VoIP is a hot topic in enterprise IT circles again….
Do you Need Expensive Hardware for Clear VoIP Calls?
Posted on: 2017-09-08 | Categories:SIP
The biggest driver for VoIP adoption is price. If the technology had not been so cheap it would’ve taken much longer for VoIP to become so popular. If it had been more expensive than PSTN landlines, few people would have wanted to give it a try. Luckily for us, VoIP is easy to implement and pretty inexpensive to try. But what if it isn’t as cheap as you thought it would be?
VoIP – Hidden Costs Can Add Up
What do we mean by hidden costs? Upgrading to VoIP puts additional traffic on your data networks. Do you have excess bandwidth to accommodate phone calls, even during peak hours? Is your Internet fast enough for voice or will you get poor quality audio? Many businesses find that they have to upgrade or replace network hardware since their existing setup isn’t robust enough for VoIP. So that’s one type of hidden cost.
The second type of cost that most companies don’t foresee relates to security. VoIP requires the same type of protection as the rest of your network. Unlike the PSTN where you mostly didn’t have to worry about eavesdroppers or criminals, VoIP needs defences. Securing your VoIP deployments mean spending money on encryption, monitoring tools etc. In some cases, organizations end up creating a separate network dedicated to voice calls for security and disaster backup purposes. All these measures can be expensive.
Do You Need Expensive Hardware for Audio?
Let’s assume your network infrastructure is robust enough for VoIP calls. You don’t have to replace anything and all your equipment has the latest updates. You already have fast Internet, extra bandwidth and a backup ISP connection for business continuity. Surely that means you don’t have to spend more money for deploying VoIP? The answer isn’t always clear cut. Most businesses don’t need to buy the latest, high end VoIP phones immediately. But if you can afford it, they definitely provide more value than the cheapest alternative. Let’s look at all your options for VoIP calling.
Analog Telephone Adapters
In all probability your current phones won’t work with VoIP since they’re not designed for it. You need hardware that is built for SIP compatibility. SIP is the dominant standard used within the VoIP industry and most manufacturers, service providers etc. support it.
However there is one way to use analog desk phones with VoIP – via Analog Telephone Adapters (ATA). The ATA sits between your phones and the Internet. It handles the conversion from analog voice signals to data packets and vice versa. This allows you to use regular desk phones for VoIP calls without buying new equipment. While this is the bare minimum you need, most businesses don’t use this option because it has a few drawbacks. ATAs cost money, like any other piece of hardware. ATAs cannot compete with actual IP phones in terms of call features, functions etc.
Computers, Headsets and Mobile Apps
You can use any Internet connected device to make VoIP calls. Many businesses take advantage of this flexibility, especially for certain departments like marketing or sales. If your employees sit at a desk all day, they can use VoIP via wired or wireless headsets. If they travel frequently, mobile apps on their personal or business phones offer the same functionality.
This option – while financially viable – does have slight issues. The voice quality you get will depend on the data connection. If your employees travel to places without high speed mobile data, voice calling won’t be an option. Audio quality can also vary quite a bit, since these devices were not developed with enterprise communication in mind.
Now we come to the most popular option for enterprise VoIP. Dedicated IP phones look and work like their analog counterparts. Your employees don’t have to learn anything new. Most models come with dedicated function buttons, screens for additional features etc. But most importantly, the hardware was made for audio. You’ll get far better call quality on such a phone compared to a smartphone or ATA.
But even the most basic model will cost you something, more so if you have hundreds of workers. High end and specialized models like conference phones will set you back by hundreds, if not more.
The best option for any organizations – and the one most businesses end up with – is to use a mix of everything. Purchase desk phones for those employees that need them – managers, executives, customer service reps etc. Roaming workers, telecommuters or frequent travelers can use mobile devices or laptops. You can stagger the costs of buying phones over a few months or years so it doesn’t become prohibitively expensive. While you don’t ‘need’ expensive hardware per se, you might want to invest in good quality IP phones as they do provide excellent value.