A place called “IP Phone Warehouse” might sound biased in saying this… but IP phones are the number one choice for business telephony. IP phones, also called VoIP phones, use Internet protocol technology to connect to other endpoints. It’s an entirely different technology than analog and digital phones.
IP phones have a few misconceptions attached to them, most of which derive from what people think about when they imagine a phone. An analog cord connects an analog phone to an analog wall outlet (notice we’re talking “analog” here). The cord powers the phone and provides a connection to either the carrier or a phone exchange. VoIP phones are a tad different than this old fashioned system.
An Ethernet cable is required to connect a VoIP phone. By using an Ethernet or IP-based connection, VoIP phones can provide many, many more features and month-over-month savings. They can utilize the existing Ethernet infrastructure running through your building. Ethernet is also much simpler to maintain than copper analog wiring.
The IP phone cannot simply connect to the Internet and start working—for example, plugging the Ethernet cable into a network switch or the wall and crossing your fingers. A service or phone system is required.
There are many options available to VoIP phones and phone systems. This is where shopping for an IP phone can get fun. Everything from the phone’s operating system to the number of line appearances available can affect your productivity and return on investment.
Line appearances give your VoIP phone flexibility. The more line appearances that your phone has, the more incoming calls you can keep on hold at one time. For example, keeping calls on hold to transfer to a conference or to answer when you have the time.
Phones that support many line appearances are ideal for power users like receptionists and executives.
Some phones will offer LED buttons that correspond to the number of line appearances that are offered by the phone. An IP phone with eight line appearances might have eight LED keys, providing a convenient way to access extensions, speed dial numbers and incoming callers.
A typical IP phone has either one or two Ethernet ports behind it. The ports connect it to the switch or another network device. Having dual Ethernet ports enables the phone to connect to the network and a nearby computer at the same time. The computer and phone can share the connection.
A single Ethernet port provides security. When the phone is set up in a common area like a waiting room or hallway, there is no second Ethernet port available for someone to plug in laptop and potentially hack into the network.
Ethernet ports are available in either 10/100 or 10/100/1000 (gigabit-Ethernet) connectivity. Gigabit-Ethernet is more common in video phones or devices that process more bandwidth-intensive multimedia.
Power Options (PoE or AC)
Power supply options for VoIP phones in North America include PoE and AC. Phones with PoE-enabled switch ports can be powered by a PoE-ready network switch or a PoE injector. PoE is an acronym for “Power over Ethernet,” meaning that both power and data are transferred to the phone from a single Ethernet cable.
A number of phones that support PoE are not packaged with an AC adapter. Please keep that in mind when shopping for IP phones. Non-PoE phones utilize an AC power supply coming from a nearby wall plug. Power supplies vary by region—AC is the North American standard.
The basic principal behind how human speech works is that we need to use the same language in order to understand each other (excluding verbal cues and other clues). Technology like IP phones works similarly.
When VoIP was first introduced, the languages and protocols used by the phones were largely proprietary. Manufacturers were developing their own solutions with unique languages and protocols, largely interoperable with other manufacturers.
Today, the industry is pushing towards making IP technology easier to install and operate, which is incredibly helpful to small businesses that want to deploy VoIP. SIP is becoming an industry-standard protocol for VoIP telephony.
A protocol defines how the phone defines and reads signals it sends and receives. Phones, video conferencing equipment and more types of devices are readily supporting the SIP protocol. Another protocol to be aware of is Cisco’s SCCP protocol. VoIP phones built for Microsoft Lync are also available.
One consideration: make sure your phone system and phone endpoint share the same protocol. Otherwise they won’t be able to communicate.
Expanding a VoIP phone is critical for receptionists and power users. Expansion modules can give a phone more LED keys to view live extension statuses, busy lamp fields, speed dial numbers and more. Quickly connect callers to the right extension or dial out to important contacts.
Expansion modules are available with paper inlays that are used for labeling purposes. LCD expansion modules are inlayed with a miniature display instead of a paper label. An LCD display is more flexible than a paper inlay, letting the module perform functions like show more than one set of labels. LCD modules with a “page” key can switch between different sets of labels, letting one module do the work of two or more.
Additional Ports & Connections
Headset ports, USB ports, DECT radio, WiFi radio, Bluetooth… some phones come with a lot of options for connecting peripherals or accessing the network. If you have existing equipment like headsets, make sure they’re compatible with the desired phone.
DECT is a common technology used with wireless phones. It is highly secure, and provides a great distance between the handset and the base station. A few wireless phones also use WiFi, letting the handsets signal with existing compatible access points that are already situated throughout the building’s infrastructure. Desktop phones might also feature WiFi, but it is more prevalent in high-end models.
More to Consider
A VoIP phone with a loudspeaker and microphone, or speakerphone, is well suited for conferencing. Multiple participants can sit around the phone and share the speakerphone capabilities. Not all speakerphones are built the same. Some offer dual microphones, full duplex technology, noise cancellation, echo cancellation, wideband audio and more.
Seems fairly simple, right? An IP phone without any buttons is less of a phone and more of a bludgeoning device. There are different button types that can become very effectual towards the productivity of the phone.
Programmable keys provide quick access to user-specified applications and phone functions. Fixed keys on the phone are usually dedicated to supported functions like switching between the handset and a connected headset, call hold, volume and more. Context-sensitive keys mounted around the display change function as the user accesses new menus.
Speaking of the display… for some VoIP phones, a display is only necessary to show caller information. Higher-end IP phones might have touchscreen displays capable of streaming media and interacting with complex applications. More moderate-level displays can scroll though messages, emails and give detailed descriptions.
The size of the screen and its capabilities are important to consider.
Calling these features “advanced” doesn’t mean that they’re not affordable. It only means that they aren’t standard. For those that are seeking these features, they will provide an incredible level of productivity. These features include (some mentioned already):
- Android operating system
- Embedded camera
- Bluetooth interface
- Expansion modules
- Downloadable applications
- EHS headset support
An analog phone sure won’t support all of the features listed. VoIP is where carriers, manufacturers and IT personnel are focusing their efforts towards advancing telephony. Analog and digital telephony are at the end of their respective ropes.
The cost of maintaining the infrastructure is minimal, which is translated into monthly telephone bill savings for the business.
Top Reasons for VoIP
- Return on investment
- Low monthly bills
- Powerful features and applications
- HD/wideband audio
- Voice, video and UC services
Finding a VoIP Phone
Hopefully this piece answered some of your questions about what IP or VoIP phone to purchase. They offer a more expansion range of features than analog and digital phones. The return on investment is much more immediate, both in terms of productivity and monthly telephone service bills.
For additional assistance, contact IP Phone Warehouse’s free pre-sales tech support. Customer service agents are standing by via phone, email or Live Chat during regular business hours.
For help finding an IP PBX or VoIP service, contact IP Phone Warehouse. We can help you shop for the appropriate Phone System, SIP trunking service or VoIP provider.
Bottom line: if you still are not sure about what phone, phone system or service you need, Contact IP Phone Warehouse.
IP phones are designed for business. They are ready for home offices, small businesses, large businesses and enterprises. IP Phone Warehouse is stocked with phones from industry-leading manufacturers including Aastra, Avaya, Cisco, Digium, Grandstream, Polycom, Snom, Spectralink and Yealink.
Aastra – Recently acquired by Mitel. Commonly deployed with open source phone systems including Asterisk and Trixbox. These VoIP phones hail from Canada.
Avaya – Ready for the feature-rich Avaya IP Office phone system. Designed to boost productivity through a range of features.
Cisco – Cisco SPA and 7900 series IP phones are popular devices for single desktops or enterprise-wide deployments. The SPA series phones are known for being easy to provision and use.
Digium – Optimized for Digium’s own Asterisk and Switchvox solutions. Digium was a pioneer of open source telephony. Digium phones can access Asterisk-specific features.
Grandstream – Cost-effective VoIP and video phones for small businesses, with enterprise-grade features like Android, built-in cameras, WiFi and Bluetooth to support busy executives and managers.
Polycom – IP phones from Polycom feature high-end conferencing hardware. Most models are optimized for Microsoft Lync.
Snom – Incredibly durable line of VoIP phones. Well known for WiFi phones and offering features like USB sticks for call recording.
Spectralink – Builds wireless solutions for healthcare and enterprise environments. Handsets with safety features like “man-down” are ready for manufacturing and warehousing industries.
Yealink – Affordable VoIP phones built through intensive research and development. Models available include large touchscreen displays and easy to access navigation.