Your IT staff will understand the basics of what needs to be done before a VoIP system can be selected and installed. That will include capacity testing on your current pipes and a thorough audit of your organization's network management capabilities to make sure they can support and secure the new flow of VoIP data. But for business-level users, selecting a phone system that will help them keep their various processes moving forward, especially the customer-facing ones, starts with understanding what VoIP really is.
Sending faxes over VoIP networks is sometimes referred to as Fax over IP (FoIP). Transmission of fax documents was problematic in early VoIP implementations, as most voice digitization and compression codecs are optimized for the representation of the human voice and the proper timing of the modem signals cannot be guaranteed in a packet-based, connection-less network. A standards-based solution for reliably delivering fax-over-IP is the T.38 protocol.
The RTCP extended report VoIP metrics block specified by RFC 3611 is generated by an IP phone or gateway during a live call and contains information on packet loss rate, packet discard rate (because of jitter), packet loss/discard burst metrics (burst length/density, gap length/density), network delay, end system delay, signal/noise/echo level, mean opinion scores (MOS) and R factors and configuration information related to the jitter buffer. VoIP metrics reports are exchanged between IP endpoints on an occasional basis during a call, and an end of call message sent via SIP RTCP summary report or one of the other signaling protocol extensions. VoIP metrics reports are intended to support real-time feedback related to QoS problems, the exchange of information between the endpoints for improved call quality calculation and a variety of other applications.
If you’re located in one of the 21 states currently serviced by Verizon Fios—which are mostly in the northeast—you’ll have access to one of the fastest internet connections available, which is perfect for VoIP. If you’re in DSL-only country, the speed will be slower, but uptime is still guaranteed at 99.95%. Either internet option will support steady VoIP service, and if your business is more medium-sized than small, Verizon could add up to a better value in the long run (especially if you’re in Fios territory).
Mobile clients are softphones optimized for a particular mobile OS and for being used in mobile situations. This means they're designed to switch easily between different cell and wireless connections on the fly. This means you can let your employees use whatever the cheapest wireless connection around them happens to be—and often that can be free. They also let your employees use your company's phone system on their own devices.
A business phone system helps you to present a professional image to your customers. If you do not have a need for office phones or spend the money, you can still use a virtual phone system to project a professional look. This enables you to place a call directly to a mobile phone. It also has key features like voicemail transcription and automated attendants.
Let’s face it: the office environment isn’t for everyone. If you frequently work out of office or run a mobile business (like a food truck or pop-up store), you may find that Grasshopper is the best phone service for you. Grasshopper offers iOS and Android apps that allow you to make and receive calls on your cell phone using your business number—that way, you can keep your personal and work communications separate. It’s a great VoIP software for any entrepreneur who doesn’t want or need desktop phones as part of their PBX solutions.
VoIP endpoints usually have to wait for completion of transmission of previous packets before new data may be sent. Although it is possible to preempt (abort) a less important packet in mid-transmission, this is not commonly done, especially on high-speed links where transmission times are short even for maximum-sized packets. An alternative to preemption on slower links, such as dialup and digital subscriber line (DSL), is to reduce the maximum transmission time by reducing the maximum transmission unit. But since every packet must contain protocol headers, this increases relative header overhead on every link traversed.
VoIP transforms outgoing or incoming calls into a digital signal and sends it through the internet, converting it to a standard telephone signal to reach a non-VoIP number. This allows you to receive business calls on your personal mobile device. You can even make calls through your VoIP provider’s app on your smartphone—and you won’t have to worry about clients ignoring your call since their caller ID will register your business number instead of your personal number.
That's the basics of UCaaS, but the concept is constantly evolving to include more communication and collaboration technologies. Those capabilities also get tweaked to provide new benefits, sometimes general, sometimes aimed at specific business use cases, like call centers or help desk operations, for example. The key is integration. Voice is becoming integrated with other back-end apps.
In IP telephony, no such direct link between location and communications end point exists. Even a provider having hardware infrastructure, such as a DSL provider, may know only the approximate location of the device, based on the IP address allocated to the network router and the known service address. Some ISPs do not track the automatic assignment of IP addresses to customer equipment.
In the following time span of about two decades, various forms of packet telephony were developed and industry interest groups formed to support the new technologies. Following the termination of the ARPANET project, and expansion of the Internet for commercial traffic, IP telephony was tested and deemed infeasible for commercial use until the introduction of VocalChat in the early 1990s and then in Feb 1995 the official release of Internet Phone (or iPhone for short) commercial software by VocalTec , based on the Audio Transceiver patent by Lior Haramaty and Alon Cohen, and followed by other VoIP infrastructure components such as telephony gateways and switching servers. Soon after it became an established area of interest in commercial labs of the major IT concerns. By the late 1990s, the first softswitches became available, and new protocols, such as H.323, MGCP and the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) gained widespread attention. In the early 2000s, the proliferation of high-bandwidth always-on Internet connections to residential dwellings and businesses, spawned an industry of Internet telephony service providers (ITSPs). The development of open-source telephony software, such as Asterisk PBX, fueled widespread interest and entrepreneurship in voice-over-IP services, applying new Internet technology paradigms, such as cloud services to telephony.
Fortunately, there are several dedicated residential VoIP providers who offer nationwide service, usually with worldwide calling plans. With one of these you should be offered at least four core features. Those include caller ID, voicemail hosted by the provider (meaning you don't need an answering machine), call waiting (essentially a one-line hold), 911 support (sometimes called "E911"), and three-way calling allowing you to reach out to a third participant in any phone conversation. There will likely be a slew of other features available, but they'll differ across quality providers while these four should always be available. Most of these will work in a two-step process:
Still the pandemic won't last forever so keeping in mind core VoIP criteria is important, too. That means providing voice communications for employees at their desks. VoIP systems may also need to support a call center for sales, customer service, and support; and they often need to connect with and through a host of other communications channels, such as fax machines, video conferencing, conference calling, mobile communications, wireless handsets, and text messaging. On top of that, they're often expected to provide more advanced functionality through software, like shared meeting collaboration, voicemail to email transcription, and call recording. And lest we forget, many businesses still need a service that will connect to public switched telephone network (PSTN).
The Yealink SIP-T56A is a simple-to-use smart media phone that provides an enriched HD audio experience for business professionals. This all-new smart media phone enables productivity-enhancing visual communication with the ease of a standard phone. the SIP-T56A features a seven-inch fixed multi-point touch screen, integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0+ EDR, and it is coupled with a built-in web browser, calendar, recorder and more, which also support the installation of third-party applications for business customization. Thanks to the DECT technology, if you want to expand your horizons for busy environments, or, share one phone system with your small team by adding multiple handsets, simply turn Yealink SIP-T56A phone to the corded-cordless phone, and it will repay you up to 4 DECT handsets in total to meet your daily demands.
Fortunately, most of the providers reviewed here have engineering staff that will contact you as part of your setup process to help your IT staffers test and optimize your network prior to deploying their solutions. That's definitely something we recommend, but there are steps you can take now to prep your LAN for VoIP and make the deployment process that much easier.
In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it is illegal to provide or use unauthorized VoIP services, to the extent that web sites of unlicensed VoIP providers have been blocked. However, some VoIPs such as Skype were allowed. In January 2018, internet service providers in UAE blocked all VoIP apps, including Skype, but permitting only 2 "government-approved" VoIP apps (C’ME and BOTIM) for a fixed rate of Dh52.50 a month for use on mobile devices, and Dh105 a month to use over a computer connected." In opposition, a petition on Change.org garnered over 5000 signatures, in response to which the website was blocked in UAE.
A critical part of the discussion with your IT staff will be whether your existing data network can handle the extra load that will be placed on it by the new phone system. You'll need a network that can handle more advanced network management capabilities, including tools to fight jitter and latency as well as to provide Quality of Service (QoS) and different kinds of network segmentation, especially virtual LANs (VLANs). Only tools like these can help free up your network from too much congestion, which can cause your call quality to decrease or even crash the VoIP system entirely.
Back-end integration with custom and third-party apps, like CRM systems, also open a whole new world for your calling data because now it can extend the phone system beyond just basic voice communication. Such integrations allows users to transfer calls to and from their mobile phone, place and receive calls from their personal phone (that appear to be coming from the business), and interact with colleagues and customers via voice and text -- all from a variety of devices. But it also allows recording and analysis of call data to measure things like customer satisfaction, understand your sales audience at a new level, and even handle customer requests and problems automatically without the customer ever being aware they never spoke to a human.
On the phone providers' side, since this review roundup was first published, some of the products listed here now belong to other companies and some have merged into new products. If you're planning to depend on your phone system over the course of the next decade, then you should consider a vendor that's stable enough to still be around when it's time to up upgrade.
Our real estate investment company has 14 phone lines altogether. For a phone service, we needed a local number, good call quality, uninterrupted service, calling apps for our laptops and cell phones, and an internal messaging platform for team communication. We started out with a niche company called Sound Communications, but their call quality and app were not very good. So once we made a bit more income, we decided to switch to RingCentral. RingCentral provides great call quality and is highly recommended in the real estate investment community. They are on the pricier side—$419.88 per line per year—but I’m OK with the price because their service is worth it and the high-quality phone calls are very important to our business.
It gets even better! Calling internationally using VoIP is far less expensive than using a traditional landline phone company. Every region of the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, has its own combination of technological development, geographic obstacles, regulations, and taxes. Cell phone carriers, much like VoIP providers, have their own network, which is why it usually costs more to call international cell phones. If a VoIP provider has a significant presence in a country, it’s likely that landline calls will be unlimited with an international package. For example, if you are using Vonage Word, calling from the U.S. to a landline in Germany is included, but it costs US$.0061 per minute to call a cellular phone. If you are using ViaTalk World, you can call both German cell phones and German Landlines for the same rate – free up to 1200 minutes per month. Don’t forget that with every VoIP provider, if you call within their own network, calls are always free no matter where you are in the world. With the development of SIP, you can easily make and receive free international calls from your home using VoIP.
The products and services in this review roundup are focused on business use and because of this either provide some PBX features or serve as full-on virtual PBXes. This may mean, among other things, that they provide service to telephone sets on your employees' desks. Most also support electronic faxing in some fashion, either directly (which can be a significant challenge for some VoIP services) or by simply integrating an incoming fax with your email system. Other popular features are video conferencing and shared meeting software (so meeting attendees not only hear each other but can present presentations or documents in a shared work space).
Grasshopper isn’t technically a VoIP and it isn’t technically for residential customers, but it offers basically the same service for a competitive price. Technically speaking, Grasshopper is a cloud-hosted system that works on top of your existing landline or cell service so voice quality doesn’t suffer. While there’s a technical distinction, customers shouldn’t notice the difference. Grasshopper is built for entrepreneurs and small business owners who work from home. The Partner package is suitable for families, as it includes 3 separate contact numbers with up to 6 extensions.
The T.38 protocol is designed to compensate for the differences between traditional packet-less communications over analog lines and packet-based transmissions which are the basis for IP communications. The fax machine may be a standard device connected to an analog telephone adapter (ATA), or it may be a software application or dedicated network device operating via an Ethernet interface. Originally, T.38 was designed to use UDP or TCP transmission methods across an IP network. UDP provides near real-time characteristics due to the "no recovery rule" when a UDP packet is lost or an error occurs during transmission.
Be aware, however, that there are significant security implications regarding the use of mobile softphones on employee-owned devices. While it's possible for your employees to simply download the appropriate software from their respective app store, your IT department should be involved with allowing access while also confirming that necessary security steps are taken. Also be aware that there are important reasons not to allow soft phone installations on private devices of any type because you may not be able to remove that phone client if the employee leaves the company, and because local laws may impact how much control you have over the use of the device.
The only additional piece of equipment that you need is an Analog Telephone Adapter (also referred to as an ATA) that allows you to connect your existing telephone to your home Internet. This equipment is typically provided on a free lease basis from the home VoIP provider that you choose, or you can use you own device if you prefer. You can also use IP phone(s) instead of using the ATA with your existing analog phones. The sound quality is better but there is more up front cost as IP phones are more expensive than the ATA devices.