Remember the PBX switchboard and the live operator who connected your call a la Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine character from the popular 1960’s TV show “Laugh-In?” Well, we’ve come a long way, baby and the telephony landscape continues to evolve daily in tandem with our changing business needs and preferences.
VoIP phones can be basic software-based ‘softphones,’ smartphones or purpose-built hardware devices. Landlines can be used as VoIP phones with analog telephone adapters (ATA). Users simply plug their existing phones into an analog-to-digital converter that lets them plug into the Internet directly. Some providers even give these out complimentary to their loyal customers.
However the traditional phone appears to becoming a dying breed. One in four households in the U.S. no longer have a landline connection and AT&T has petitioned the FCC to set a date for the extinction of landlines.
In this humorous video, spokesperson Alex at Telenoium VoIP points to the extinction of traditional phones. Parodying them as an “Analog-asaurus,” Alex cites a number of reasons why the old-school phones of the last century are on route to extinction. Note the points he makes about ‘scalability,’ and how much additional costs incurred by a company when they expand or hire more employees.
With all the talk about the growing popularity of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services, oddly enough, less people know about the actual hardware that was developed to interface with these networks. An IP Phone uses this technology for placing and transmitting telephone calls over an Internet network, instead of the traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN).
IP phones have been developed with the modern-day features Internet users have come to expect. For starters, most IP phones include email-like IDs that have been proven to be easier to remember than 10-digit phone numbers.
IP Phone Brands
Grandstream Networks, as one of the leading manufacturers of IP voice/video telephony includes features traditionally found on smartphones like capacity, screen size and even an automated personal information app that provides weather and stock updates. Their two IP phones in the market today come with a vivid color display, 5-way conferencing, one-touch recording, ergonomically designed headsets, RSS feeds, with price points starting at $139.
ShoreTelSky gives its customers three choices to best fit their preferences. Users can chose from a VoIP phone, a VoIP softphone or ShoreTel Sky Mobility, which lets one’s smartphone work like a VoIP handset. This service offers features such as call forwarding, redialing, speed dialing, transferring, conferencing and accessing voicemail. Since features are customized to a company’s business needs, you can contact the company for price quotes and demos by email.
Chinese-based Atcom was one of the first global manufacturers of IP products. It distinguishes itself from some of its competition by developing both hardware and software for IP phones. Currently ATCOM’s VOIP products have been available in more than 100 countries ranging in price from $54.95 to $139.95.
USB vs Power over Ethernet(PoE)
The interface for softphones or hardware phones can either be USB or Power over Ethernet(PoE). PoE appears to be preferred by many because it’s signal-and-power cable switches have a much greater and more flexible power allocation.
Additionally, as IP technology advances, USB is being viewed as strictly a transitional option as small businesses and larger brands shift over to the more robust PoE technology, manufactured by the larger players in this space such as Cisco, Siemens and Alcatel.
The competing view is that as mainstream operating systems (4G and above) become better at voice applications with appropriate Quality of Service (QoS) guarantees, smartphones will simply become the dominant interface over IP Phones. Today, iPhone, Android and the QNX OS used in 2012-and-later BlackBerry phones are generally capable of VoIP performance even on small battery-charged devices.
One of their major advantages is that they are mobile – working inside and outdoors – which means users no longer have to be tied to a stationary unit of hardware.
Choosing a VoIP service vs IP Phones
For those executives who are on-the-go, mobility becomes an essential need. So much so, many small businesses and larger brands are beginning to transition from the IP phone hardware to VoIP cloud-based services accessed by smartphones.
All of the features that distinguished IP Phones from traditional phones can be obtain by subscribing to a VoIP service, like Telzio. This includes call forwarding, conferencing, IVR (interactive voice response), number porting, caller ID and more. And instead of incurring the cost of hardware that will eventually become outdated, Telzio allows small businesses to install and set-up their VoIP service in less than 5 minutes, at monthly subscription fees as low as $1 per month.
Ron is part of the marketing team at Telzio, covering everything from tips and tech for growing businesses to customer success stories for the Telzio blog.