box integration
  9. Mobile apps for Android, BlackBerry, and iOS smartphones

A Midrange Service

Vocalocity is a good example of a VoIP service designed for the needs of larger small businesses. Although, services at this level are more expensive than the types of plans that RingCentral has to offer, but Vocalocity's plans include additional features such as 911 emergency-response support, as well as even more powerful options.

It is the duty of vocalocity to help you plan your phone system before you buy. This will enables you to know exactly what you need to run the company's hosted VoIP service.Hardware: Other than SIP-enabled phones, no hardware is required. The company strongly suggests using the plug-and-play certified IP phones that it sells directly, which start at $75 each. However, you will find unofficial support for a number of other SIP-enabled phones.

Price per user: Vocalocity offers a trio of plans, which you can mix and match for your various extensions. An unlimited extension costs $40 per month for unlimited U.S and Canadian calling. A metered extension costs $15 per month plus $0.03 per minute, and is intended for infrequently used lines. Finally, a $15 virtual extension with unlimited minutes is available for people who need VoIP only on their mobile phones, with a landline or soft phone.

Standard features are:

  1. Unlimited U.S. and Canadian calling
  2. 411/911 calling
  3. Voicemail, available via Web interface or sent to email as an MP3 file
  4. Caller ID
  5. Three-way calling
  6. Virtual receptionist for each extension, with support for music on hold and dial by name
  7. Free mobile apps and a desktop client with plug-in-based integration for several services and programs, including Outlook, Microsoft Dynamics, SugarCRM, and LinkedIn
  8. Advanced call forwarding, screening, logging, transferring, and parking options

Highlights include the ability to add a paperless fax line ($15 per month), call bridging for 30-person conference calls ($15 per month plus $0.03 per minute), voicemail transcription, call recording, and call group and queue support.

A Complex Product

The Snom One Mini is a small, power-sipping IP-PBX server suitable for small offices and home offices. Suppose you are in need of the highest level of control and security for your business’s telecommunications, consider a self-hosted VoIP product using an IP-PBX. Let consider one example-the Snom One Mini.

Hardware: The newly released Snom One Mini ($599) is a small-office/home-office IP-PBX server that draws just 60 kWh of power per year. If you want a completely in-house VoIP setup, you'll need to buy a PSTN gateway to connect VoIP calls to the public telephone network; such devices cost about $250 and up, and needs an active landline. The Snom One Mini, however, was designed around the idea of using an external VoIP provider that provides "SIP trunking" services to handle the analogue-to-digital signal conversion. Using one of those services would allow you to skip the PSTN gateway.

Just as stated before, you will still need phones. As with the other services discussed here, the phones that Snom sells directly—priced at $70 to $100 each—work best with this system due to their plug-and-play support. Other SIP phones or analog phones with adapters can also work, but there is nedd for manual configuration with Snom's server software.

Price:  Aside from Hardware pricing, the cost of this kind of VoIP service do vary according to the provider you choose. Skype Connect, for example, costs $7 per channel per month, plus 0.8 cent per minute on outgoing calls. The number of channels you purchase determines how many simultaneous calls the service will support. 8x8 is another popular business-oriented VoIP service provider, but you’ll need to request a quote from the company to get pricing information.

Features: The Snom One Mini supports Power over Ethernet, which means there is no need for an AC outlet to set it up. It supports SIP-enabled devices, and it has no moving parts. moreover, you can configure the Linux-based IP-PBX to include VPN, DHCP, VLAN, and other services.

As for software, the Snom One Mini IP-PBX includes:

  1. Support for up to 20 extensions making ten calls simultaneously
  2. Mobile phone support with advanced functionality, including simultaneous ringing with your office phone, automatic transfers to mobile when you don't answer your office phone, and calling schedules that route calls to your mobile phone at specific times
  3. Voicemail, optionally sent to email as an audio attachement
  4. Caller ID
  5. Customizable call routing and screening
  6. Customizable trunking and dial plans
  7. Multiple virtual receptionists
  8. Music on hold, dial by name, and customizable time-based greetings
  9. Email notifications for specific events
  10. Personal greetings for each extension
  11. Outlook integration
  12. Conference calling with administrative controls, PIN codes, email notification for scheduled conference calls, multiple conference "rooms," and ad-hoc three-way calling
  13. Fax machine support via ATA connectionsMost small businesses will lean toward hosted VoIP services, but self-hosted VoIP arrangements offer more flexibility, security, and as you opt for PSTN gateway route—a monthly cost of next to nothing in exchange for larger up-front costs (and a few more configuration headaches) would be required another advantage here is that Snom offers a one-year warranty that includes free setup support by phone or email. So this adds to what you can enjoy.

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