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VoIP Phone Systems 2017 Buyers Guide

This buyers guide (updated for 2017) will give you a comprehensive overview of VoIP phone systems. You'll learn exactly what VoIP phone systems are, how they operate and how much it'll cost your business to make the switch to VoIP. Expert Market have also reviewed over 200 suppliers to find the best five VoIP phone system deals for small, medium and large-sized businesses. Read on for our top picks.


Top 5 Business VoIP Phone Providers Comparison

ProviderBest FeatureMoney Back GuaranteePriceEditor's RatingCompare Prices
Same Day Activation & Setup30 days. Cancel anytime.From $24.99/mo per user Get Quotes >
Easy Integration with CRM software30 days on select plans. Cancel anytime.From $9.99/mo for 12 monthsGet Quotes >
Award-winning 24/7 Customer Support30 days. Pay for usage.From $19.99/moGet Quotes >
4-year Garnter Magic Quadrant Leader30 days.From $79.99/moGet Quotes >
Cloud, Onsite, or Hybrid SolutionsCancel Anytime. Fees apply.From $40.00/moGet Quotes >

Complete our short form to find the perfect VoIP provider for your business.

On This Page
Top 5 VoIP Service Providers Comparison
What is a VoIP Phone?
How VoIP Works
6 Advantages of Switching to VoIP
How Much Does a VoIP Phone System Cost?
Potential Drawbacks
Our Verdict
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is VoIP?

 


VoIP is an acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol. Simply put, VoIP phone systems allow you to make calls over the Internet. Rather than relying on your local phone company, you can use a VoIP service to make and receive calls wherever there’s an internet connection.

Even if your business doesn’t have a VoIP phone system installed currently there’s a strong chance that you’re already using VoIP to make long distance calls. Many major service providers like Verizon already taking advantage of VoIP systems, especially when servicing long distance or international calls since it’s cheaper than using a landline.


The Rise of VoIP Technology

It's easy to see why VoIP phone technology is fast over taking landlines in the United States. Its affordability, ease of use and revolutionary functionality has made VoIP the preferred communication system for thousands of U.S. businesses. Unsurprisingly, VoIP has even begun to make its way into our homes. As of 2017, it’s estimated that over 74 million people have a Skype account that they use to contact friends and family.


Did You Know? Experts predict that by 2018 only 6% of US businesses will use traditional landline networks.


The rise of VoIP services can be attributed to two factors.

First, the significant cost savings compared to landlines. And secondly, the flexibility of its service. With VoIP, it’s possible to make cheap, crystal-clear calls from anywhere with broadband or WiFi connection which makes long-distance calls more viable.

In recent years, service providers like Cisco and 8x8 have developed apps that you can download to your smartphone which let you make calls using their VoIP service at no extra charge. For businesses with a mobile workforce, VoIP technology enables them take their phones or ATAs on work trips and easily stay connected.


What type of phone system do you require?


How VoIP Works

How Does a VoIP Phone System Work?

VoIP phone systems rely on a process known as packet switching to make and receive calls. With packet switching, fragments of speech are sent back and forth between speakers in small data “packets” during the call. VoIP gateways are then used to compress the data at the one end and reassemble that same data at the other end so that the conversation remains unbroken.

How Do Landlines Work?

Landlines by comparison rely on a process called circuit switching. Circuit switching is what traditional phone systems use and it has been in use for more than 100 years. With circuit switching, the connection is maintained throughout the duration of the call.

Landlines Vs. VoIP: Which is Better?

VoIP phone systems are the preferred choice of many US businesses because they are cheaper and more convenient than landlines. VoIP technology allows your voice to travel along the most cost effective and least congested lines which saves both parties time and money.

Compare the best VoIP phone system providers by filling in the form at the top of the page.

Equipment Needed for VoIP

With VoIP phones, there isn’t just one way to make a call. There are currently three major types of VoIP phone systems that businesses can opt for, all with their own unique hardware and software requirements.

A Phone Adaptor (ATA)

ATA adaptors are one of the most common and simplest methods of using VoIP. An ATA is an analog-to-digital converter that allows you to connect your existing desktop phone to your computer and use the internet to make calls.

Best Overall ATA

Cisco SPA112

Price:$35

With the Cisco SPA112, you get all the typical features that come with a VoIP phone system including; Caller ID, call waiting, voicemail, and more. The Cisco SPA11 system is one of the best on the market for voice quality, making it a great choice for teams who demand crystal-clear sound during conference calls. Read full Cisco review.

Supplier Rating:
Get Quotes

Pros:

Quick setup, Can use existing desktop phone


Cons:

You must use your desktop phone to make and receive calls


Computer-to-Computer

This method of using VoIP allows you to contact someone via a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. The computer-to-computer method is the most commonly used today because it’s free, easy to use and no additional hardware is required. In less than five minutes, businesses can install voice communication software like Skype and quickly make a call to someone anywhere in the world.

The downside of this method is that it’s best suited for videoconferencing on the fly since audio-visual quality suffers when using bandwidths under 100kbps. For startups or small businesses looking to make long-distance calls cheaply however computer-to-computer remains an easy and affordable option.

Pros:

Easy to use, Great for small businesses


Cons:

You need 100kbps bandwidth for a crystal-clear call


IP Phone

IP phones look and feel just like traditional phones but they have a Registered Jack 45 instead of the standard RJ11 connector. The Registered Jack 45 cable can be connected to your router and used to make IP calls via the phone’s onboard software. Specially designed IP phones come with a wide range of handy features, like voice-to-email messaging, call forwarding, and more.

Best Overall IP Phone

Polycom VX 600

Price:$195

The Polycom VX600 boasts a number of impressive features, making its $195 price tag a worthwhile investment. The Polycom VX 600 comes with a 4.3” gesture-controlled touch screen interface, full HD audio and even lets you manage your Microsoft Exchange calendar on the fly. Read full Polycom review.

Supplier Rating:
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Pros:

Affordable calls, Impressive host of features


Cons:

High setup cost, Can slow down speed of other computers on network


2 Types of VoIP Phone System

With a VoIP phone system you have two choices: a hardphone or a softphone setup. Both have merit, but hardphones generally provide better functionality and superior audio-visual quality and so are the preferred choice of many businesses.

What is a VoIP hardphone?

Hardphones (or IP phones) are desktop phones that look and feel like traditional phone systems, except they have built-in technology that allows them to connect to your router and make calls via the internet.

What is a VoIP softphone?

Softphones by comparison are apps or pieces of software like Skype that can be installed on any device and let you make calls from within that app or software.


6 Advantages of VoIP Phone Systems

VoIP benefits

✔ Low Cost

Legacy phone systems for larger companies require separate PBX tie lines. These, in turn, require more maintenance, which requires more manpower. By contrast, VoIP phone systems can be integrated into the company's existing digital network.

Read More: Read our review of the 10 best hosted PBX phone systems

Prices and services vary considerably so it's wise to shop around for the best deal to suit your business requirements. As the technology develops, the options and price plans change too.

For example, a few years back Vonage seemed a reasonable alternative to AT&T at around $30 a month but now other, cheaper business VoIP phone solutions are available. Systems from RingCentral, 8x8 and others now start as low as $19 a month. This means that VoIP phone systems are now often the cheapest option for small and medium sized businesses.

✔ Easy CRM Integration

VoIP services can easily be integrated to work with other digital services like CRM software that your office uses. For example, voicemails can be transcribed and handily delivered via your email client so that you can read the message on the move.

✔ Full HD Conference Calls

Because VoIP systems are digital, they have the advantage of coming with a whole host of features that are unavailable on a legacy phone system. To the delight of businesses everywhere, most VoIP systems include a Full HD GUI (or "Graphical User Interface"). The GUI is an especially powerful feature for teams that regularly make conference calls, as it allows invitees to join the meeting remotely with full video visuals.

With VoIP it is also easy to add new features as and when you need them, which is far more difficult when using a traditional phone system.

✔ Increased Portability

VoIP systems don't depend on a specific line to manage call traffic. As a result, an individual employee's extension isn't tied to their desk but to their phone so they can make and receive calls on the go.

✔ Revolutionary Features

Because VoIP systems are digital, they have the advantage of coming with a whole host of features that are unavailable on a legacy phone system. To the delight of businesses everywhere, most VoIP systems include a GUI (or "Graphical User Interface"). The GUI is an especially powerful feature for teams that regularly make conference calls, as it allows invitees to join the meeting remotely with full video visuals.

With VoIP it is also easy to add new features as and when you need them, which is far more difficult when using a traditional phone system.

✔ Deep Data Analytics

VoIP makes it easier than ever to track valuable information. With VoIP calls are logged, wait times are tracked, and you can even grant employees the ability to record specific calls on the fly - making it easy for you to learn where your call staff are going right and wrong.


How Much Does a VoIP Phone System Cost?

The cost of setting up your VoIP phone system will depend on the number of users you have, your budget and whether or not you require new hardware or software. Many top suppliers also offer fully integrated cloud solutions for a flat monthly fee. After reviewing over 200 suppliers across the US for reliability, cost and customer service, Expert Market's top 5 picks can be found below.

ProviderMoney Back GuaranteePriceEditor's RatingCompare Prices
30 days. Cancel anytime.From $24.99/mo per user Get Quotes >
30 days on select plans. Cancel anytime.From $9.99/mo for 12 monthsGet Quotes >
30 days. Pay for usage.From $19.99/moGet Quotes >
30 days.From $79.99/moGet Quotes >
Cancel Anytime. Fees apply.From $40.00/moGet Quotes >

Potential Drawbacks of Using VoIP

Before upgrading your existing phone system, you should be mindful of any and all limitations of using a VoIP service. Like any new technology, VoIP has a few potential drawbacks which may affect how useful it would be for your business.

Here are two important things to consider:

Internet Connection Problems

VoIP phone systems rely on an Internet connection to make and receive calls, so having a strong and stable connection is key.

If you have a poor internet connection, with a VoIP phone system you could be talking on your smartphone one minute, something could sap your desktop’s processor the next, and as a result you could lose connection completely in the middle of an important conversation.

Emergencies

VoIP phones access phone numbers via IP addresses so this could cause problems if someone calls 911 from one.

Unlike calls from a landline that can give emergency services an exact location, IP addresses cannot be found so easily. So, if the caller is unable to tell the operator his location that could pose a real problem. While this issue isn’t likely to affect most businesses, companies in the hospitality industry may want to consider this before making the switch.


Our Verdict

All things considered it makes good business sense to switch your company’s communications to a VoIP phone system. VoIP technology has countless benefits and with such a large number of top providers to choose from, it’s never been a better time to upgrade. If you require help choosing the VoIP phone system that’s right for your business, fill in the short form at the top of this page to receive bespoke quotes.


FAQs

What is a VoIP system?

VoIP stands for "Voice over Internet Protocol", which is the technical term for a system that makes audio connections over the internet rather than via a traditional landline.

How does VoIP work?

VoIP technology takes analog audio signals like those used by traditional phone systems and turns them into data that can be transferred in real-time from device to device.

Why should I switch to a VoIP Phone System?

Upgrading to a VoIP phone system has many advantages, including:

✔ More Freedom

With a VoIP phone system your business isn’t reliant on major service providers who charge a premium for long-distance or international calls.

✔ Cheaper Calls

Businesses can save up to 30% with VoIP phones compared to traditional phone systems because suppliers offer a reduced rate since no landlines, complicated set-up or additional hardware is required.

✔ Make & Receive Calls From Anywhere

With a VoIP phone system you can take calls from your existing number at your desk, at home or while away on a business trip. Simple.

Take the Plunge: Get VoIP quotes from top suppliers