More businesses find themselves transitioning from traditional copper phone systems (analog or landlines) to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Switching phone systems might seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Upgrading to VoIP in particular isn’t that difficult - you just need to know what to be aware of.

Entering the World of Hosted Phone Service

Companies familiar with copper phone service might see VoIP as a needless change. It’s true that VoIP is built on a different infrastructure, but this is what allows VoIP to offer the features, customizations, and conveniences that differentiate it from copper. To ease the transition, VoIP providers and phone manufacturers work to embed the familiarity of traditional phones in a digital package while maintaining the benefits of an all-digital solution. This helps establish a smooth transition for companies making the switch.

In addition, many companies are unaware of alternative transition methods like, SIP Trunking, which enables you to transition to a Hosted, Digital Phone Service, while running on the same copper infrastructure by simply implementing a VoIP gateway or gateways. In these instances, users are not required to replace their existing analog phones with IP phones unless they choose to do so. While SIP Trunking with existing analog phones may not grant all of the features, bells and whistles that IP phones offer, you are still able reap functionality benefits and considerable cost savings that a digital service provides.

Differences Between VoIP and Copper

Most of the differences between VoIP and copper lay under the hood. The most noticeable difference is the Ethernet port in the back of each VoIP phone. As the name implies, VoIP uses Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks to transfer audio as data packets rather than electrical pulses. These packets can then be routed to any destination on the Internet similar to a website or email.

VoIP phones take advantage of this to add a host of customizable functions. For instance, an employee can easily link their VoIP phone with their desktop computer, laptop, or smartphone. Treating voice as data offers possibilities that go far beyond what copper networks are capable of.

Choosing a VoIP Phone

The key qualities in a VoIP phone are audio quality, compatibility, customizability, and price. Audio quality is determined less by the quality of the handset or speaker and more by the throughput of the device. A high-quality phone will send clearer audio at the cost of additional bandwidth. To ensure good quality, your infrastructure should be able to support multiple high-bandwidth voice streams simultaneously.

Compatibility determines how well the phone integrates with your existing network, as well as how adaptable it is to current and upcoming technologies. New trends in VoIP emerge daily, and you don’t want to invest in a phone that is incompatible with - or offers more features than - your service. Investing in VoIP equipment that’s scalable and upgradable can save you from unnecessary costs today, or from costly replacements in the future.

Customizability is one of the more complicated qualities, especially for companies new to VoIP. Customizability determines what you can do with the phone, whether it’s forwarding calls to another device, adding a large number of parties to a call, or having voicemail messages automatically transcribed and sent to an email address. When gauging the features of a VoIP phone, consider how well those features contribute to the daily needs of the business.

Finally, you have to consider your bottom line. Newer phones provide features like high-definition touchscreens, or cloud software and service integration. These phones also come at a premium, and if the features go unused then you’re essentially paying for nothing. Choose a phone that meets the core needs of your businesses without providing unnecessary additions.

View our comprehensive list of IP phones

Pitfalls to Avoid

The key to implementing hosted VoIP is to make sure your infrastructure can support the increased demand. Not only do you need extra Ethernet ports to accommodate the phones, but you need enough available bandwidth to manage the influx of data. If your network can’t provide the extra bandwidth, phone calls will sound low-quality, jittery, or delayed.

One of the best steps to establishing good call quality is implementing Quality of Service (QoS). QoS establishes a set of rules for how your network treats certain kinds of data. In this case, favoring VoIP over other kinds of traffic could significantly improve sound quality while preventing latency and dropped calls. QoS is frequently set up on the internal LAN, but it can also be configured for external WAN-facing routers.

For most businesses, phones are still the primary tool for communication. Before making the switch to hosted VoIP, consider your requirements carefully and test your infrastructure thoroughly.

In most cases the existing infrastructure can be leveraged and hands on providers like us, Layer Seven, will provide any needed or additional infrastructure such as Ethernet ports, PoE switches, routers, SIP gateways, QoS standards, etc., which are generally included in the cost. In addition, we provide all installation and configuration to ensure smooth and timely transitions.

If you’re interested in cloud phone systems or Hosted VoIP, but have questions for your specific application, feel free to give us a call at 619-473-5600 or contact us and connect with one of our specialists.