Quick Guide to Purchasing VoIP Phones

Updated: August 17, 2009

Small businesses switching to a VoIP service plan have quite a few decisions to make. In addition to choosing a service vendor, phone system features, a phone service plan, you'll also need to purchase the hardware that allows you to use the system.

The most basic business VoIP hardware are the phones themselves. VoIP phones range from the very high-tech (enabled with videoconference features, call tracking and monitoring options, and other advanced capabilities) to the very basic (a microphone attached to a computer). Here are a few popular types of VoIP phones you may want to consider:

  • Desktop Phones: These are what come to mind when you think of the traditional office phone. Desktop phones can also come equipped with advanced IP telephony features, such as LCD display screens, instant messaging capabilities, and high-resolution color touch screens instead of the traditional soft keys. How advanced you want to go often depends on your budget- higher end phones can run into the hundreds of dollars or more for a single handset. Desktop phones rely on a broadband internet connection, so they must be configured to sit at a specific location.
  • Wireless VoIP Phones: Wireless phones are similar to desktop options in terms of features and capabilities, but the method of data transmission is different. Instead of being physically "wired" or connected to the internet, wireless phones rely on a wireless connection. For this reason, they are a popular choice among businesses that primarily use this type of connection to access the internet.
  • Conferencing Phones: Conferencing phones are specifically designed for videoconferencing on a large scale- many businesses install them in conference rooms or central conferencing locations. Conferencing phones come equipped with cameras, LCD display screens, microphones, and other multi-media features.

Phone Costs

The VoIP phones themselves can be a big portion of the total system costs. One In-Stat survey places the cost of VoIP hardware at nearly half of the system cost for most small businesses. The most expensive VoIP phones can cost hundreds of dollars per handset, while less-expensive options can be as little as $30. You can also choose to outfit your current phones with VoIP adapters, though they may impact call quality slightly. Most VoIP phones are sold individually, though some vendors do offer a volume discount.

Phone Vendor Options

Many business VoIP service vendors require the purchase phones as part of your service agreement. This isn't always the best deal- in fact, basic VoIP phones can be purchased from various different third-party vendors for far less than the price your service provider may charge. Used, recycled, or refurbished equipment is often sold by traditional phone system vendors, and is fairly easy to come by, especially if you have a small office. Businesses in need of more equipment (those with 100+ employees) might be able to find a deal on eBay or craigslist, purchasing from another business that has decided to upgrade or switch to newer equipment. Look in your local newspaper for office equipment sales or auctions, which can also yield great deals.

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