Disclaimer: The information featured in this article is based on our best estimates of pricing, package details, contract stipulations, and service available at the time of writing. All information is subject to change. Pricing will vary based on various factors, including, but not limited to, the customer’s location, package chosen, added features and equipment, the purchaser’s credit score, etc. For the most accurate information, please ask your customer service representative. Clarify all fees and contract details before signing a contract or finalizing your purchase.
A high speed Internet connection is required to "carry" your calls so if you have an Internet outage (or your ISP has an outage) then your phone service will not work. Internet services have improved significantly in the last few years and outages tend to be much less common than they use to be. Again, if you have a cell phone then this may not be an issue for you.
A key attraction of VoIP is that it gives these systems the flexibility to work in a wide variety of environments ranging from analog desk phones to softphones piggy-backing on a cell phone. These systems can often also integrate all or part of their softphone clients into other back-office applications, like your customer relationship management (CRM) or help desk platforms. Simply picture the standard interface of such an app that suddenly sports a dial pad and some function buttons as a pop-up screen and you'll have a very basic idea of how some of this works. In addition, these cloud based systems can have a variety of phone numbers in global locations, so that your customers can have free access to your phone at little or no charge.
It is much cheaper than a regular landline - most providers offer unlimited calling plans (including long distance) in the USA and Canada for under $10 per month. There are also some great promotional deals available such as 2 year specials that cost around $6 per month (includes all your calling). Comparing this to a regular PSTN (landline) phone service that can cost in the region of $60 per month can result in savings of over $500 per year for many home phone users. If you also regularly call International numbers you can save even more, with rates typically starting from around 1 to 2 cents per minute to many countries.
That situation is for fairly pristine network and business conditions, however. Companies with legacy equipment or unique business needs may need a hybrid PBX, in which a portion of the voice network remains in the analog world, while the rest is converted to cloud-based VoIP. This could happen if you occupy an older building without the necessary Ethernet infrastructure to support VoIP or if you had custom software built a long time ago that simply isn't compatible with newer phone technologies.
A business phone system helps you to present a professional image to your customers. If you do not have a need for office phones or spend the money, you can still use a virtual phone system to project a professional look. This enables you to place a call directly to a mobile phone. It also has key features like voicemail transcription and automated attendants.
The only additional piece of equipment that you need is an Analog Telephone Adapter (also referred to as an ATA) that allows you to connect your existing telephone to your home Internet. This equipment is typically provided on a free lease basis from the home VoIP provider that you choose, or you can use you own device if you prefer. You can also use IP phone(s) instead of using the ATA with your existing analog phones. The sound quality is better but there is more up front cost as IP phones are more expensive than the ATA devices.