Over the last several decades, communications technology has changed beyond recognition, and this is particularly notable in business comms. Long gone, are the days of fax machines and ‘brick’ mobile phones to reach colleagues and customers…and traditional analogue phones are quickly following suit.
Smart phone systems are now commonplace in small and large businesses alike. The acceleration of these business phone systems is somewhat down to UK network changes. Namely, BT Openreach announced that in December 2025, the PSTN switch off will be taking place. On this date, all PSTN lines (Public Switched Telephone Network) will cease to operate.
In its place, hosted telephony solutions ,or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) has emerged, providing businesses with future-proof telephone solutions.
What is VoIP?
As its name suggests, VoIP refers to technology that transmits voice communications across the internet, rather than our ageing copper lines. To achieve smooth internet transmission, VoIP compresses voice signals and converts these into digital data. This data is then broken up into chunks, referred to as ‘packets’ and sent over an IP (Internet Protocol) network.
On transmission, these packets of data can take various routes, which means they may not arrive in the order they were sent. On the receiving end, however, the packets are reassembled into the correct order, and the voice data is extracted.
While this sounds like a complex, long-winded process, VoIP phone systems carry out this sequence in a matter of milliseconds.
How do you set up a VoIP phone system?
While the VoIP setup process will depend on your service provider and the individual needs of your business, there are generally a number of common steps involved in migrating your organisation from an analogue to VoIP phone system.
1: Business assessment
Working with your provider, you will need to establish how many of your team require access to a VoIP phone and which features your business requires, such as call recording and forwarding.
At this assessment stage of the process, it is also worth factoring in any foreseeable business changes, as this will impact the level of scalability that you require.
2: Internet assessment
VoIP’s reliance on the cloud means that it requires a fast and stable internet connection. As well as this, VoIP depends on high bandwidth; this is particularly important if multiple members of staff will be using your VoIP phone system at the same time.
3: VoIP phone options
There are a few options when it comes to how your VoIP phone system operates in practice. Your business may opt for physical IP phones that connect to your VoIP network, or you can introduce ‘soft (software) phones’ – these enable the making and receiving of VoIP calls on computers and mobile devices.
If you would prefer to integrate your existing analogue phones, it may also be possible to use an analogue telephone adapter to connect these phones to your new VoIP system.
4: Network configuration
To ensure your VoIP phone system can deliver high quality calls, your provider will need to establish if your router is compatible with VoIP. While VoIP works with the majority of routers, some older models may lack speed, which will impact call quality.
Dependent on the nature of your business, you may require an additional layer of security, such as a VPN – this secures your VoIP calls through an encryption process.
5: VoIP set up
Alongside your provider, you will need to setup your VoIP web portal – in short, this is the ‘hub’ of your phone system. The setup of this portal will differ depending on which VoIP product you go for, such as Vodafone, Gamma or RingCentral.
You will then need to assign your internal VoIP users to an extension number, and implement any additional call features that your business requires.
Finally, your phones (IP, soft or adapted analogue) will need to be connected to the VoIP network. If your business opts for IP phones, this involves the use of PoE (Power over Ethernet) to connect the phones to the VoIP network.
6: VoIP testing and training
Following this setup, it’s important that your business tests its new VoIP phone system to ensure there are no issues.
Similarly, your team will need a sufficient level of VoIP training, to ensure smooth operation and a good customer experience.
7: VoIP maintenance
As with any technology, it’s imperative that the running of your VoIP phone system is maintained. When there is a system update, ensure that all your VoIP users have upgraded to the latest version.
Within the first few weeks and months after migration, it’s particularly important to keep track of your call quality. Should you come across any issues, your provider can help you to identify and resolve the cause.
What is the difference between VoIP and analogue phones?
VoIP and analogue phone systems sit on two ends of the business telephony spectrum. Here’s some of the most significant differences between them.
VoIP systems run on the cloud and convert voice signals into digital data. This data is then transmitted through an internet-based server.
Traditional phone systems rely on analogue signals; these are continuous waves that are transmitted across copper cables within the PSTN.
Analogue phone systems have a physical infrastructure, relying heavily on the ageing PSTN network. As well as copper cables, this network is made up of switches and exchanges. This also means that businesses incur the cost of hardware and individual line rental charges.
VoIP phones on the other hand, are hosted on internet-based servers. So, unlike their analogue predecessor, VoIP phone systems do not require a physical location. While businesses will incur an upfront cost, VoIP systems are a more cost-effective solution in the long run, and offer increased scalability.
Analogue’s reliance on the PSTN is now its principal drawback. Come 2025, analogue phone systems will cease to operate, forcing businesses to migrate to a future-proof telephony solution by that date. Moreover, in a matter of weeks (September 2023), BT Openreach will stop the sell of analogue phone lines in the UK, altogether.
VoIP on the other hand is a forward-facing solution. More than being the go-to solution for analogue migrations, it is a system that will continue to develop as telephony technology advances. As such, VoIP solutions will secure your business communications for years to come.
Analogue phone systems are physical pieces of hardware, tying your business’s phone number to the location of the telephone line itself. This inflexibility is increasingly apparent now that many businesses operate hybrid working policies.
VoIP’s reliance on internet transmission means that a VoIP phone system can be accessed from anywhere with a stable internet connection. This means that users can make and receive calls from the same number, whether they are on-site, at home or on the road. This is particularly beneficial for promoting business continuity.
5: System Features
An older model of telephony, analogue phones tend to offer more rudimentary features such as call holding and voicemail. This isn’t to say that additional call features can’t be added, but it will likely involve infrastructure changes, and subsequent costs.
Thanks to the integrated nature of VoIP phone systems, they contain a wide variety of capabilities, often straight out of the box. These smart features include integration with CRM systems, video calling and IVR (interactive voice response).
Is VoIP right for my business?
There are a multitude of factors that will inform your business’s choice of telephony. At Excalibur, our team of specialists have helped many businesses future-proof their communications. We’re on hand to talk through all of your options and answer your questions.
Read more about our VoIP services.