Upgrading your business communication system doesn’t have to be time-consuming or full of roadblocks.
In fact, VoIP makes migrating to a modern phone system seamless – especially with the right provider.
In this article, we will discuss how to set up VoIP by breaking down both the preparation and implementation processes.
- Getting Started with VoIP
- Preparing to Install VoIP
- Determine Communication Needs
- Audit Hardware and Satisfy VoIP Requirements
- Explore VoIP Deployment Options
- How to Install VoIP Network
- Research and Choose a VoIP Provider
- Set Up VoIP Hardware and Software
- Configure Business Phone System
- Test Your New VoIP Network
Why Should Your Business Set Up a VoIP Phone System?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows your business to make and receive phone calls using an internet connection and packet switching technology. This tech replaces the physical lines of a traditional phone system with digital pathways – making VoIP more efficient than PSTN and landlines.
Benefits of Using VoIP for Business Communication
Other benefits of installing VoIP include:
• Reduced Overhead Costs – Save on international and long-distance calling fees as well as the cost of routine maintenance and equipment upgrades.
• Ability to Scale – Make changes to your system (such as adding or removing users) as you see fit without applying major changes to your network.
• Increased Mobility and Flexibility – Enjoy access from any location or IP-enabled device. This means you can place and receive business calls from smartphones, tablets, computers, and more. And, you can use Voice over IP to connect your widespread and remote teams.
• Access to Advanced Features – Use advanced communication features like call recording, IVR, and routing. These allow you to customize and build a better phone system that increases caller experience.
• Improved Reliability – Access failover functionalities and ensure your system’s reliability – even during power outages or severe weather conditions. Failover options typically come with a VoIP service.
• Manage Communication in One Place – Manage and access your core communication channels like voice, video, text, and more through one centralized platform. You no longer need multiple services to manage your business’ communications.
Getting Started with VoIP
Whether setting up VoIP within a small business or enterprise, you’ll need a few components to get started. It’s worth noting that your setup may look different depending on your existing infrastructure. But to properly power this technology at its most basic level, you’ll need:
- A strong internet connection and adequate bandwidth (equipment needed: a modem, router, Ethernet cables to connect everything, and an Internet Service Provider (ISP))
- IP-enabled devices such as desktops, tablets, smartphones, and IP phones
- Or media gateways to connect legacy phone systems
- A reliable VoIP provider (more on this later).
Preparing to Set Up VoIP
Before configuring VoIP, you must define your communication needs, assess your existing system, and do your research. While these steps are not mandatory, it helps streamline your transition. Let’s break these steps down further.
Determine Communication Needs
It’s important to start preparing for your VoIP installation by determining your needs. This information should guide you through the decision-making and transition process – ensuring you stay on track to the best solution. And it will make the selection process more efficient since you’ll know exactly what to look for.
So, how do you define your business communication needs? Start by asking yourself:
- What are you planning to use VoIP for exactly? Inbound calling? Outbound calling? Or both?
- What is the budget? How much are you willing to spend on equipment, a provider, features, and other add-ons?
- What features are “must-haves” for your business and teams? And which ones could you live without, but would be nice to have?
- Do you have an existing communication infrastructure? If so, are you planning on completely replacing it? Or do you want to modernize your legacy phones by upgrading them with VoIP? And based on these answers, how do you plan on deploying VoIP? (more on this later)
- Are you looking to port your existing business phone number, or will you choose a new one? And if you select a new number, will it be a local, toll-free or international phone number?
- How many lines or users do you plan on having?
- What is your current average number of calls, or how many calls do you expect to receive? And how does call traffic typically behave (does it spike, or is it consistent)?
Defining the full scope of your communication needs helps you find the best service and setup for your business.
Audit Hardware and Satisfy VoIP Requirements
Auditing your hardware means assessing your equipment and IT infrastructure to evaluate its life cycle and current ability to perform its job. These audits help businesses identify outdated or broken equipment, prevent double-purchasing, and determine what equipment still has value. Once you have a good idea of your infrastructure, you can select a VoIP deployment model (see below) and decide if additional hardware purchases are necessary.
During your audit, it’s also worth evaluating your IT infrastructure to ensure it can support the solution you envision. In other words, make sure your system meets the minimum requirements for installing VoIP. This way, you get the best possible call quality and VoIP performance.
Ensure your infrastructure has:
• Adequate Bandwidth for VoIP – Check that you have an adequate amount of bandwidth available to power your devices and services. Your minimum bandwidth speed for one call or SIP channel should generally be 100 kbps.
• Low Latency – VoIP relies on the internet to transmit calls. So, you need a strong and reliable internet connection. Opt for wired Ethernet connections over Wi-Fi, as it increases internet speed, lowers network latency, and offers a more stable connection. And, perform a VoIP speed test to evaluate your network speed and stability.
• Data Prioritization Options – A congested network leads to problems with VoIP errors. Because of this, make sure your router has data prioritization capabilities like Quality of Service (QoS). This capability will allow you to prioritize and optimize your network traffic – ensuring that VoIP calls receive enough bandwidth.
Satisfying these network requirements will set you up for success with most VoIP services, but double-check your selected provider’s specific requirements.
Explore VoIP Deployment Options
Part of the preparation process is research and information gathering. So, let’s review the different options for VoIP deployment. This way, you understand what is available to your business.
• On-premise Solutions
With this deployment model, you install VoIP infrastructure at your business’ physical location. Companies must purchase hardware like servers, switches, and IP phones. And, you’re responsible for routine maintenance, monitoring, and upgrades. As such, you’ll experience higher overhead costs with this setup.
Best For: Large businesses or enterprises, businesses with high communication needs and a large amount of phone lines, companies with infrastructure already in place
• Hosted Solutions
A hosted VoIP solution means your provider installs VoIP equipment and manages the system for you at their locations. So, you receive cloud phone services without the hassle of routine maintenance, system upgrades, or network routing.
Luke Genoyer, Business Development Manager at United World Telecom, says,“It’s much easier to set up VoIP when you’re going through a hosted provider. This is especially true when compared to installing a PRI or POTS system or even wiring together an on-premise PBX.”
Not only does your business save on costs associated with purchasing and maintaining equipment, but you also avoid the hassle of installing complex hardware. And, your business gains greater mobility and flexibility as hosted VoIP solutions are accessible from anywhere.
Best For: Remote and distributed teams, businesses of all sizes, companies looking for affordable communication solutions
• Hybrid Solutions
The hybrid deployment model allows businesses to plug VoIP solutions into their legacy phones via a gateway. So, the VoIP service is hosted while the equipment is on-premise.
Best For: Businesses looking to migrate to VoIP while keeping and upgrading their legacy phones.
How to Set Up a VoIP Phone System
After completing the necessary preparations, it’s time to install your VoIP network. Let’s break it down into 4 steps:
- Choosing a reliable VoIP provider
- Setting up hardware and software
- Configuring your phone system
- Testing your network
1. Research and Choose a VoIP Provider
It’s crucial to analyze multiple VoIP providers and services before selecting one. This research guarantees that you get the best solution for your business. Compare your communication needs with each provider’s offering.
Specifically, look at:
• Pricing & Hidden Fees – Review each provider’s pricing options and compare them with your budget. Be aware of per-user, per-month pricing models, as these tend to be more expensive than a flat monthly price. And double-check if they have any setup or hidden fees.
• VoIP Requirements – Ask about the provider’s specific VoIP requirements. Can your system support their solution as is? Or will you have to modify your current infrastructure to run the service?
• Activation Times – Consider how long it will take to get your service setup and if it meets your timeframe requirements.
• Available Features – Compare the provider’s range of available features with your list of must-have and nice-to-have features.
• Uptime & Network Reliability – Assess each provider’s network reliability. Start by looking at their uptime guarantee and crisis management initiatives. And take into account how many Points of Presence (PoPs) they have to fall back on in case of service disruptions.
Customer Support – Pay attention to their customer support offerings. Does the provider offer support in your time zone, region, and desired language? And does your account come with a dedicated account manager?
While this step requires quite a bit of research, it’s worth it in the long run as you’ll end up with a trusted provider and solutions that fit your specific needs. Take your time with this step. With the right provider, you can successfully install VoIP and maintain your system with minimal roadblocks.
2. Set Up VoIP Hardware and Software
Once you’ve activated your service, you’re ready to set up your equipment and install the VoIP system. The specific setup of your system depends on your provider, existing infrastructure, how you plan on deploying VoIP, and what equipment you want to use.
If you plan on using softphones to make and receive business calls, the setup process is quick and easy. Simply download your provider’s softphone to your desired IP-enabled device. Then, connect it to your phone service using your login information.
You can also purchase hard phones, also known as IP phones, that connect directly to your VoIP server. While these phones look like regular deskphones, they have Ethernet ports instead of phone jacks. To set this hardware up, connect the IP phone to your router via an Ethernet cable. Then, assign the device to the appropriate user or extension.
For those planning on upgrading legacy phones with VoIP, you’ll need to purchase a gateway. This bridges the gap between the PSTN and digital networks. Start by connecting your legacy phone to the gateway using the phone jack, also known as a register jack-11 (RJ11). Then, connect the gateway to the internet using an Ethernet cable.
For additional equipment like headsets and microphones, simply plug these directly into your computer, phone, or device. Or connect them via Bluetooth if they are wireless.
3. Configure Business Phone System
After setting up your equipment, start adding your users and configure your desired communication features. Which features you choose and how you go about configuring them depends on your business communication needs. But if you defined them earlier, you’ll know exactly which feature you need to configure.
Consider the following:
- Create call flows and set up an IVR to handle incoming calls and guide callers through your system – ensuring they end up at the appropriate destination.
- Implement different routing strategies for after-hours calls, holidays, 24/7 global support options, or to match the caller with their preferred time zone and language.
- Incorporate failover strategies such as failover forwarding to guarantee all calls get answered, even if the first location doesn’t pick up. This is also great for disaster recovery, as it redirects calls to an available destination.
- Equip call recording on all or a fraction of your calls for training, quality assurance, or liability purposes.
- Establish ring groups to effectively manage call volumes and reduce wait times for callers.
4. Test Your New VoIP Network
At this point, you’ve fully installed VoIP, and it’s almost ready to use. But before you start making and receiving business calls, test your system and lines for issues.
When testing, pay attention to:
- Audio quality
- Latency or delays
- Dropped calls
- No audio or one-way audio
- Connection reliability
- Network speed
- And make sure any features you’ve configured operate how you want them to.
Gregory Porras, Senior VoIP Engineer at United World Telecom, explains that VoIP issues can occur for any number of reasons, which is why it’s important to test your system before going live. He suggests testing your system from your internal, external, Wi-Fi, and VPN networks. Greg adds that call quality should be a top priority – so he recommends double-checking your router’s firewall, QoS, and SIP ALG settings. And, open ports on your router to your provider’s recommended settings.
If all else fails, work with your provider to troubleshoot the problem.
Make the Most of Your VoIP Network
While setting up VoIP may seem daunting and complex to some, it is possible to do on your own. Simply follow the steps above and start using your new VoIP phone system.
And with the right provider, you’ll be able to tackle any issues you run into along the way. United World Telecom offers dedicated account managers and 24/7 global support to all users. While some providers charge a “professional services” fee to help with implementation and training for employees, we include it for free with any of our business plans.
Speak with our telecom experts to understand how we can help you set up a VoIP phone system for your business. Call us at 1 (877) 898 8646!