When you're considering a new VoIP phone system for your business, it's important to include stakeholders from all of the key parts of your business in the planning and decision making process. Yes, this especially includes the IT staff and the data security folks since your voice communications will now be data. But it also needs to include folks who will be using the system to get work done, especially the work that drives revenue and engages customers. These people have invaluable insights into what's really needed versus what's simply cool and new. Plus, you'll need their input to select a phone system that will actually move your business forward as well as fit into your IT environment.
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Softphones are increasing in importance in VoIP offerings to the point that for some they're the only choice. They are a critical part of UCaaS and are as common on mobile phones and tablets as they are on desktop PCs. For workers in call centers, softphones are a common tool because of they're the front-end window of any CRM or help desk integration. So, for example, a softphone can combine a telephone conversation with text chat and screen sharing, which means a conversation between two employees can seamlessly add more participants, handle private text chats between those participants while the call is still going on, and extend to a collaboration session in which the group shares screens, documents, and data—no prep, no reserved lines, just button clicks.
Cable companies and Internet providers will also provide a bridge device where your phones stay the same and the VoIPing simply happens on the back-end. Just remember that these devices dictate what kinds of features the provider can offer you, so be sure you know what these devices are capable of since there'll likely be more than one model to choose from.
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.
Before you can start considering a phone system, you need to figure out what it's going to be used for, and how much of your business will be involved. You need to look at your existing phone system and decide whether you're going to simply keep all of it and bolt some VoIP functionality on top, retain only part of it, or replace the whole thing. Frequently, a total replacement isn't in the cards if only because some parts of your existing phone system can't be easily changed over to softphones or even desktop VoIP phones. For example, if you have a heavy manufacturing environment with outdoor activities, such as a steel fabrication yard or even a landscaping company, your old outdoor phones may be exactly what you need. You also need to decide what features of the existing phone system are required, and what features of a future phone system you feel are necessary to carry into the future.
VoIP service simply enables your phone calls to be transmitted and received over your home Internet connection instead of your telephone landline. This is perhaps why some people refer to the service as being an Internet phone service or broadband phone service. This does mean though that you need a high speed Internet service to be able to use VoIP for your phone service.