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7 Easy Steps to Set Up a VoIP Phone System at Home or the Office

More and more businesses are considering making the switch to VoIP.

Cheaper monthly bills and more advanced features are appealing, but some businesses still hesitate to follow through.

They think the hardware costs are too expensive, or that getting everything set up is going to be a time-consuming and challenging process.

But if you prepare and choose the right provider, your transition to a cloud phone system can be seamless.

We’ll show you exactly how to set up VoIP for your business, lower upfront costs, and get the most out of your new VoIP phone system.

Learn how to set up a VoIP phone system, step-by-step.

  1. Test Your Network and Internet Connection
  2. Invest In The Right VoIP Hardware
  3. Find a VoIP Provider with the Right Features
  4. How to Get a Business Phone Number
  5. Set Up Your VoIP Phone System
  6. Test Your New VoIP Lines
  7. Train Your Staff to Get The Most Out of VoIP Features

How Is a VoIP Phone System Different?

Before we jump into the details, we need to establish what sets Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone apart from an analog phone.

An analog telephone connects directly with the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) through dedicated landlines. Phone calls are facilitated by the local telephone company, effectively require a direct connection to a phone jack.

IP phones connect to the telephone network via a VoIP provider through the internet. It turns the audio into data packets and transmits them using the Internet Protocol (IP). The provider’s data center then transforms the signals into analog and transfers them through to the PSTN.

Since SIP phones don’t need dedicated landlines, it’s easier to scale an office with VoIP. With a traditional phone system, to share phone service with multiple employees, an on-premises Private Branch Exchange (PBX) is required.

Typical VoIP network setup for a small business.

Now that you know what VoIP is, let’s discuss how you can begin setting up your VoIP phone system.

1) Test Your Network and Internet Connection

You might be concerned about how much bandwidth VoIP uses, but a rule of thumb is about 100 kbps upload and download per line.

Most internet service providers now offer gigabit speeds with their business plans. So your current connection is more than likely fast enough for a VoIP phone system. One caveat is that some home connections have much slower upload speeds, such as some DSL connections.

In addition to speed, the issues that impact VoIP call quality are often related to the instability of a connection. Jitter and packet loss are two metrics to examine. A wired internet connection, like fiber or cable, is preferred. Microwave and other options are too unstable.

And your network hardware can also become a bottleneck. If the router or network can’t handle peak traffic, you could experience choppy audio or other issues like dropped calls. Wi-Fi works fine in most cases, but a wired connection is always better.

Take a VoIP speed test to stress test your network and identify potential issues. The results will give you a good idea of whether or not your connection can handle a VoIP installation.

You might also explore configuring Quality of Service (QoS) to prioritize VoIP packets and data. That way, voice traffic is placed above traffic like YouTube or Netflix, ensuring less latency and packet loss.

2) Invest In The Right VoIP Hardware

If you already have a VoIP provider, the next step of your VoIP setup is to invest in VoIP hardware. Since VoIP has become standard for businesses over the last few years, there are a lot of cutting-edge options.

If you want your phone calls to sound great, you should invest in a high-end VoIP desk phone like the Polycom VVX601. There are also less expensive options for both desk phones available if all you need is make and receive phone calls.

VoIP headsets are great to complement your business phone so you can walk around while on calls. Agents will have their hands available to look up customer information, chat with their team, or add notes to a CRM.

Plug the headset into the back of the VoIP phone.

Want To Keep Your Old Desk Phones? Use a VoIP Adapter

If you want to use your existing office phone equipment, you can still use it with VoIP. With an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA), you can make the switch to VoIP and keep all of your analog phones. The VoIP adapter functions between the phones and your network, digitizing the analog signals.

Since you don’t change any equipment, all staff members already know how to work the phones. You won’t need to train your staff.

Minimize Hardware Costs with Softphones

Another way to lower your costs is to consider using a business phone app instead of a desk phone. These apps are also known as softphones. You can download the softphone to your computer or smartphone.

Because VoIP uses the internet, you don’t need dedicated hardware. That way, you can skip some of the steps of an office phone installation.

The Nextiva App lets you take calls on computer or your smartphone.

A softphone is a piece of software or a mobile app that lets you receive and make phone calls. It works like a regular phone to handle phone calls. With a VoIP service, you can dial numbers on any telephone or mobile network.

With the Nextiva App for desktop, all you need to handle calls efficiently is a quality USB or Bluetooth headset. If you’re on your laptop, you already have a microphone and speakers ready for instant phone calls. The Nextiva App is also available for any Android or iOS device so your team can handle business calls on their cell phones.

3) Find a VoIP Provider with the Right Features

Switching to VoIP doesn’t just mean you can replace your landline. It’s also an opportunity to move your business communications into the 21st century, at no extra cost.

In late 2019, we surveyed over 1,000 professionals about business communication and used the insights to create the 2020 State of Business Communication Report. One of the key insights was that more than one in three companies had lost customers due to internal communication errors.

The right VoIP provider will help you overcome such issues. Your company will get the features you need to eliminate silos and create efficient, cross-department communications.

You could get a CRM, call analytics, and unified communications, not just phone service. So before you make your choice, make sure the provider has the right features your business needs.

Listed below are some of the VoIP features you get with Nextiva:

  • Advanced Call Routing: Route incoming calls to available agents in your business with flexible policies.
  • Auto Attendant: Welcome inbound calls with a recorded message and options to help guide them to the right department.
  • Call Analytics: Access detailed reports that show individual agent and call center performance.
  • Call Pop: Display relevant information about callers automatically when answering incoming calls.
  • Built-In CRM: Support your customers and equip your sales teams with one view of the customer.
  • IVR: Interactive Voice Response uses speech recognition to help customers reach the right department and solve simple issues.
  • Voicemail to Text: Improve the efficiency of responding to voicemail by receiving them via SMS.
  • Low-cost International Calls: Nextiva’s international calling rates start as low as $0.01 per minute.

For enterprises, we also offer unified communications and more advanced features like call encryption. In particular, Nextiva’s network has numerous redundant data centers that give your organization the high reliability and performance it needs to scale.

4) How To Get a Business Phone Number

Depending on your VoIP provider, a local phone number could be included with any VoIP plan that you choose. This is the case with Nextiva.

You have a few ways to get a phone number for your business. If you have one already, you would port it over. Otherwise, you can select a local number that’s available or choose a toll-free number.

Different Types of Phone Numbers:

  • Local Phone Numbers: A local area phone number is perfect for small businesses and companies that have a limited market area. Local numbers are usually free but can cost up to $10/month.
  • Toll-Free Phone Numbers: A toll-free number is an 800 number untied to location, and can seem more professional and trustworthy to your customers. Your customers won’t have to pay when calling your support lines. A toll-free number typically costs around $10/month.
  • Vanity Numbers: Vanity numbers are typically memorable toll-free numbers that spell out specific words, for example, 1-800-FLOWERS. These numbers usually cost somewhere between $10-50/month. To secure a recognizable number, you may also need to buy the number from a third-party vendor.

Nextiva provides local business phone numbers for all U.S. states and also offers toll-free and virtual phone numbers.

Related: How Do I Get a Business Phone Number?

If you don’t want a new number, Nextiva provides free porting so you can keep your existing phone numbers without any extra cost.

Keep Your Existing Business Number with Porting

Number porting is how you transfer phone numbers from your existing service provider to your new one. We handle the number porting for free for all Nextiva customers.

To transfer any number to Nextiva, follow the three simple steps below.

  1. Pick your business phone plan. Choose the plan that fits your business with powerful features.
  2. Request temporary numbers. Let us know that you need temporary numbers, and we will have them ready on day one. You can set up call forwarding with your old provider, and begin using Nextiva right away.
  3. Complete a Letter Of Agency (LOA). Provide all the necessary details so our staff can handle the porting process with your old provider.

After you complete this process, our staff handle the porting in 10-20 business days. We’ll keep you aware of its status so switching to VoIP is easy and seamless.

5) Set Up Your VoIP Phone System

Once you have a provider and hardware, it’s time to complete the setup in your office. The specific steps depend on hardware and the number of employees.

We only sell phones and handsets that are ready to plug-and-play. So below, we outline the simple process of getting your VoIP up and running with us. If you use other providers or purchase phones from a third-party, the process may require additional steps.

How to Set Up VoIP Desk Phones and Handsets

The necessary steps depend on the model that you’ve bought and your network setup. With a standard network switch in place, the setup process is simple. If you have Power over Ethernet (PoE), the electrical signal is carried in one wire — saving you from needing an AC adapter.

VoIP desk phones or handsets without PoE:

  • Plug the AC adapter into the outlet, then plug it into the phone or handset base.
  • Connect the IP phone to the switch or router using a CAT5e or CAT6 cable.
  • Wait for the phone to initialize, then check for dial tone.

If you have a router that supports Power over Ethernet (PoE), the process is slightly different but is even quicker.

VoIP desk phones to PoE-enabled routers:

  • Connect the phones with the PoE-enabled switch or router with Ethernet cables. Stay within the recommended max length for twisted pair cables of 328 feet.
  • Once connected, the phone should turn on. It should automatically establish a connection to your VoIP provider.

How to Set Up VoIP Headsets

Not all headsets offer the one-touch answer feature. To use it, you need a modern headset with one-touch enabled and connect it with Electronic Hook Switch (EHS) cables.

Diagram of how an Electronic Hook Switch installation works with a VoIP phone.

Wireless VoIP headsets and phones with EHS cable support:

  1. Plug the AC adapter into the closest outlet, and the base unit of the headset.
  2. Attach the EHS cable into the headset’s base unit.
  3. Plug the other end into the desk phone into the headset network port, and EHS port. For more detailed instructions, follow the EHS instruction manual.
  4. Put on the headset, and press the call control button to check the connection.

For wired headsets that use a regular phone jack, the process is even more straightforward.

Headsets and desk phones with headphone jacks/ports:

  1. Plug the headphone cable jack into the marked headset port with a direct connect cable. Many models mark the headset port with a small icon on the left.
  2. Put on the headset, and press the call control button to check for dial tone.
  3. Make a test call to confirm the volume and call quality. If the headset volume is low, you may need an amplifier.

6) Test Your New VoIP Lines

If you did everything right, and you have a fast connection, you won’t have any issues. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Things you should pay attention to when making the calls:

  • Audio Quality: Are calls clear and consistent? Is there any static or other sign of low-quality audio?
  • Latency: Are there significant delays between when you say something and the receiver hears it?
  • Connection Stability: Did any of the calls temporarily drop? Some firewall settings can cause calls to drop entirely after 11 minutes, so it’s worth testing for at least 15-30 minutes.

You should also try to test your lines when there is a lot of other network activity. Network congestion can lead to a variety of line issues, from dropped calls to choppy audio and more.

Pro Tip: A wired, direct connection is always preferable to using Wi-Fi. For minimal latency and other VoIP issues, go for Ethernet rather than Wi-Fi connection.

You could also call a diagnostic service number to confirm your caller ID by calling (800) 444-4444.

Related: 10 Common VoIP Problems (+Easy Fixes)

7) Train Your Staff to Get The Most Out of VoIP Features

For many small businesses, a switch to VoIP represents the first time they have meaningful business phone features.

These calling features aren’t typically included with traditional phone plans. With Nextiva, you can integrate the phones directly with a CRM, create custom routing policies, forward voicemails to email, call forwarding, record calls in the cloud, and much more.

To ensure your staff makes use of these features, you should set aside time to train your team.

You might think it’s not necessary. But it is. 63% of managers responded that the adoption of new technologies at their office was too slow. Employees want to use business communication equipment so they can focus on serving customers and closing sales.

With Nextiva, you don’t have to make your own training materials or presentations. You can use our extensive library of training videos, user manuals, and online guides. They make it easy to understand the new CRM interface and all its features.

Likewise, can also contact our customer support team if you want some one-on-one guidance and help on any issues.

Effortless VoIP Setup With Nextiva

One of the reasons our customers love us is because it is so easy to get started with Nextiva. We have tested everything and hand-picked a catalog of high-quality phones and hardware. We provision all of our phones so all you need to do is plug them in.

You don’t need to access phones by their IP address or mess with firmware to assign them to your VoIP account. Instead, you just need to assign the phones to your staff from a convenient online interface.

Our basic small business VoIP plan starts at just $20/user per month. It has all the features a growing business needs to operate. All our plans include unlimited calling in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. It’s the perfect phone system for remote teams. It works in the office and at home.

We’ve won many awards for our Amazing Service. We’ll help you every step of the way. They will help you with the installation, resolve any issues, and highlight the most useful features for your company.

About the author

Julie Bai is a product manager at Nextiva, UCaaS evangelist, no-bull communicator and translator for people, dog lover, and mother to an adorably active boy.