What is an internet phone system?
As the name suggests, an internet phone system is a telephone service provided over your internet connection, rather than a traditional telephone line, like ISDN or PSTN.
Unlike in times past, where businesses would have a physical telephone system on their premises, internet phones connect back to a system that is located in geographically diverse data centres. That sounds complicated, but it's no different to where most websites and apps are located; your phone service, in effect, becomes another web-based service.
As we'll get into later on in this guide, there are extensive benefits of having internet phones for business purposes which have only been magnified with the pandemic. By moving your phones to the internet, you no longer rely on a physical telephone line, giving you the flexibility to do things like offer remote working to staff or even close offices completely to reduce costs.
As with other web-based services, internet phones all run on a central piece of software, meaning that the provider can focus their attention and investment on a single platform. Over time, that means new features and benefits will be added, and in most cases, it won't cost you anything more to access them.
How does an internet phone work?
The process of making and receiving calls with an internet-based service is relatively straightforward. Using VoIP technology, which stands for voice over IP, your phone connects to the web-based phone system over the internet and then, from there, routes your call to the final destination. When someone calls your company, the same thing happens, albeit in reverse. Their call hits your VoIP provider, and the call is sent over the internet to your phone.
The clever thing about internet phones is that you don't need a physical phone at all. Most providers will let you install what are called "softphones" on your smartphone or laptop so that you can make and receive internet calls from any device at any time. As we've covered in another recent article, these softphones open up a whole new world of possibilities. You can start to do things like contact popping, which shows the caller's details, you can link it to your CRM and much more.
Benefits of internet phones for companies and their employees
We've touched on some of the benefits that internet telephony brings, but in this next section, we'll look at them in a bit more detail:
- Reduced call costs - arguably the number one benefit of internet phones for business is that call costs are far lower than ISDN and PSTN services. Much like your mobile phone, your VoIP service will usually come bundled with several thousand minutes to UK landlines and mobiles, so you'll need to be nattering for some time before you pay anything extra.
Extensive features - as we'll look at in the next section, internet phone services for business are jammed packed full of valuable features. Even as a small business, you can access things like call recording and music on hold. Present a professional image regardless of the size of your business.
Massive range of VoIP phone numbers - you can keep your old numbers or get new ones. With internet phones, you aren't limited by the number of telephone lines you have coming into your office or the number of channels you have for your ISDN. Let your provider know that you want to add a number, and within a few hours, it'll be added to your account. Best of all, you're no longer tied to a specific geographical area, so if you're running a marketing campaign somewhere a few hundred miles away, why not get a local number to present a familiar image.
- Work from anywhere - a significant driver for many companies switching to VoIP is that you and your employees will be able to work from anywhere with an internet connection. With a softphone installed on your laptop or mobile device, your business telephone number and all of the features you're used to in the office come with you. You could be sat at the end of your garden communicating just as you would if you were in the office.
- Scalability - business phone services delivered over the internet are by their very nature scalable. Businesses of all size use this technology, and one thing you can be sure of is that your phone service will be able to keep up if your business grows.
- Easy to manage - if you've been in business for a while, you'll be familiar with telecoms engineers occasionally needing to come to the site to fix something, install a card or even upgrade the system. That support isn't for free, and over the years, you've been paying a pretty penny to receive the service you have. With internet phones, you don't have a system on your premises, and as you are subscribing to a service, not buying an asset, you're not responsible for maintenance. On the rare occasions that something goes wrong, or if the equipment is getting old and needs upgrading, you won't even know. It'll all be done in the background so you can concentrate on running your business.
As you can see, the arguments for moving to an internet-based phone service are numerous and pretty compelling. Probably the most significant driver is that ISDN and PSTN phone networks are being switched off in the not too distant future, so all, yes all, businesses and consumers will need to move to internet phone services.
What's included with an internet business phone system?
As you are subscribing to a service rather than buying equipment, it's in the provider's interest to continually invest and improve their platform to retain customers and attract new ones. The great thing is you won't need to do anything to receive new features; you'll get an email one day saying a new feature has been added to your internet phone system, and you'll be able to make use of it immediately.
Phone system features:
You may not be familiar with all of the terminology used, so if you have any questions, please let us know via live chat or give us a call.
- Auto Attendant - automated menus to quickly route callers to the most appropriate destination.
- HD call quality - never miss a word with crystal clear quality.
- Free internal calls - you never pay for speaking to your colleagues.
- Music on hold - play music or even promo messages to people when they call.
- Call forwarding - easily redirect calls to another number.
- Time of day routing - schedule calls to go to specific recipients based on the time of the day.
- Hunt groups - make a whole team's phones ring, so calls get picked up sooner.
- Call recording - perfect for training and compliance.
- Call logs and speed dial
- Call screening
- Call queues
- Call hold and resume
- Windows, Mac, iOS and Android apps
- And much more
Handsets that work with internet phone systems
There is a wide variety of internet phones you can get that will work with your hosted PBX, here we detail the ones available from Poly that are compatible with our cloud service.
Poly VVX 150 Internet Phone
The Poly VVX 150 is a great entry-level IP handset for sole traders or small offices. Featuring 2-lines, a 2.5" graphical LCD, voicemail support and conferencing abilities. For more information, please download the datasheet.
Poly VVX 250 Internet Phone
The Poly VVX 250 is a perfect choice if you're in a busier office and need an internet phone that can handle more calls. Featuring 4-lines, a 2.8" graphical LCD, call transfers, conference call and call park functionality. The Poly 250 also has a busy lamp field, call timer and call waiting. For more information, please download the datasheet.
Poly VVX 450 Internet Phone
The Poly 450 is a performance internet phone that is the perfect companion for our hosted VoIP service. With a whopping 12-lines, HD Voice Technology, 4.3" colour LCD, conference calling facilities, two USB ports and more, it's the handset of choice for many of our customers. Want to learn more? Download the datasheet.
Poly VVX 501 Internet Phone
The Poly 501 is the first touchscreen internet phone in this roundup. It's sleek yet simple, and it's perfect for a busy multitasker in a business environment. Similarly to the VVX 450, the VVX 501 has 12-lines so that you can juggle your busy workload. The added benefit of the 501 is that it has a 3.5" LCD Touchscreen rather than traditional line keys. For more information, please download the datasheet.
Poly VVX 601 Internet Phone
The Poly VVX 601 is a premium business media phone that is jammed packed with valuable functionality. It boasts 16-line keys, a 4.3" touchscreen and many more great features. To get a complete idea of how robust this internet handset is, please download the datasheet.
Yealink W52P Cordless Internet Phone
Rounding up our list is the only cordless internet phone on our list. The Yealink 52P has 10 hours of talk time, 50 m indoor range, and can even support 3-way conferencing. This handset is perfect for businesses where the person who answers the phone tends to move. For more information, please download the datasheet.
Softphones and headsets
Let's not forget; you don't have to have a physical phone; you can just as easily use a softphone, with or without a connected headset. A softphone is simply an app installed on your laptop or smartphone that allows you to access your small business VoIP system.
If you want to get productive, then take a look at some of the many compatible headsets you can choose from, keep your hands free while you speak and be comfortable at the same time.
Choosing a provider
It's fair to say that there are many providers to choose from when it comes to internet phone services and VoIP, but with many of them pretty much offering the same thing for a similar price, how can you make a decision?
Find a provider that's responsive when you need them.
Because VoIP services are primarily internet-based, companies from all over the world can provide them to you, which is fine until you get a problem and need to speak to someone. Many of the most significant players in the market are huge, and because of that, they can't possibly take care of every customer to the highest level. T2k is an independent provider established for 30 years, with many of our team has been here for 20 years plus! It's that continuity that helps us retain our customers; they know that they call us and speak to someone they know and trust. When you work with T2k, you get a dedicated account manager who is based close to Bournemouth, Dorset, who will be on hand to help you with anything you need. Best of all, if you're ever down this way, you're welcome to pop in and meet the team, have a chat and a coffee. We're the VoIP provider looking out for other businesses. If you like what you hear (or read as is the case), please contact us today to speak about your specific needs.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best phone system for a small business?
A hosted VoIP phone system is the best choice for 99% of small businesses. Only on infrequent occasions will we recommend that an onsite phone system would be a better option.
What is an IP phone?
An IP (internet protocol) phone is a handset that connects to your VoIP service to allow you to make and receive phone calls. The IP phone converts your voice into electrical signals, which are then transmitted over the internet to the person you are calling.
How are VoIP phones connected?
Typically, VoIP phones are hardwired into your computer networking with cables running back to your comms room or directly to your router. VoIP phones are also usually powered and connected to the network using a single cable, so you will need to either have a PoE (power over ethernet) switch or PoE injectors to power the phones. The former is better for bigger businesses with a comms room, whereas the latter is usually used for small businesses and home workers.
Can I move my phone numbers to an internet phone system?
Yes, you can bring your existing telephone numbers with you when you switch to an internet-based phone system. The process is called phone number porting.
Can I record my calls?
Yes, one of the many benefits of an internet phone service is that you will get functionality like recording calls.
What is the call quality like?
Generally speaking, the quality of internet calls is excellent, mainly because most of us have good internet connections these days. The only time you may have problems is connecting using a patchy internet connection, as ultimately, the quality of the calls is determined by that.
How long is the contract?
Similarly to other forms of communications contracts, the length will be linked to the price of the service, with some providers offering significant discounts to lock you in for several years.
There are too many providers; where do I start?
We are always happy to share our knowledge and expertise, so please contact us and speak to an adviser. If we don't think we are the best provider for you, we will be upfront and tell you that's the case.