The IP Phone Explained
An IP phone is a telephone that uses the Internet to transmit voice data rather than a traditional phone line or cellular network. IP phones can take on many forms and shapes, including hardware-based phones, software-based phones (often called “softphones”) used on desktop or laptop computers, and a mobile app for smartphone and tablet use.
IP phones range from free VoIP applications (i.e. WhatsApp) downloaded from the Internet all the way to heavy-duty desk phones with premium features and capabilities. Depending on the needs of the enterprise and the functionality of the VoIP product, businesses of any size, industry, and/or budget can find an IP telephony solution that fits their unique company needs.
Why would I need an IP phone?
There are several benefits to IP telephony, so for many businesses, choosing an Internet-based phone system is a no brainer. Rather than using traditional business lines for day-to-day communications, VoIP technology offers businesses greater resilience to outages, allows for greater employee mobility, and can reduce total cost of ownership.
Since VoIP communications run through the Internet, power outages to the building (for example) do not completely knock out the phone system. Just as the cloud is accessible from anywhere an employee has an Internet connection, a company’s phone system functions the same way. Using a VoIP app, employees have the opportunity to forward incoming calls to their personal smart devices if their desk phones are unavailable or unreachable.
From both disaster recovery and worker mobility standpoints, this is perhaps the most obvious and popular benefit to adopting a cloud-based phone system.
VoIP technology plays a critical role in allowing office workers to use their work numbers outside the office without the need for separate cellular plans or hardware. Instead, employees can download a VoIP app on their personal smartphone or tablet to make and take business calls as normal.
Not only is this a strong feature for businesses with mobile employees, it’s also beneficial to employees that want to completely maximize their reachability in the event an important partner, colleague, client, or lead is trying to contact them.
Depending on the needs and/or size of the company, IP phones or services can lower total cost of ownership in a variety of ways:
- Hosted VoIP – Hosted VoIP systems are extremely beneficial for companies who want to completely minimize their capital expenditures. Since the hosting provider takes on the costs from hardware, maintenance, and upgrades, companies minimize upfront costs and their operating expenses are kept low and transparent. Additionally, the mobility benefits added from a hosted VoIP provider allow businesses to implement a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, which lets employees use their personal devices rather than company devices for office use.
- On-premise VoIP – For companies with more robust communications needs or greater in-house resources, an on-premise solution may be a more cost-effective option. Higher in capital than a hosted system, an on-premise PBX allows companies to greater control over their communications network and will become more cost-efficient with larger amounts of users.
Used in conjunction with either of these popular VoIP environments, computer-based softphones also lower costs for an enterprise. A softphone can be downloaded from the internet for free or may already be included with a providers’ VoIP service.