Fortunately, there are several dedicated residential VoIP providers who offer nationwide service, usually with worldwide calling plans. With one of these you should be offered at least four core features. Those include caller ID, voicemail hosted by the provider (meaning you don't need an answering machine), call waiting (essentially a one-line hold), 911 support (sometimes called "E911"), and three-way calling allowing you to reach out to a third participant in any phone conversation. There will likely be a slew of other features available, but they'll differ across quality providers while these four should always be available. Most of these will work in a two-step process:
Each provider will disclose international calling rates on their website and a list of features on their website. We give a standardized list for each provider (with explanations on our VoIP Calling Features page) but providers experiment with different features all the time. Check their website (using a link on their details page) to verify how each feature works.
When people mention voice over IP (VoIP) most are thinking about a business phone service rather than home phone. After all, businesses run data networks and that's what VoIP needs to operate. But now that the majority of homes have an Internet connection, that means they're also running a data network, just usually a smaller and simpler one than you'd find at the office. If you're careful about what you buy, you can take advantage of VoIP's key benefits, which include far more features and a much lower price tag than an old fashioned landline.
VoIP service providers offer many highly advanced, next generation calling, texting, video, and conferencing features. Often these features are included, and are valuable assets every step of the way throughout your specific communication needs. Traditionally, many of the calling features now included with VoIP phone services were exercised by a human being operating a switchboard. Directing call traffic appropriately is vital to the success of any business. With Voice Over IP solutions, many of them are customizable to put your business at the pinnacle of efficiency and professionalism. Network features are designed to make sure your business never misses a beat – keeping your infrastructure at the tip of your fingers at all times.
Choose the service that is appropriate for your calling needs. Residential VoIP plans are cheaper than business VoIP plans because: (1) they have fewer features and (2) residential phones are used less frequently than business phones. Don’t use a residential VoIP service for a home-based business unless you’re willing to pay overage fees or to have your VoIP service canceled. VoIP providers are serious about enforcing their Fair Use guidelines.
In addition to making sure your internet service can handle your VoIP traffic, you also need to make sure your local area network (LAN) can handle it. What makes network management tricky with VoIP is that if you simply drop it onto your network, that traffic will get processed the same as any other traffic, meaning your shared accounting application or those 20 gigabytes worth of files your assistant just stored in the cloud.
Phone Power is another home VoIP provider that runs its service using an on-premises device. This is called the Home Adapter and like other services, it sits between your phones and your Internet connection, though no other network is required. It can even function as a router on its own. While it's not the cheapest home VoIP solution we found, it's certainly well-regarded and mature with a wide variety of options and capabilities.
Let’s face it: the office environment isn’t for everyone. If you frequently work out of office or run a mobile business (like a food truck or pop-up store), you may find that Grasshopper is the best phone service for you. Grasshopper offers iOS and Android apps that allow you to make and receive calls on your cell phone using your business number—that way, you can keep your personal and work communications separate. It’s a great VoIP software for any entrepreneur who doesn’t want or need desktop phones as part of their PBX solutions.
If the price is a primary motivation, then the Yealink SIP-T19P is probably the phone for you. The SIP-T19P only has one line, so it isn’t suitable for a business that gets a high number of calls or with a complicated PBX telephone system. Some of the phone features include a sharp 2.3” black and white display and it can support headsets if needed. It also offers three-way conferencing, SMS, and call hold, meaning it still has much more functionality than a traditional landline.
When you're considering a new VoIP phone system for your business, it's important to include stakeholders from all of the key parts of your business in the planning and decision making process. Yes, this especially includes the IT staff and the data security folks since your voice communications will now be data. But it also needs to include folks who will be using the system to get work done, especially the work that drives revenue and engages customers. These people have invaluable insights into what's really needed versus what's simply cool and new. Plus, you'll need their input to select a phone system that will actually move your business forward as well as fit into your IT environment.
Yealink SIP-T54S is an easy-to-use Media IP Phone with a 2.8-inch color-screen and a distinctive appearance and structure. For its simplified and human-friendly design as well as user interface, it brings the IP phone and users more closer and unceasingly boosts the operating experience. With Yealink Optima HD voice technology, T54S enhances its audio quality via adding Opus audio codec, so that it delivers superb audio quality and crystal clear voice communications. Yealink SIP-T54S built with Gigabit Ethernet technology, a built-in Bluetooth and a built-in USB 2.0 port, enhancing collaboration and productivity.
Some of that software is running on the provider's servers, but parts of it will be running on your devices, whether that's a PC a mobile phone or a VoIP phone. It's this software layer that provides the rich feature fabric, which along with its lower price, is what's drawing residential customers to the technology. Some of the more popular advanced features you'll find available in a residential service, include:
Most of these VoIP solutions will require stable and consistent internet connectivity at every location where wired phones are to be used. At the very least, your business phone system must have access to a business class internet link to the cloud. This should be a dedicated link through a dedicated router if you expect your phone calls to sound as if they were coming from a business and not someone's home Skype connection. But it's important to know that you will also need a router that can create a virtual LAN (VLAN), and one that has the ability to encrypt voice traffic, and only your voice traffic. VoIP security from end to end for all calls is now a business necessity.
While there are still a few other legacy protocols around, and a few non-SIP standards, such as H.232, SIP is what's used for the vast majority of modern VoIP phone systems. The most common use I've seen for H.232 has been in dedicated video conferencing systems. SIP, meanwhile, handles phone service, video conferencing, and several other tasks just fine, which is why its use is so widespread. Where it has trouble is with data security, but more on that in a bit.
Be aware, however, that there are significant security implications regarding the use of mobile softphones on employee-owned devices. While it's possible for your employees to simply download the appropriate software from their respective app store, your IT department should be involved with allowing access while also confirming that necessary security steps are taken. Also be aware that there are important reasons not to allow soft phone installations on private devices of any type because you may not be able to remove that phone client if the employee leaves the company, and because local laws may impact how much control you have over the use of the device.
Softphones are increasing in importance in VoIP offerings to the point that for some they're the only choice. They are a critical part of UCaaS and are as common on mobile phones and tablets as they are on desktop PCs. For workers in call centers, softphones are a common tool because of they're the front-end window of any CRM or help desk integration. So, for example, a softphone can combine a telephone conversation with text chat and screen sharing, which means a conversation between two employees can seamlessly add more participants, handle private text chats between those participants while the call is still going on, and extend to a collaboration session in which the group shares screens, documents, and data—no prep, no reserved lines, just button clicks.
An important disadvantage of the landline is that you cannot easily scale it up or down. This is why many companies with rapidly expanding or contracting business sizes prefer VoIP because it allows enterprise management to easily add, edit or even delete user rights centrally through the control panel. It is not necessary to follow the tedious processes involved if you are using a regular landline. This makes internet phone technology significantly more suitable for large business organizations.
The caveat there is the proverbial fine print, usually located just below the really attractive dollar figure. This small print generally details exactly how many months that nice number will remain in effect before the bloom comes off the rose and you start getting billed a much higher number that represents the service's actual cost. Many providers don't even print this higher number on their websites, so be sure to ask the sales guy on the phone before you sign up. The nice number that pulled you in can often double or more once the introductory period wears off. Some providers even attach a minimum length of time that you'll need to suffer these higher costs before you can change or modify the service without getting hit with an additional early-termination penalty fee.
As always the best place to start is at the beginning! The following buttons provide access to some of our best guides and tools for getting started with VoIP. These articles give a great background into VoIP, help you understand all the basics, and answer most people questions. The VoIP/Speed test tool performs a test of your Internet connection and provides a great indication of how well VoIP will work at your home. We highly recommend running this test.