Should your business switch from landlines to VoIP?
You’re likely wondering about how VoIP works and how it compares to landline phone service.
One of the top factors to consider in a business phone system is reliability.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about making the switch to a reliable cloud VoIP system.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is VoIP, and how does it work?
- Differences between VoIP and landlines
- VoIP vs. landline: Which is more reliable?
- Tips for choosing a reliable VoIP provider
What is VoIP, and how does it work?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a phone system that establishes calls through an internet connection. Unlike a traditional phone system, Voice over IP connects to a hosted PBX away from your office in the cloud.
VoIP works by converting phone calls into a digital signal and sending over the same high-speed internet connection to a VoIP service provider. From there, the VoIP relays calls to other telephone carriers, which is also known as the Publicly Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).
Voice over IP means calls originate from a desk phone, a conference phone, or even an app. The underlying technology uses Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), which is a set of open standards for real-time communication. Popular personal apps like Google Voice, WhatsApp, and Skype also use VoIP for audio calls.
The best thing about VoIP is the freedom to control where incoming calls go. You’re not limited to one line per desk phone like you would with a traditional business phone system. You can take calls anywhere using any mobile device or softphone.
The only thing VoIP needs is a high-speed internet connection, which currently 92% of Americans can access, according to the FCC.
What are the differences between VoIP and landlines?
The most noticeable difference that you're not dealing with the local telephone company. VoIP is often provided by an independent carrier.
Another huge difference is the fact that the landline phone system can only operate where it is installed. VoIP solutions don't have this limitation. VoIP is completely location-agnostic.
Landlines require physical wires to run to every device you wish to operate. For offices, this means they have a server room with bulky networking and telecom equipment. These are often called an on-premises Private Branch Exchange (PBX).
VoIP phone systems are cloud-based. You don’t need a server room in your office, nor a maze of copper wires spanning the room. Those telephone system connections are virtual — hosted through an internet connection.
We can’t overlook the fact that VoIP requires different types of phones and devices. Each mobile device needs a network connection over Ethernet or Wi-Fi. IP phones provide more features than landline telephones, and audio quality is outstanding.
VoIP vs landline: which is more reliable?
Wired on-site phone systems have been around for more than a hundred years, but we rarely question its reliability.
There's a lot to consider when it comes to uptime and reliability for your business communications.
Uptime is the percentage of time that a provider is online and is functioning. Typically expressed as a percentage, 99.999% uptime means that only six minutes a year, service might not be available.
The IT industry calls this "five nines," which is the gold standard for uptime.
For a VoIP phone system, uptime revolves around the VoIP provider, its carriers, and the reliability of devices installed. To accomplish such a high uptime, cloud PBX providers leverage a redundant network of data centers. These servers are also known as Points of Presence (or "POPs").
Landline phones are prone to outages from weather, power outages, and wire cuts. It can often take hours or days for the phone company to restore service. Additionally, it might not always be clear about the cause of such issues. Unified communication failures can be caused by faulty equipment or something else outside of your control.
As long as you have a reliable internet connection, you can use VoIP. If your internet goes down, you can always route your phone calls to your cell phone until it's fixed.
VoIP works even when you lose power or internet service.
2. International calls
If your company serves customers from outside of the U.S., international calling is a must. International dialing is a bit intimidating with different country codes and calling prefixes.
The wrong dial could cost you a lot of money.
The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is beholden to costly long-distance fees for international calls, which can easily be a dollar per minute or more. Most businesses don't have extra cash for conducting sales over the phone. Even on a business plan, these fees are cost-prohibitive.
For VoIP, global calling is a huge advantage.
Since phone calls are established over the internet, reliable VoIP calls start at a penny per minute. Businesses can also set up toll-free and virtual phone numbers to make it more affordable for global customers to speak with your team.
Let's say you have a remote team connected to your call center. The power of VoIP lets you accept and place voice calls as if you're in the United States. No long-distance tolls get in the way. A high-speed internet connection is the only requirement.
Before switching to VoIP, security is a frequent topic of discussion. Data security and business continuity are in the minds of every CIO when they consider a new business phone system.
Unscrupulous people could eavesdrop onto old phone lines, especially if wiring is accessible. Likewise, some traditional PBX systems can be exploited to make unauthorized calls.
Cloud PBXs meet stringent security standards to ensure your calls are secure. The data centers are under constant monitoring and can withstand natural disasters.
Call encryption is a newer enhancement to VoIP. Through TLS and SRTP, data exchanged between SIP phones and the cloud PBX are encrypted.
Small businesses aren't exempt from proper security practices, either. Their cardmember agreements often mandate they take steps to protect customer data.
When it comes to security, VoIP is more secure than a landline service. The servers are monitored 24/7 and validated by third-parties to check for vulnerabilities. With landlines, it's your responsibility to make sure that nobody gains access.
4. Call quality
Call quality is an important reason why people switch to VoIP. Once you hear a call over VoIP, you won't ever want to go back to a traditional phone system.
Higher call quality is made possible through advancements in audio codecs. These technologies are included in most VoIP phones and apps. HD voice codecs offer twice as much bandwidth, which means everyone can hear a wider range of sound in every call.
Call quality is even more of an issue when audio conferencing into a meeting. Echoes, background noise, calling from a mobile phone annoy everyone on the call. With VoIP's advanced features, it's a night and day difference.
If there's a wiring issue or a handset problem with landlines and cell phones, they become quite apparent and a distraction. The advancements in VoIP desk phones, conference phones, and apps make call quality enjoyable for all participants on a call.
It might appear worrisome to suggest that redundancy is a topic worth exploring for phone systems, but in these present times, it's not. The ability to set up call forwarding for different team members or use video conferencing at home is now much more relevant.
A VoIP provider has this built-in redundancy. Even if there are network interruptions like jitter, commonplace for IP-based networks, your calls stay online.
Landlines have a single point of failure. With VoIP, you always have a backup available. And when that doesn't work, you can accept calls directly on your smartphone with a free VoIP app.
How to choose a reliable VoIP provider
Cloud-based phone systems are more reliable than a traditional landline. Not all VoIP services are alike, however.
Here are a few recommendations to help you select the most reliable VoIP provider.
1. Check your provider's uptime
The first thing to check when choosing a VoIP telephone service provider is the uptime. Check into the real-time conversation on Twitter and compare it to the status page maintained by the VoIP provider. Doing so will give you a clue how often their service goes offline.
We've invested millions into building a scalable voice network made for business. And when we perform maintenance, we publish updates openly on our status page.
2. Check for certifications
Certifications help you determine if a VoIP phone service provider meets industry standards. Look for HIPAA, PCI, and SOC 2 Compliance.
Medical offices should only use HIPAA-compliant phone systems for discussing matters with patients. Certain VoIP features may need to be adjusted to meet such high standards for privacy.
Instead of building your infrastructure to meet these aggressive certifications, look toward a VoIP phone system to reduce your maintenance costs.
3. Get to know their VoIP features
Now that you have an idea of which cloud phone systems you want, it's time to compare essential business features.
The advantage of a VoIP phone system is that you can add features at a minimal cost. So if you don't need a specific feature now, you can instantly activate it later.
Which features matter for a business? Here is a list of top features you'll want from your phone provider:
- Auto-attendant: When a customer calls your company's phone number, auto attendants guide them to reach the right person on your team. When the caller makes their selection, the call is forwarded to the desired extension automatically.
- Call waiting: When your staff is on the phone, they might want to take an urgent call. Call waiting lets them answer a call and place the current call on hold. Or the incoming call can be directed to voicemail if you want.
- Voicemail: Any phone system today wouldn't be relevant if it didn't provide voicemail. Look for new voicemail capabilities such as getting messages in your email, as a text message, and more. These robust features will help your company save time.
- Caller ID: You can change the caller ID of your business phone when making outbound calls. This is useful because some customers might not answer the phone if the number looks unfamiliar—such as a different area code.
- Call Recording: This isn't your parent's cassette tape recorder. Cloud-based call recording is a powerful improvement over regular phone systems. Recording phone calls on-demand or automatically gives your team new ways to coach and train staff.
4. Test out their live customer support
Now that you have a provider in mind for your business phone system, it's time to test their customer support team. More than just a subjective topic, here are a few ways you can measure it:
- Availability: Is live customer support available around the clock? How do you get in touch with them?
- Responsiveness: How long do you wait on hold? How long does it take to get a response?
- Quality: Are the reps knowledgeable and friendly? Do they take the time to understand the problem?
You shouldn't necessarily need to be a customer to compare the customer service between different VoIP providers.
For enterprises, take the time to see if your VoIP provider offers a Service Level Agreement (SLA). These agreements specify certain requirements and timelines for maintenance, response time, and compensation for qualifying events.
Moving to the cloud is easier than you think
So, is VoIP reliable? You bet it is. Nextiva has been helping companies move their phone systems to the cloud for nearly 13 years. It's not a new thing for us. We've worked with startups as well as enterprises with many offices across the U.S.
We know that upgrading your phone system can feel intimidating. Business leaders don't want any downtime. It's why we've built a professional-grade voice network that supports over 100,000 businesses.
Our onboarding team works to ensure your migration goes smoothly. You'll be in the know when your business phone numbers port over successfully. If you need professional services, we offer those as well.
No matter your business needs, moving to the cloud is always a wise choice to achieve tremendous reliability and performance.
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.