To start making phone calls via the internet, getting a VoIP service will do the trick. For homeowners, this is typically very easy, as it’s often a plug-and-play process.
For companies, however, it’s not so simple. VoIP systems don’t always come with a one-size-fits-all type of installation process, so businesses that place and receive high call volumes have to consider their company’s size, budget, and existing infrastructure before settling on a service provider.
The good news is that there are plenty of VoIP installation options for offices, and they come with a lot of perks.
1. Hosted VoIP Installations Are Usually Easier
There are a few options when it comes to which type of VoIP phone system you should use for your business—from self-hosting everything on-site with your own infrastructure to paying a third-party provider to do it all for you remotely.
- Hosted VoIP phone systems: These are services offered and managed by third-party providers. A hosted VoIP provider maintains and operates the necessary infrastructure, software, and servers in a data center, allowing your business to access its VoIP services via the internet.
- On-Premises VoIP phone systems: First things first, the on-premises term tends to get badmouthed because it’s sometimes misspelled as “on-premise” by tech professionals, but “on-premise” would mean it’s based around a postulate—aka a premise. That’s why we’re writing “on-premises” to make it abundantly clear we’re talking about physical locations (aka premises), but it’s still okay to say it differently. Also, you can always just say “on-prem” to stave off any unwanted prescriptivism debates from overzealous linguists.
Anyway, back to on-premises software—which, in contrast to cloud-based software, refers to an on-site installation where all of the requisite hardware and infrastructure are located in the same place as the primary business. This installation type is often recommended for companies with very specific bookkeeping practices, since on-prem deployments usually require bigger capital investments and smaller operating expenses down the line. On-premises software is also typically associated with compliance-related norms such as HIPAA, but since there are so many HIPAA-compliant VoIP services to choose from, it’s up to the company to decide whether to have its VoIP service hosted elsewhere or its own server racks.
- Hybrid VoIP systems: A hybrid VoIP system is a cross between the hosted and on-premises types. This means some central infrastructure and components are handled on-site, while other less sensitive information is handled on the hosted cloud.
Among the three options, the hosted VoIP installation type stands out as the most user-friendly and hassle-free. With customer service standing by to help, you can set aside infrastructure management and maintenance concerns, making it the most straightforward of the three.
The first step to installing a hosted VoIP is to check the quality and number of calls your internet service can handle during normal usage. This typically depends on your internet speed and bandwidth.
After picking a VoIP provider that best suits your personal requirements, the next step is deciding on whether you want to set up a new business number or continue using a pre-existing landline number. If you pick the latter, you’ll need to transfer your old number through a process called porting.
The last step is the one that differs the most between hosted and on-premises systems. In the hosted option, the hired third-party provider usually offers guidance when setting up the phone system. With the on-site option, you’re on your own to route, configure, and scale everything with your personnel—and fit all the equipment within your four walls.
2. Have Your Provider Pre-Provision Desk Phones
For a quicker VoIP installation, having desk phones configured by your provider in advance makes all the difference. The main reason is that it’ll take care of registering each phone’s Media Access Control (MAC) address within your network.
A MAC address is a twelve-digit unique code that every device that connects to the internet has. When your provider registers their desk phones’ MAC addresses, they are creating a whitelist of allowed devices for your network. If you leave the MAC address registration to your provider, you’re ensuring that when you plug in your phone, it is identified, authorized, and ready to use on the network.
Think of the MAC address as a guest list for a club. It’s an extra security layer that decides who can enter the network. Only devices with approved MAC addresses are allowed to join, which helps control who can use the VoIP service. The MAC address is typically hard-coded into each device. So, unless a very capable inside trickster spoofs one, you’ll get a secure VoIP setup from the get-go.
If you prefer complete control over the installation process, you can buy desk phones separately. The call-over-internet desk phones are known as hardphones. These are the counterpart to softphones, a term used to describe the software through which you can make a call from your computer or any other device that isn’t a phone.
If you buy desk phones by yourself, you don’t need to configure MAC addresses because those are hard-coded. However, you’ll still need to register the MAC addresses with your VoIP service provider or on your own on-prem server. Since VoIP is a well-established standard, there should be no compatibility issues between your tech stack and the hardphone.
3. Check your network and connection
Paying for a faster internet connection probably won’t improve your choppy VoIP call quality because an end-to-end VoIP call takes just 0.15 megabits per second. If you’re wondering how much that is, the most basic internet services for families and businesses typically have speeds of at least 3 Mbps, which is 20 times faster than the minimum.
If you want your VoIP experience to be painless, you’ll want a stable network. Stability will fend off problems with echoes and delays in conversations, as well as interruptions caused by distorted or choppy voices.
There are different ways to test your network’s condition and stability, but the first ones you should focus on are the ones with solutions that are easy to troubleshoot and require no investment:
- Quality of Service (QoS) configuration: Provided you use your bandwidth wisely, you can hold conference calls without paying for a top-dollar ISP contract. To do this, you can have your router prioritize VoIP traffic and put other activities like file downloading on the back burner. Certain routers allow prioritizing traffic from individual devices. More specifically, if you can check the QoS configuration, you can assign VoIP traffic the highest priority.
- Latency: This is the time it takes for data to travel from its source to its destination. Since high latency means reduced responsiveness, you should aim for a low latency, such as 150 milliseconds. This could depend on the ISP infrastructure, but you can always call and complain if it’s above that amount.
- Jitter: Rarely talked about outside of VoIP conversations, jitter refers to the delay of received data packets in a network. To combat jitter without spending extra cash, consider using a wired connection rather than Wi-Fi when making VoIP calls. Wi-Fi is more susceptible to interference, which can increase jitter. If your Wi-Fi signal is strong, though, it shouldn’t impact the jitter.
4. Take security measures
Not all the information that travels through the internet is safe from eavesdroppers. Even emails are usually not encrypted. As such, you should be wary of your calling security and know that not every VoIP call is encrypted by default.
If you’re paying for VoIP services, you can quickly check if your provider is encrypting the calls. Many VoIP calls use TLS 1.3, which is the encryption standard employed by many secure websites, like those that start with HTTPS. But besides encryption, there are other simple tips that can help secure your VoIP installation, be it third-party or on-prem:
- Checking firewalls: Whenever a call is made, the connection between you and the receiving device is called the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). Setting up a firewall will make sure SIP traffic can pass through while blocking unauthorized access or threats. This is a standard cybersecurity practice.
- Installing a VPN: If you don’t think encryption is enough, you can always use a VPN so that the traceability of your call is harder to pin down.
- Two-factor authentication: Setting up a simple 2FA is one of the most common security tips, and it’s incredibly effective. If you want to ensure that the agent calling is the right person, you can add this measure before the caller logs into the client.
5. Use quality equipment
From desk phones to headsets, investing in suitable hardware will pay off in the long run. For example, higher quality desk phones often include extra features such as interactive screens that are useful for functions like dialing into conference calls.
Some VoIP hardphones have lagged in their integrations with softphone apps, which means they’re more affordable than the most up-to-date models. These options will have a lower reselling value, but they could help you set up a VoIP network frugally.
6. Customize your VoIP features
Companies use VoIP for different priorities. Some rely on them to hold conference calls among C-level employees, and others use them to relay calls from customers. Depending on your needs, you can take advantage of features such as the following:
- Call forwarding: a feature that redirects incoming calls from one phone number to another, ensuring that calls are received by an alternative number when the original recipient is unavailable.
- Automatic call distribution: A system that helps send calls to the right people based on how important the caller is.
- Do not disturb settings: When turned on, it prevents incoming calls and notifications from interrupting the user. This is helpful if you don’t want your phone app to ring each time the VoIP central is getting a call.
- Automated answering services: Automatically answers calls and interacts with callers using pre-recorded messages and menu options. Some companies are already offering AI-assisted answering services, but the technology is still maturing.
7. Train your staff
One economical way to bypass headaches is to run a simple training program for your staff. Giving your staff a rundown of how VoIP systems work—from making calls and managing features to troubleshooting common issues and forwarding calls to the right colleagues—will probably eliminate a lot of mistakes. Also, you won’t get as many, “I thought it was optional” replies if you run a training session to explain why they should all set up two-factor authentication.
8. Install the app on work phones
As long as you install the app, VoIP systems allow you to answer calls from any device. So, ask your team members to install the app on their cell phones and laptops so they can stay in touch with each other and customers without needing to be at the office.
9. Try alternatives to VoIP headsets to save money
VoIP headsets are famously pricey. If you’re just starting out, you could encourage team members to download the softphone app and use their noise-canceling headphones for a frugal, high-quality call experience.
Bonus Tip: Check how the budget plays out
Make sure to determine how much you and your team want to spend on the new VoIP system, as the costs will largely depend on devices and the chosen hardware. Aside from subscription payments to the provider, you’ll need to consider the costs of VPN installation, overseas calls, and, potentially, a firewall appliance.
Keep in mind that on-premises systems usually require upfront investments for equipment and maintenance, and hosted VoIP systems tend to only have subscription fees. If you want to make the set-up easier, checking up on how much you should invest for each pathway might help you decide.
Installing VoIP Is Not as Hard as It Seems
Even if setting up a VoIP phone system is not a plug-and-play process, it’s certainly not an impossible task either. By relying on VoIP providers or taking matters into your own hands, you’ll finally have internet calling to replace your landlines. As long as you weigh the advantages of each setup, you should have no problem choosing how to install your VoIP system.