VoIP: The Ultimate Guide

Here's your complete & comprehensive guide to VoIP.

VoIP. Yet another telecoms acronym. We’re all too familiar with the over-complicated jargon used today (especially by the telecoms industry).

Nobody likes jargon. Nobody.

VoIP is one of those acronyms that most people have heard of. Maybe you know a bit about it, maybe you know a lot - but you’ve almost certainly heard it somewhere, especially if you own or run a business.

So, here’s my complete, comprehensive, thorough, in-depth, broad, encyclopaedic, extensive, exhaustive, I’ve got a little carried away with the thesaurus, ultimate guide to VoIP.

What is VoIP?

VoIP stands for Voice Over IP. Basically, VoIP means that your business makes phone calls using your existing broadband connection, rather than a dedicated telephone line.

And that’s pretty much it. VoIP is just a newer, more modern method for making voice calls (it’s normally quite a bit cheaper than the other methods too).

VoIP is also known as:

  • IP telepony
  • Internet phone
  • Broadband phone

In fact, most people regularly use VoIP everyday without even knowing about it. Seriously.

If you’ve ever called anyone on WhatsApp, you’re using VoIP. Or, if you use FaceTime Audio, or Skype, or the phone feature in Facebook Messenger, then you’re using VoIP.

To be honest, VoIP isn’t inherently different from traditional phone calls - it just uses a different technology.

This is our VoIP mobile app.

How does VoIP work?

So, traditionally (without VoIP), phone calls are made using the PSTN - which uses analogue telephone lines to carry voice between the two parties making a call. This PSTN is made up of a vast network of telephone exchanges across the UK.

Any business that wants to be able to make or receive phone calls requires at least one (if not several) telephone lines from their premises to the local telephone exchange; as well as a telephone line to run their broadband.

But not any more...

VoIP Diagram
Isn't this diagram great?
VoIP does away with the need for multiple lines and just makes better use of your broadband connection.

Technically speaking...

If we're gonna be technical, VoIP uses packet switching instead of circuit switching. Circuit switching is the more ‘old-fashioned’ method of making and receiving calls.

This ‘circuit switching’ uses a technology called ISDN. ISDN is going out of date, and is set to be switched off by Openreach in 2025, which could cause an issue for businesses not using VoIP.

Whilst there is no need to panic, it may be a good idea to research possible VoIP options when your current telephony contract/lease ends - just to make sure that your business communications are future proof.

My video sums it up.

I've made a very insightful (if I do say so myself) video explaining VoIP. It shows what VoIP is, how it works and why it's a great idea for your business.

The origins of VoIP.

VoIP isn’t new. I know I’m banging on about this ‘new, modern’ VoIP technology, but VoIP has actually been around since 1973.

The issue was that, ‘back in the day’, the internet was still in its infancy and (as anyone who has ever used dial up will tell you) pretty unreliable. Therefore, VoIP was just awash with connectivity and quality issues that made the alternatives (PSTN or POTS) a much better option.

Nowadays, however, the internet is much more reliable and fibre broadband has meant that higher bandwidth and faster speeds are available. With these better connections, VoIP’s teething issues were washed away and it began to overtake ISDN.

Examples of VoIP.

Earlier in the guide, I mentioned that you probably already use a VoIP service. In fact, most modern forms of communication use some form of voice over IP technology - especially those in smartphones.

Examples of these VoIP services include:

  • FaceTime Audio
  • WhatsApp calling
  • Skype
  • Discord

As you might have gathered, VoIP is everywhere. It’s used by some many people, in so many different applications.

Why is it used everywhere? Well, that's because there is so many benefits...

What are the main benefits of VoIP?

We’d be here for hours if I listed every benefit of VoIP. So here’s a quick little tease of some of the main benefits of VoIP.

Lower cost - VoIP is low cost. Like, seriously low cost. No costly on-site hardware, no maintenance, just the cloud. Packages start at just £10/mo. For a fully-featured phone system.

Future proof
- Future proofing your business is a must. Our VoIP systems automatically update, so you don’t have to pay for the latest software, it’s already installed for you. You’ll also have access to new features as soon as they come out.

Scalability - Need a new user? Just add one. Opened up a new office location? Just add more licences. You get the picture, VoIP scales nicely with your business.

Included calls - VoIP offers cheaper calls, and with our VoIP packages, you’ll get 5000 minutes included - absolutely free.

Flexibility - VoIP is more flexible than a traditional phone system. You can build your package up using bolt-ons, so that you’re not over spending on excessive features that you don’t need.

Feature rich - VoIP phone systems are packed full of features. Seriously packed. Features including; hunt groups, music on hold, voicemail, call queuing, call recording, mobile app, online chats, exchange/outlook integrations, wallboard, CMS integrations and more.

In case you haven’t realised, there are a lot more benefits to VoIP. In fact, I listed 100 (yes really, 100) of them in a recent blog post; so if you’re REALLY that interested, you can check that out here.

VoIP is almost always better than the alternatives, especially when it comes to businesses.

The drawbacks of VoIP.

It seems all happy days so far, but VoIP isn’t perfect. Whilst it is cheaper, more reliable, better quality and more flexible, it does have its drawbacks. For example:

You need a good broadband speed for VoIP.
VoIP works using your your broadband, so, that means that you need to have a decent enough speed to be able to handle the extra VoIP traffic. As a guide, I’d recommend 28Mbps download as a minimum.

VoIP isn’t as customisable as a traditional, on-premise solution.
VoIP phone systems use the cloud, and are managed from a web portal. This means that they aren’t as totally customisable as a box-on-the wall. Whilst VoIP phone systems do offer most businesses with the customisability they require, some (such as doctors surgeries) may find that they don’t quite stretch to their requirements.

VoIP may not be able to handle high call volume.
The final downside is the call volume. If your business has a regular broadband connection and makes thousands of calls everyday, you’re going to struggle with VoIP. If you experience very heavy call traffic, I’d recommend sticking with ISDN, or, perhaps using a leased line to provide the capacity needed for this many VoIP calls.

Our VoIP mobile app.

Should I bother with VoIP?

If you haven’t quite got the gist of it yet, then the answer is:

Yes - you should absolutely bother with VoIP.

The ISDN switch off in 2025 is coming. And whilst it is not an immediate danger to businesses, you’d rather be prepared now, than later.

Another reason to bother with VoIP is the cost saving benefits. I’ve droned on about cost saving a lot in this guide, but that is the bottom line. VoIP shockingly cheap compared to the alternatives. Like, shockingly cheap.

Upgrading to VoIP improves collaboration, workflow and reduces running costs.
VoIP Softphone for your PC or Mac.

How VoIP can unify your business.

Now we know what VoIP is, where it came from and how it works, let’s talk about how it can help your business in the ever-changing commercial environment.

Now, this is the part where I could endlessly plug our own VoIP packages. But I won’t.

What I will say, however, is that VoIP is a great tool for businesses of all shapes and sizes. Whether you’ve got 2 or 2,000 employees, it is hard not to see the benefits that VoIP brings.

What do I need for VoIP?

VoIP requires an internet connection. That’s it.

Whilst you can technically run VoIP on any speed, but I would recommend a broadband connection of at least 28 Mbps download. This ensures consistent, reliable and high quality calls with no dropouts.

Most businesses already have this speed. Chances are, if you have fibre broadband, your speed will be more than good enough to support VoIP.

What about hardware?
In terms of hardware, not much is needed for VoIP. With our packages, you can get a free deskphone that just plugs right in, or you could just use our desktop app, or mobile app if you’d prefer. It's really your choice.

VoIP: The FAQ.

Here are some questions, taken directly from out customers, that we are most frequently asked. If you’ve got a question, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Yes. I’d recommend a connection of at least 28 Mbps download. Most businesses with a ‘fibre the cabinet’ or better are in a good position to upgrade to VoIP.

Well, yes and no. VoIP itself is a free service (Skype/Whatsapp etc), however, businesses looking to use VoIP do require a solution in place that is capable of handling VoIP calls. These systems are known as hosted phone systems. You will also require a broadband connection to use VoIP.

Commsplus have a variety of customisable VoIP packages for your business. Our VoIP packages start at £10/mo. Click here to view our VoIP packages.

No. VoIP calls can be made between your device and a third party, even if they don’t have a VoIP phone system.

It’s a toughie - I won’t lie. If your broadband connection is below the magic 28 Mbps, I’d highly recommend you stick to a traditional ISDN or on-premise PBX.

But there are things you can do if your connection is slow. They include: upgrading to fibre, changing your fibre broadband package, upgrading to a leased line or even using a 4G data connection.

In summary...

Hopefully you’ve got a bit more of an idea as to what VoIP is, how it works and why it’s so good. But just in case you haven’t…

The bottom line is this: VoIP is better.

  • VoIP is cheaper.
  • It offers better quality calls.
  • It’s more flexible.
  • It can be used on a mobile.
  • It’ll integrate with your CMS.
  • It removes additional costs.
  • It requires minimal (if any) maintenance.
  • It requires minimal (if any) maintenance.
  • It’s future proof.
  • It can be easily scaled.
  • It can be tailor made to your business.
  • It offers a wealth of features.
  • It comes with free handsets.
  • It has 5000 included minutes (for free).

In all seriousness though, if you’re in the market to change your telephony, then VoIP is something worth looking into. It has helped thousands of businesses cut their costs and improve their collaboration and workflow. Our clients love our VoIP platform and have reaped the rewards of moving to VoIP.

If you are in the market, give us a call and we can have a chat, no obligations. We can even set you up with a cheeky free trail, no commitments needed. Get in touch or visit our hosted VoIP page.

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