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You might have heard of the term Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP for short. You might also know that it has something to do with making phone calls. But what exactly is it and can it successfully replace your landline?
Before we begin, if you’re looking for a reliable VoIP provider and are ready to take the next steps, check out our list of top picks to find the best VoIP software for you.
Now, let’s dive deep. Here’s everything you need to know about VoIP and landlines.
What exactly is VoIP?
Voice over IP is simply a way to make phone calls through a broadband internet connection. No traditional landline or copper wiring necessary.
With the power of the internet, you can make phone calls and connect with people in a variety of formats online— whether that’s voice messaging, text, or video conference calls. As a business owner, a VoIP setup can prove to be a true advantage if you depend on a high volume of calls to stay in touch with your customers.
How is VoIP different from a landline?
There’s no doubt VoIP is increasing in popularity year over year as a cost-effective way for businesses to make phone calls. Still, there are key differences between a VoIP solution and a landline.
Key features of VoIP
- Needs a lot less hardware and infrastructure to function
- Improved extension, auto-attendant, and multi-party calling features
- Extremely cost-effective compared to a multiple-landline solution
- VoIP providers are mostly cloud-based, secure, and highly accessible
- Makes it easy to deploy regular updates and maintenance
- Can offer a cost-effective way for smaller businesses to access premium calling features
- Saves businesses money on IT expenses
- Lower charges per minute or for international calling
- Makes it easier to scale as your call needs change
- You can sign up and start using it in a matter of minutes
- Can come with built-in sales and CRM tools along with integrations
Key features of a landline
- Relies on a costly and largely outdated analog system
- Often relies on extra hardware to function well
- Can become costly over time and might not integrate with the rest of your business software as easily as a VoIP solution would
- Can take a while to implement into your business successfully
Put simply, the biggest differences between VoIP and landlines comes down to costs, flexibility, and convenience—-and VoIP blows traditional landlines out of the water almost every time.
Are there downsides to VoIP?
As great as VoIP can be, it does come with its share of limitations. These might or might not be a deal-breaker for your business, depending on where you stand. Some downsides associated with a VoIP solution are:
- Extra E911 feature fees for emergency calls
- The need for a reliable internet connection
- Initial onboarding costs associated with the software
- Potential online security concerns
- Potential poor call quality
One of the perks of using VoIP software is how easy it is to use anywhere you have access to an internet connection. With VoIP, any laptop, tablet, or smartphone can become a phone. On the other hand, this also makes it hard for emergency services to track any calls you make at any given time. If they try to look up an address associated with your VoIP number, emergency services will come up with an IP address. In a state of emergency where you can’t physically tell them where you are, this can become an issue.
However, back in 2005 the FCC imposed a mandate that all VoIP providers integrate an enhanced 911 (E911) solution to their services, which automatically shows your call location to emergency services any time you dial 911. This means your VoIP provider should offer a built-in E911 solution so your emergency calls can automatically be tied to a trackable address of your choosing. Once you’ve signed up for VoIP, you can simply go through your settings to set and update a designated E911 address.
The problem is, not every VoIP provider complies with this mandate–and some that do comply offer the E911 services at additional cost rather than for free. So it’s important to check with any VoIP providers you’re considering first to get familiar with the E911 solutions they offer as a safety precaution if any.
A reliable internet connection
With the use of VoIP software comes the need for a reliable internet connection with as much uptime as possible. Without a robust internet connection, you’re looking at latency issues, a higher rate of dropped calls, and poor call quality. As you adopt VoIP software, you’ll want to establish a strong internet connection first by checking in with your internet service provider and account for this change as part of your budget.
In other words, you need at least a megabyte of available bandwidth to successfully handle ten calls simultaneously as a general rule of thumb. Keep in mind this doesn’t account for additional bandwidth you’ll need for any other online business activities. Moreover, this brings us to the potential onboarding costs of VoIP.
Much like other business software, you might be looking at initial onboarding costs once you transition to VoIP.
Costs can range from needing to increase your bandwidth, employee training, the number of lines needed, or new compatible hardware like headsets and phones. The costs ultimately depend on the VoIP software you choose and the plans and features it offers.
This is, of course, assuming you don’t go with a free but less reliable option like Skype or Google Voice. If that’s the case and you’re onboarding a small team that doesn’t need too much to make calls successfully, you might not incur too many startup costs.
Virtually anything you do online can be subject to security concerns. And using VoIP as your communications solution isn’t any different. Your VoIP account could be subject to malware, caller ID spoofing, DoS attacks, spyware, or even phishing attacks.
But with a reliable VoIP provider, security concerns can be minimized and accounted for, especially with a cloud-based solution. A reputable VoIP provider will offer firewall-like security features to cover any vulnerabilities that may arise with the use of a VoIP. To add, advanced call encryption can be yet another way to ensure your VoIP system stays clear of malicious attacks.
However, if you’re truly concerned about security issues, you’ll want to check in with your prospective VoIP provider about any accreditations they have. Depending on your industry, this is an important part of the puzzle that shouldn’t go overlooked.
For instance, HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, mandates that healthcare providers protect sensitive patient information—which applies to their voicemails and call data.
PCI or Payment Card Industry Compliance mandates certain security measures if you take and store sensitive credit card information over the phone or otherwise.
SOC 2 Compliance or Service Organization Control Compliance, is a procedure that audits the security compliance of a provider to ensure that it’s correctly monitoring and securing the data of its customers and that customer’s clients. This is a great accreditation to look out for when searching for a reliable VoIP provider.
If you’re a business that deals with extremely sensitive information, then you’ll want to pay close attention to the security features of any VoIP provider you’re considering and do your due diligence in asking in-depth questions about its security certifications to make sure you’re covered and up to date.
Potential poor call quality
If you do decide to go the VoIP route, you’re bound to come against potential poor call quality if your bandwidth is overburdened. This can mean you’re working with a poor ISP or you have too many people using your bandwidth simultaneously.
This is why we recommend you check with your ISP before onboarding any VoIP solutions. This way you minimize the chances of having dropped or poor call quality be a real issue in your network.
Can you replace your phone with VoIP?
The short answer is yes. You can, in fact, replace your traditional phone set up with VoIP. But before you do, it’s worth looking into the costs and benefits of doing so.
First, you’ll have to decide if you need a VoIP setup for personal use or for your business (or for both). There are different costs and benefits to doing either.
Setting up VoIP for personal use
To set up a VoIP solution at home, you need a VoIP-compatible device. If you want to use an actual phone, you might have to use an analog telephone adapter. If you’re using a laptop or desktop computer, you’ll need to install the appropriate software and ensure you have access to your computer’s microphone and speakers.
A home VoIP setup is great if you need to work remotely, or you want to get rid of your landline phone but still want a reliable home phone connection using the internet.
The costs of a VoIP home setup vary and largely depend on the features you’re looking for— whether you simply want the basics or are in need of advanced calling tools. Prices can range anywhere from $20 a month to three times as much.
For a home phone setup you’ll use for personal needs, you can also opt for the free route, and use a home VoIP service like Google Voice.
You’ll benefit from a phone connection through which you can make international calls at any time and not have to rack up per minute fees. A personal VoIP phone connection also means you can take it anywhere and use it on a smartphone with access to a reliable internet connection.
Setting up VoIP for your business
There’s no doubt going with VoIP is an increasingly attractive route for businesses to take mainly because of how cost-effective it can be. The cost-saving perks also bleed into the setup process of a VoIP solution for businesses. Usually, successfully onboarding a VoIP solution looks like this:
- Finding a reliable VoIP provider that’s compatible with your business needs
- Either keep your existing business number or get a new one through your VoIP provider
- Set up your VoIP hardware and configure your phones
- Test and configure your VoIP service to work out any errors and ensure compliance standards
- Train your employees to use your newfound software according to your business workflow and best practices
Once you’re set up and ready to go, you’ll benefit from being able to capture voicemail, text, video conferences, emails, chat support, and more from one centralized place. Moreover, if in the future your business sees growth, it’s relatively easy to scale your VoIP setup and add more call lines, integrations, or advanced calling features.
All in all, it’s safe to say choosing to go with a VoIP solution for businesses is absolutely worth it.
Which is better: VoIP or a landline?
You might be wondering about choosing between a VoIP or a landline connection. Small startups and enterprise businesses alike can benefit from the updated features of VoIP software. This is truer still if you run a call center or your business relies on a hefty amount of phone calls to run successfully.
VoIP is mainly used because it facilitates making multiple calls at a time with less hardware, is cost-effective, and can connect customer support with customers much faster through automations, queues, and added features.
In short, there’s no doubt VoIP is the future of voice calling as it takes over additional market share. Once you learn all about the features and costs of VoIP and landlines, it quickly becomes a question of when you should adopt VoIP software instead of if.
Hopefully, this VoIP vs. landlines guide helped shed some light on your decision-making process. For more, don’t forget to check out our carefully curated list of the best VoIP software on the market where we go in-depth on what each VoIP provider offers.