So you’ve decided that Voice over IP is right for you. Maybe you are self-employed and you want to be able to work from anywhere, making and receiving calls on your landline number. Perhaps your company is a new start up, or you are moving to new premises, and you want to employ the most up-to-date, efficient communications technology.
You might even be a large company spread over several locations. If so, you are paying the maintenance contracts for several different telephone systems. You will be cringing at the amount of money spent on calls between offices and to and from colleagues’ mobiles too! Whatever the situation, VoIP is going to help you communicate more efficiently while saving you money.
You can make VoIP calls with a headset or a simple USB handset using an application on a computer; there are a number of apps for smartphones too. However, in most cases, you and your colleagues are going to use a desk phone just like you have always done. This is an investment that you want to make the most of for as long as you can, so it is vital to ensure that you are satisfied with the phones you buy. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right ones.
1: Use a supplier who understands the technology
Firstly, there is more than one protocol (or ‘flavour’) of Voice over IP. Here at Yealink our phones use the SIP protocol which has now become the de facto standard for the industry. SIP is open source so you don’t have to pay a licence fee for the use of someone else’s intellectual property!
Telecommunications is a diverse industry. There are companies who sell all kinds of telephones without necessarily having sufficient knowledge of the array of different technologies that they can provide. They will of course be happy to make a sale of any kind though, so buyers beware. Companies like Gradwell with a large team of technical staff and a business model that focuses on VoIP will ensure that you get the right product.
2: Official Interoperability
It’s great that your supplier knows their subject and can recommend a suitable phone but, better still, many phone manufacturers and telephone system or service providers test their products for interoperability. If your chosen service provider and phone manufacturer both agree that their products are compatible, then you can have the ultimate peace of mind that everything will work seamlessly. Yealink SIP phones are officially endorsed by Gradwell for use on their network so you can have full confidence putting the two together.
3: Phone features
Without wasting money on features you will never need, it is important to make sure that your new phones are going to enable you to do your job in the most efficient way.
Just as with the phones you have used in your office before, consider whether your colleagues will need a headset now or during the future life of your VoIP system. Anyone who sits at a desk and spends more than an hour or two per day on the phone is going to be more productive and more comfortable if they have both hands free for typing. Fortunately, most phones have a port for a headset as standard but it’s wise to check. Most headsets connect to the phone via a cable, but there are many great quality wireless headsets available too. If you want to use a wireless headset though, be sure to choose a phone that offers full functionality with the headset. You will need to be able to hear the phone ringing in your headset, and to answer and drop calls using the button on the side of the headset too.
Almost all SIP telephones have an LCD display. Do you simply need to see who’s calling when the phone rings and perhaps search for a phone number in the directory from time to time? If so, a simple alphanumeric display, similar to a calculator you may have used for GCSE maths, will be fine. It is worth bearing in mind though that a ‘graphic’ LCD is made up of many rows of small pixels so they can display different sizes of text or even simple images, like your company logo. If you take pride in your corporate image and often have visitors to your workplace, then you can benefit from a phone with a colour display. Our T32GN and T38GN models for example have customisable wallpaper and even ‘photo frame’ screen savers so you can add lots of your favourite photos!
4: How many buttons?
Most phones have many function keys like Mute, Redial and Transfer, but some phones also have a number of context-sensitive “soft keys” (please see photo for example). These buttons will be located next to the LCD which will show their labels. Soft keys change their function depending on what you are doing at the time; whether you’re making a call, searching the phonebook or in the middle of a call transfer, these soft keys will offer you the functions you are most likely to need next. A few pounds extra will help your colleagues to work more efficiently, improving productivity and adding professionalism to their dealings with callers.
Staff who call the same numbers time after time will be grateful for a phone with programmable keys for speed dials too. Those same buttons could also enable single-touch access to system features like paging or call forwarding.
5: PoE or not PoE?
Telephones are of course electrical devices. Your landline phone at home is very likely to draw all the power it needs from the phone line itself. If you have an existing telephone system the chances are that your phones don’t require mains power either. SIP phones are plugged into your LAN – the same Ethernet cabling that your PCs will use. While it’s possible to send electrical power over a LAN (Power over Ethernet: PoE), this depends on whether or not you have PoE enabled network architecture. If you have then fine, you can just plug your SIP telephones into the LAN using the Ethernet cables supplied with them. If not, then you can either choose to upgrade your network switches to PoE versions, or purchase power adapters with your chosen SIP phones.
Spend a bit of time considering how your colleagues work, carefully check the feature sets of the phones you like and above all, remember that the Gradwell team know their stuff!
Roy Stephenson has been Yealink’s UK Channel Manager since the company was launched in early 2009, whilst holding the same role with analogue phone manufacturer Interquartz UK Ltd for over 10 years. Prior to that, Roy worked in direct sales for Samsung Telecoms. His expertise spans across the analogue, IP and SIP markets.