VoIP Office Phones: What You Need to Know

By Sheila Shanker
Updated: March 02, 2011

Are you in the market for VoIP phones? If so, welcome to the latest technology that has been saving many businesses substantial amounts, especially with long distance and international calls. VoIP, also known as voice over Internet protocol, uses a high speed Internet to communicate internally and with others outside the business. Depending on your service provider and your own needs, you may need to get special VoIP phones that connect through the Internet, not your old phone company lines.

When reviewing VoIP phones and features, be aware of the following issues:

Costs

A VoIP Phone can cost more than $100 and the more features you need, the more you pay. Most VoIP phones have LCD screens with the most expensive ones offering video capability. For example the Cisco Small Business Pro SPA 508G, costs about $170 and has similar functions comparable to a regular phone, with a a simple display, and functions like re-dial, and mute key. At the higher end, you may consider the Polycom VVX 1500 - IP video phone, which sells for almost $1,000 and offers a touch-screen capability along with lots of functionalities. If you’re considering a wireless VoIP phone, you can expect to pay an average of $200-$300 each.

Warranties

Most phones come with a manufacturer warranty of a year, but double check on it. In certain cases, the warranty may have been extended for free, or it may cost you more. Depending where you purchase your phones, the vendor may offer additional warranties. Be sure you understand how the warranty works– if you need to bring the phone in or if you they can be repaired at your place of business. VoIP phones are not cheap and you should protect your investment by getting proper warranties -- some may include replacement of phones, which can be valuable.

Number of Lines

If you have 5 phone lines in your business, you will need a VoIP phone system that accommodate this many lines. The the Cisco Small Business Pro SPA 508G supports 8 lines, while the more expensive, Polycom VVX 1500 - IP video phone accommodates only 6 lines. Don’t forget employees in the field or on Wi-Fi when considering the number of lines. Make sure the phone allows for extra lines, when needed. Generally you need about 90kbs of bandwidth to add a new line.

IT Deparment

Many small businesses have an in-house information technology (IT) person or a contractor, who helps the business on a part-time basis.  Make sure this person knows of your phone needs and is involved in your purchasing process. IT people know about the behind-the-scenes technology and can give you good advice on which phone system would work best with existing network. A person working with IT may know about companies and brands with good reputations in the market-place and can stir you in the right direction.

VoIP technology is here to stay, and you may as well be part of it, benefiting your firm with great savings and efficiencies. You have a wide variety of  choices in the marketplace and to review lots of technical information that may not be familiar to you. Take your time when deciding what VoIP phone will be a good fit for your firm and consider your long-term needs, not just the immediate situation.  Happy shopping!

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