An Objective Overview of VoIP-Based Phones, Paging and Bells


In recent years, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems have become increasingly popular among organisations of all sizes. But what exactly is VoIP, and how does it differ from using your old PBX on traditional copper-based phone services?

VoIP is a method of transmitting voice calls over the Internet, as opposed to using traditional phone lines. Instead of relying on copper wires and complex hardware, VoIP converts your voice into digital packets and sends them over the Internet using your existing Internet connection.

It is also worth noting that services such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, Google Meet and Zoom are similar but not exactly the same as VoIP.

So why should you consider making the switch to a VoIP phone system? Here are just a few of the key benefits:
  • Lower Costs: VoIP phone systems can be significantly cheaper than traditional copper-based phone services. Since VoIP calls are transmitted over the Internet, calling plans are typically cheaper than before. Additionally, VoIP providers often offer flexible pricing plans, allowing organisations to pay only for the services they need.
  • Greater Flexibility: With a VoIP phone system, your people can make and receive calls from virtually anywhere with an Internet connection. This can be particularly beneficial for organisations with remote workers (whether on-shore or even workers overseas) as they can easily stay connected to the office without the need for costly and cumbersome hardware.
  • Advanced Features: VoIP phone systems offer a wide range of advanced features that simply aren't available (out of the box anyway) with traditional copper-based phone services. These may include things like call recording, voicemail transcription, and advanced call routing capabilities.
  • Scalability: Finally, VoIP phone systems can be easily scaled up or down as an organisation's needs change. Unlike traditional copper-based phone services, there's no need to purchase additional hardware for your phone system or phone lines to accommodate growth. Instead, organisations can typically add or remove users as needed.

If at any point you want to discuss this with a real person, please feel free to contact us, but in the meantime we've added some shortcuts to the different topics below:

So if VoIP is such a no-brainer, why aren't all organisations making the switch?

One of the biggest obstacles is the perception that VoIP phone systems are complex and difficult to set up. While it's true that there may be a bit of a learning curve involved, most modern VoIP phone systems are designed to be user-friendly and intuitive.

In fact, setting up a VoIP phone system can be as simple as plugging a few devices into your existing Internet connection. And once your system is up and running, most VoIP providers offer comprehensive customer support to help you troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

Of course, making the switch to a VoIP phone system isn't right for every organisation. If you're currently satisfied with your traditional copper-based phone service, there may not be a compelling reason to change. But for organisations that are looking to reduce costs, increase flexibility, and take advantage of advanced features, VoIP can be a powerful tool that can help them stay ahead of the competition.

What purchasing model should I choose?

When it comes to choosing a VoIP phone system, you will typically have three main options: on-premise, hosted, and cloud-based. Each option has its own benefits and drawbacks, and you should carefully consider your specific needs and budget when deciding which solution to choose.

On-premise VoIP phone systems are installed and managed on-site, using equipment that is owned and maintained by your organisation. While on-premise systems can be more expensive from a CAPEX perspective, they offer complete control over the system and negligible ongoing costs. On-premise systems are ideal for organisations that have the technical expertise (whether in-house or by way of a support contract) and the resources to manage the system themselves, and that need complete control over their phone system.

Hosted VoIP phone systems, on the other hand, are managed by a third-party provider, who hosts the system in their data centre and provides ongoing support and maintenance. While hosted systems have lower up-front costs and can be more flexible than on-premise systems, they are dependent on a reliable Internet connection and may not be usable during an Internet outage. Additionally, you should ensure that you have an in-depth support agreement in place to ensure the smooth operation of their hosted VoIP system.

Cloud-based VoIP phone systems are similar to hosted systems in that they are managed by a third-party provider, but the system is hosted in the cloud rather than a data centre. Cloud-based systems offer the lowest up-front costs of the three options, and organisations can access their phone system from anywhere with an internet connection. However, cloud-based systems are typically less configurable than on-premise or hosted systems, and you may have limited control over the system.

To Purchase or Not To Purchase...

When it comes to purchasing a VoIP phone system, organisations have several purchasing models to choose from. The three main models are outright purchase, lease-to-own, and subscription. Each model has its own benefits and drawbacks, and you should carefully consider your specific needs and your current financial situation when deciding which model to choose:
  • Outright purchase involves buying the VoIP phone system outright, either with cash or financing. While outright purchase may require a larger initial investment, it can result in a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) over time. Outright purchase also provides complete ownership of the phone system which means that the organisation is responsible for any repairs or upgrades. However, outright purchase may not be feasible for organisations with limited financial resources, as it requires a larger upfront investment.
  • Lease-to-own allows an organisation to spread the cost of the VoIP phone system over time, typically over a period of several years. This model can be a good option for organisations that don't have the financial resources to purchase the system outright. However, it can result in a higher TCO over time due to interest charges. Additionally, the leasing company typically retains ownership of the system until it is fully paid off which means that the organisation may not have complete control over the system until the lease is complete.
  • Subscription involves paying a monthly or annual fee to access the VoIP phone system, typically through a cloud-based or hosted solution. Subscription models can be a good option for organisations that want to avoid large upfront costs and want the flexibility to scale their phone system up or down as needed. Additionally, subscription models typically include ongoing support and maintenance which can help ensure the smooth operation of the phone system. However, subscription models will likely result in a higher TCO over time than the other purchase models, and your organisation may not have complete control over the phone system at all.

VoIP softphones vs handsets

Softphones are software applications that allow users to make and receive phone calls over the internet using a computer or mobile device, rather than using traditional phone hardware. They essentially turn your computer or mobile device into a phone. While softphones on laptops or mobile devices can be a convenient way to make and receive calls, they can sometimes be less reliable at receiving calls and ringing. This is because softphones rely on push notifications to get the call through which can be disrupted if the device's operating system puts the app to sleep in the background.

This means that if an important call comes through and the softphone app is not in the foreground, the user may not receive the call or hear the phone ringing. This can lead to missed calls and frustrated callers which can be detrimental to an organisation's reputation.

In contrast, VoIP handsets are specifically designed to receive calls and ring reliably, regardless of whether the user is actively using the handset or not. VoIP handsets are always connected to the VoIP phone system and are designed to ring audibly when a call comes in, ensuring that important calls are never missed.

In addition to being more reliable at receiving calls, VoIP handsets also offer superior call quality, comfort, and professionalism compared to softphones. While softphones can be a cost-effective way to make and receive calls, organisations that rely heavily on voice communication may find that investing in VoIP handsets is the best way to ensure reliable, high-quality phone calls that help to improve customer satisfaction and the organisation's success.

Environments such as school classrooms that have frequent changes in staff or relievers can simply use the phone in the room. In the case of softphones, such changes would leave these staff with no phones which would have a significant impact on health and safety.

All this to say that it's a good idea for organisations to invest in good-quality VoIP handsets, specifically designed for use with VoIP phone systems.

There are also a number of other benefits to VoIP handsets over softphones including:
  • In school environments, as an example, laptops may be connected to projectors/TVs etc during class time which means the audio will be broadcast to the whole room.
  • VoIP handsets are typically fixed in a particular room or office. It is possible to create a constant, repeatable extension list as a result (e.g. extension 201 is for the first extension, 202 for the second etc.). In the case of softphones, however, the extension number follows the person rather than the location so if the person moves between various locations on a regular basis (e.g. from Room 1 to Room 5 to Room 12) it becomes difficult to contact someone else in that area without first consulting a timetable or calendar.

So, are you saying that softphones are unusable?

No, not at all. We use softphones daily ourselves. While VoIP handsets offer a number of advantages over softphones on laptops or mobile devices, it's worth noting that softphones can still serve a valid purpose for hypermobile users such as admin staff, salespeople or field technicians who may need to make and receive calls from a variety of locations.

In such cases, carrying a VoIP handset around simply won't be practical. In these cases, a softphone on a laptop or mobile device can be a useful tool that allows these users to stay connected to their VoIP phone system while on-the-go.

Additionally, many softphone apps offer features like instant messaging, video calling, and screen sharing which can be valuable for remote collaboration and communication. These features can be especially useful for remote teams that need to work together on projects, regardless of their physical location.

Overall, while VoIP handsets offer superior call quality and reliability, softphones can still serve a valid purpose for hypermobile users or remote teams that need to stay connected while on-the-go. When deciding whether to use a softphone or invest in a VoIP handset, organisations should consider their specific needs and budget, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.

What about choosing between different quotes?

When purchasing a VoIP phone system, it's important to carefully compare and evaluate the different quotes you receive. It's common to receive multiple quotes due to different levels of delegated financial authority within organisations. However, the challenge lies in differentiating between vastly different quotes and making the right choice for your organisation.

To make an informed decision, it's important to assess the specifications of each system and consider your organisation's future growth plans over the next 5 to 10 years. It may be wise to choose a system with more features than you currently need, as this allows you to grow into the system and take advantage of new features as your organisation expands. For example, a converged system (such as the one that we have developed) should include calling, paging, alerting, and bell ringing that can drastically simplify communication and improve safety in large or complex facilities.

Another crucial factor to consider when comparing quotes is the true cost of each system. Some quotes may not include the costs of labour, power over Ethernet (PoE), commissioning, and ongoing support and maintenance. These hidden costs can significantly impact the total cost of ownership of the system and should be taken into account when making a decision. By carefully evaluating and comparing quotes, you can make an informed decision and choose a VoIP phone system that meets your organisation's needs and budget.

Did you just say that I can do paging from my phone?

Absolutely, you can. Adding VoIP paging to a phone system can enhance communication and safety in large or complex facilities. However, it's important to choose the right kind of speakers to ensure quality sound and compatibility with your VoIP phone system.

There are two types of speakers to choose from: analogue and VoIP. Analogue speakers are connected to the phone system via an analogue bridge and require an amplifier, while VoIP speakers are connected and powered through the data network. VoIP speakers can typically provide better sound quality and are more scalable than analogue speakers. They can also more easily allow for more advanced features, such as multicast paging and integration with other systems.

When installing indoor speakers, it is important to consider all your needs including volume, hearing ability and the need for two-way paging. Some indoor environments (e.g. classrooms) can be just as noisy as outdoor environments, so your speakers should be able to cut through the noise. You also need to consider whether you need two-way paging. If you have a phone in the same vicinity, this may not be essential, but if you don't it's a really useful addition to have. Those who are hard of hearing may need visual alerters. These can integrate into the VoIP phone system to show when a call is coming through and some can also show a different colour for a different type of call (e.g. flashing red when a lockdown signal is being sent).

When installing outdoor speakers, it's important to consider the risk of theft. Outdoor speakers are often targeted by thieves, especially in high-risk areas like South Auckland. To protect your investment, it may be necessary to install cages and/or IP cameras that can monitor the speakers and detect any unauthorized access. This can help deter theft and improve security in your facility.

In addition to IP cameras, it's also important to choose high-quality outdoor speakers that are designed for rugged environments. These speakers should be weather-resistant (rated IP67 or above) and able to withstand harsh conditions, such as UV, rain, wind, and extreme temperatures. It's also important to choose speakers that are compatible with your VoIP phone system and can deliver clear, reliable sound in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Overall, adding VoIP paging to your phone system can improve communication and safety in your facility. By choosing the right type of speakers and taking steps to protect your investment, you can ensure that your VoIP paging system delivers high-quality sound and reliable performance for years to come.
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