Bionic's guide to business VoIP phone systems

Getting your communication system right is hugely important for any small business. Increasingly, companies are turning to internet-based telephone services such as VoIP for business to handle their calls in the digital age.

This guide will explain what VoIP is, how the system works, and how you can find the right deal for your business.

What is VoIP?

A Voice over Internet Protocol - or VoIP - phone system is a software-based technology that allows businesses to make voice phone calls through an internet connection. VoIP phone systems are increasingly common in businesses because they are generally seen as being more reliable, faster, cheaper and ‘future proof’ compared to regular phone lines.

What is hosted VoIP?

A hosted - or ‘managed’ - VoIP is a system in which the infrastructure for that system is based in the cloud and provided by a third party, rather than on your business premises.

Usually, you would pay a monthly fee for hosted VoIP services, with your provider maintaining the physical kit needed in a data centre off-site. Many businesses find this the easiest way to use a VoIP phone service.

How does VoIP work?

Voice over IP phone systems work by converting the sound of users’ voices into digital data ‘packets’. These packets are transmitted either online or through a local area network (LAN). Once they reach their destination - which, unlike traditional phone calls, happens almost instantaneously - these packets are decoded and decompressed so that the user hears them as a voice.

From your point of view as a small business, you might not need to know much about the technology, but you will want to know how to actually use it. To use a VoIP business phone line, you can either use a software or hardware-based system.

A hardware-based VoIP system will look and work just like a traditional phone and could include extra services such as voicemail in the normal way. A software-based system uses an app that is installed on a computer or mobile, which allows access to mobile VoIP.

Why use VoIP for business?

VoIP phones are increasingly favoured by businesses of all sizes looking for a communications system. That is because they tend to be quicker, faster and more adaptable than traditional phone services.

For a small business, they are definitely worth considering as both the set-up cost and call charges are much cheaper than they would be using most traditional systems. 

They are also flexible and adaptable, which is ideal for small businesses. In fact, with a software-based Voice over IP phone system, you can make calls from anywhere, meaning you are not trapped in your office. You can also scale up the system quite easily, as most VoIP providers will be able to add workspaces or phones to your system with limited hassle. Again, for many small businesses this could prove very useful.

How to choose the best VoIP for your small business

When choosing which VoIP provider to work with - and which package to buy - there are a number of things you should consider. The main two variables are pricing and what services or features your provider offers as part of their package.

There are several steps to take to work out how much a VoIP phone package will cost your business. The main monthly cost is a fixed price per user. But providers will also charge extra for additional phone numbers if you need them. For example, your business might operate in several locations, so you may want to give customers in different regions their own unique number.

You will also be charged for the calls you make. Just as with your mobile phone contract, you would normally buy VoIP call packages, or bundles, such as 1,000 minutes to local numbers. But do check what call charges will be once you use up your bundle and think about how much you will use your phone line.

In terms of services, providers will offer a huge range, with more expensive deals coming with plenty of optional extras. These might include call transfer services, voicemail, call recording, SMS transmission or call screening - to name but a few. Again, think about what your business needs before agreeing to a deal.

Whatever you decide, try to get three or four quotes together before signing up to a VoIP contract.

How much do VoIP call packages cost?

VoIP call packages can cost just a few pounds a month or as much as £30 a month. But, as you’d expect, the range of prices means there is also a wide variety of services you might receive for the money paid.

The same provider might offer a package of £5 a month and another at £25. But the more expensive deal will also generally offer more options in terms of the number of lines and additional services they provide. Additional phones can cost anything up to £500, so if you don’t have enough included in your initial package, costs can soon start adding up.

As always, think about what services you need before signing up to one particular package.

Do you need to change your number when switching to VoIP?

To switch your phone provider but keep your existing phone number - whether it’s a VoIP system or otherwise - you need to ensure that your provider has a porting process. 

Most providers will offer this service, but not all, and even if they do it can sometimes be a complicated process. On the other hand, many providers will allow you to select a phone number to suit the location in which you do business.

Do you need to change your phones when switching to VoIP?

If you are currently using a traditional phone service, there is a good chance you will have to change phones when switching to VoIP. If you are using physical handsets - ie if your VoIP system is hardware-based - those handsets will have to be VoIP compatible.

If you are using a software-based system, you are likely to be taking calls through a computer or mobile device, so your old phones will be essentially redundant in any case.

How to switch to VoIP with Bionic

With so many providers now offering Voice over IP phone services for small businesses, the choice can be bewildering. At Bionic, we can help you navigate through the multitude of offers out there for you.

Our team of experts will establish what type of VoIP you need, which providers have the best deals, and how you can negotiate the best terms available. 

Give us a call today and together we can start you on the journey to a better business communication system.