Add, remove & assign phone numbers on demand
Manage, respond to, and share calls with your team
Send & receive any message you need to
Keep contact details in one place with a shared phonebook
For on-the-go teams to share messages, calls, and contacts
A full directory of all our included features
The business environment has completely changed over the last decade or so. Businesses are ditching their landlines for VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) providers due to a simple reason. Legacy phone systems were designed for the needs of a different era. Today’s workplaces need technologies that address today’s requirements.
This guide to VoIP providers will explain the technology, compare it to traditional systems, list its advantages and disadvantages and list the best VoIP providers that businesses can consider.
VoIP phone service: Why your business needs it
What is a VoIP provider?
What are VoIP phone systems?
VoIP service features
VoIP vs. traditional phone lines
VoIP systems vs. on-premises PBX
Is VoIP cheaper than a landline?
Top VoIP features
The disadvantages of VoIP
What businesses should use a VoIP phone service?
Popular VoIP providers
Chalkboard: A VoIP provider for businesses with ambition
VoIP uses the internet to connect callers. The number you get from your VoIP provider will be like any other phone number and the recipient won’t know that you’re calling from a VoIP number. Your business needs a VoIP provider for the following reasons:
Modern workplaces have distributed teams and multiple channels of communication for both internal and external participants. The landline systems are not equipped to handle synchronous communication from multiple locations. Typical mobile phones are expensive and come with only basic communication features. VoIP solves these problems and offers tools for business communication.
Unlike other phone systems, VoIP is device-neutral and allows you to make and receive calls from any device connected to the internet. It could be your smartphone, tablet or laptop – as long as it has the app from your VoIP provider and you have a reliable internet connection, you will be able to use your number.
Your business doesn’t have to spend on additional devices or hardware. The VoIP charges are also relatively low when compared to traditional phones, especially for long-distance calls. You can quickly onboard employees by giving them access to your VoIP provider. So, VoIP saves you money, time and effort.
Today’s business communication isn’t about merely calls. They include calls, texts and instant messages to name just a few. VoIP providers give you a host of features to expand, optimise, manage and improve your communication. From call forwarding to group broadcast, these are features that businesses of all sizes will need.
Merely by connecting to the internet, your team members will be able to use their VoIP service and adapt to changing conditions. This is how businesses can become agile and improve their collective productivity.
With traditional phone systems, adding users means getting new devices and other hardware. With VoIP, you can give access to a new team member from a different location without having to worry about buying a new smartphone.
With the right VoIP provider, you can bring synergy into your marketing efforts, from lead generation to client retention. By centralising communication, you will know how quickly customer calls are answered and queries addressed. You can increase the number of customer service agents if needed.
Traditional phone systems don’t give you the resources to manage and improve your communication. VoIP systems generate detailed analytics of your business communication such as the number of calls your agents receive, the duration and the speed with which complaints are addressed.
A VoIP provider is a service provider that offers VoIP services directly to businesses or consumers. Usually, VoIP is offered as SaaS (Software as a Service). Under this model, the software is centrally hosted and licensed to the users on a subscription basis instead of as a product that the users would download.
Some VoIP providers like Google Voice offer a free service or offer it under a freemium model where value-added services are charged. While this makes them popular, these services don’t have any of the advanced tools that businesses would need. They’re also notorious for their non-existent customer service.
As a business, it’s important to look for not just a provider that focuses on enterprises but one that specialises in businesses of your size. If you’re a small business or early-stage startup, there’s no point in choosing a VoIP provider with products for large enterprises.
VoIP phone systems use packet-switch technology to enable the transmission of voice calls over IP networks. It uses protocols such as SIP (Session Initialisation Protocol) to start functions like dialling and beginning transmissions and RTP (Real-time Transport Protocol) for transmitting media streams.
The audio data converted into smaller packets are reconverted as the individual’s voice at the receiver’s end. Therefore, a call made from a VoIP phone system will sound exactly like any other regular phone call. Importantly, with a stable internet connection, the conversion would happen in real-time without any lag.
The next question is what makes a phone a VoIP phone system? You can use a VoIP adapter and convert a traditional phone into a VoIP phone. But this is cumbersome and limiting since, in all likelihood, the phone would still be attached to its location. That defeats the primary purpose of VoIP, which is to offer mobility.
The easiest – and increasingly popular – method is to download an application from any of the top-rated VoIP providers. With the VoIP application, any smartphone, laptop or tablet with an internet connection can become a VoIP phone system.
Adding an adapter to an existing phone may not give you all the business tools. But a VoIP application can instantly give you the features you need to optimise your business communication.
While each VoIP provider would have a different focus and set of functionalities, these are the main features that you would get from top suppliers.
Having multiple phone numbers or offering one number to a specific team member can be a challenge, especially for customer support. With number sharing, multiple associates will be able to answer calls and respond to messages from a shared inbox.
This ensures that there will always be someone to manage calls, which will improve your customer service and business reputation. Number sharing also centralises communication and helps create a remote team, if needed, for customer support.
Why waste your team members’ time by forcing them to receive and route calls all day? These unavoidable interruptions will reduce their productivity. The solution is to use an auto-attendant from a VoIP provider.
As a digital assistant, the auto-attendant will automate call routing and make sure that the caller is directed to the right department. By automating this chore, you will free up your team members to focus on more revenue-generating tasks.
Business communication has moved beyond traditional advertising to more personalised channels of communication. The most important among them is texting. The right VoIP provider will offer you group broadcast, or text blasts, to reach a large number of customers in one go.
If you get a VoIP number as your second number for work, you have another advantage. Since WhatsApp Business requires a specific number, you can use your new VoIP number on the platform to address customer queries instantly and share marketing messages with groups of customers.
Large enterprises have dedicated customer service representatives or call centre solutions to manage incoming calls. But if you’re a small business, freelancer or startup, you can use auto-reply to respond to calls when you might be unavailable.
If you’re driving, attending a meeting or spending time with your family, the auto-reply will send a pre-written message to the caller explaining why you can’t take the call and what they can do. This solves the dreaded ‘missed call problem’ for small businesses.
Most businesses use multiple project management and communication software to streamline their organisations. This is especially true for medium and large enterprises and those with a large number of remote or hybrid employees. Top-notch VoIP providers help integrate that software with their applications.
Whether it’s with Slack, email or Zapier, these integrations will help companies save time and manage their projects better. It will also minimise the need for employees to switch between software.
These are just some of the features that most VoIP providers offer to help manage your call load and improve the quality of your response.
Voicemail transcription: When you’re on the go, it may not be feasible to listen to your voicemails, more so when you’re in crowded places. With voicemail-to-text, you’ll be able to read your voicemail and take necessary action.
Call forwarding: When you’re in a meeting, on vacation or simply too busy to take a call, you can use call forwarding to route your calls to other team members. If it’s a customer, this makes sure that their calls won’t go unanswered.
Call recording: If your business has customer service agents who manage a large number of calls, call recording will allow you to listen to their conversations. This will come in handy during training and quality control programs. Since you have call records, it will also help you resolve disputes.
Landlines and mobile carriers charge you extra for additional features. While these may not be noticeable at an individual level, they add up to a substantial amount for businesses when calculated annually.
VoIP providers offer features such as caller ID, call screening and call forwarding as part of their subscription plans. There’s no need to pay premium charges for these basic business features.
There are three main differences between systems from VoIP providers and traditional landlines.
Technology: Traditional landlines use circuit-switched telephony through PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) that are linked to specific locations and devices. The network can only be accessed by traditional telecom companies. VoIP uses packet-switched telephony to connect callers over IP networks.
Devices: Traditional lines are tied to a specific location and device. They can only be accessed and used from those locations. This severely limits their mobility. Since VoIP works over the internet, the service can be used on any device anywhere as long as there is a stable internet connection.
Features: Traditional phone lines have a singular purpose. That’s to facilitate calls both inside and outside the organisation. VoIP providers offer advanced features that empower businesses to convert their phones into communication systems for calls, messages, enhanced functionalities, analytics, training, marketing, customer service and customer retention.
On-premise PBX or Private Branch Exchange is a traditional phone system that’s deployed on an organisation’s premises. The organisation has to buy the necessary hardware to install the system and all calls will be routed through a call server based in that network.
With a VoIP provider, you don’t have to purchase any additional hardware. The system will be hosted in the cloud. This is the reason it’s also referred to as cloud PBX. All calls will be routed through a cloud-based server.
The business has to take care of an on-premise PBX system’s maintenance. For this, you would require trained personnel or outsource it to an agency. VoIP providers manage their system’s maintenance.
There is a demonstrable shift in the business world from hardware-based solutions to cloud-based systems and VoIP is in line with that. When it’s cloud-based, the organisation saves on space, initial investments, maintenance and upgrades.
Importantly, any on-premise system such as a PBX is only useful in that location. To get extended functionalities, you would need additional hardware. With VoIP providers, you can access the system from any connected device. This makes VoIP systems the ideal solution for today’s remote and hybrid employees.
Yes, VoIP is considerably cheaper than traditional landlines and ends up saving a significant amount for businesses due to:
You don’t have to buy additional hardware or pay for equipment installation. With some VoIP providers, you can convert your existing phones while with others, you can get started by downloading their applications.
The monthly subscription plans of VoIP providers are usually cheaper than those of landline providers. This is especially true if you make long-distance or international calls.
Businesses that switch to VoIP providers can unify their communication needs. You won’t have to pay separately for mobile, office and data services.
If you opt for a hosted VoIP provider, they will manage and maintain the network. You don’t have to worry about hardware or software maintenance and keep trained IT support personnel on your payroll.
You don’t have to choose between multiple data plans or worry about data limits with a VoIP provider. You can choose a plan that meets your current requirements and pay on a monthly basis.
These are the features you should look for when comparing VoIP providers.
Category focus: Does the VoIP provider only have systems for large enterprises or do they have solutions that meet the requirements of small business owners?
Pricing: Choose a VoIP provider with affordable subscription plans where you don’t have to pay for features that you won’t use.
Number sharing: When your team members can share a number, it will drastically improve customer service and internal collaboration.
Auto-reply: Missed calls are missed business opportunities. Auto-reply lets you continue the conversation and come across as professional.
Auto-attendant: Look for a VoIP provider who can transfer calls to the right extensions without the need for human intervention.
Group broadcast: Unlock the power of business texting and reach a large number of customers in one go.
Integrations: If you use project management and communication software, go for a VoIP system that will seamlessly integrate with this software.
Although the benefits significantly outweigh them, you should be aware of the three main disadvantages of VoIP.
Needs an internet connection. The main disadvantage of VoIP is that you need a stable internet connection for the system to work. If the connection is weak, there could be jitter and latency.
Digital security concerns. Like with any cloud-based technology, VoIP has certain security threats. These include malware, virus attacks, spamming and identity and information theft.
Lack of emergency access. Traditional landline technology can track you in case of an emergency. But with VoIP, there’s no dependable method to find the source of a VoIP call if there’s a crisis.
Any business that wants an advanced and digital communication system should use a VoIP phone service.
If you’re a freelancer or sole trader, VoIP gives you a dedicated number for work and makes you look professional and credible. Auto-reply and other functionalities will make your business seem bigger than it really is.
If you’re an early-stage startup, a VoIP system can give you a modern communication system without the need for any devices or hardware. It will automate several call management chores and help you focus on your primary task.
If you’re a small or independent business, VoIP can be used as a customer support or lead generation number on your marketing collateral and digital platforms. It will cut down your monthly bills, increase team collaboration and give you a better work-life balance.
If you’re a medium or large enterprise, VoIP can substantially reduce your monthly telephone bills and offer call centre solutions to streamline, measure and improve customer support. It can also enable you to connect your remote teams using a unified communications system.
An affordable, feature-rich and easy-to-use VoIP provider that knows what small businesses want. You can get a second line for work in minutes and achieve a better work-life balance. With number sharing, your team members can share their number, ensure seamless service and improve collaboration.
Auto-reply allows you to respond to missed calls while group broadcast and advanced messaging empower you to use the power of business texting to grow your business. You can share multimedia messages such as videos, files, photos, voice notes and contact cards through this VoIP phone system designed for small businesses and early-stage startups.
If you’re a medium or large enterprise looking for a unified communications system, you can consider RingCentral. You get integrated messaging that includes texts, videos and calls. You also get auto-attendant and service reports to track and manage the performance of your team members.
RingCentral has many integrations available, including Google, Salesforce and Microsoft365. Its services and pricing make it the right choice for integrated agencies or medium-sized businesses.
As one of the first VoIP providers, Grasshopper is one of the most recognisable names in the industry. While it’s a VoIP system, the app uses cellular signals for internet connection. Easy to use, the app’s mobile and desktop versions are both intuitive and user-friendly.
Grasshopper alerts users whether an incoming call or text is work-related or personal. This will allow you to separate your work and personal communication. But the VoIP system doesn’t offer advanced texting features.
Are you looking to reduce your phone bills while increasing your communication capabilities with the help of an advanced VoIP provider? Chalkboard is precisely what you need. Here’s what you get with this modern VoIP system:
A second phone number for work by merely downloading the app
An app that’s easy to set up and use
Affordable subscription plan that suits small businesses and freelancers
Contact organisation to separate work and personal contacts
Group broadcast to reach more customers in one go
Number sharing for seamless customer service and internal collaboration
Auto-reply to engage with missed calls
Multimedia file sharing that includes videos, files, text and voice notes
Dedicated customer support that knows the challenges of independent businesses
All information provided in this guide was believed to be correct at the time of publishing. However, please be aware of future changes.
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