Communication is a vital part of running a company, whether you’re a small business or a larger enterprise. Business phones, traditionally a combination of desk phones linked via a PBX system, combined with the use of mobile phones, have been the preferred phone service setup for most firms.
The rise of teleworking made people rely more on platforms like Microsoft Teams and also led to the growth of video calls. But the traditional phone, or even conference phone, also needed to evolve.
Enter the SIP phone. SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol. These handsets are basically VoIP phones; a VoIP phone system manages multimedia communication and has the functionality to integrate voice, video calls and instant messaging over the internet.
This is really the key advantage of SIP phone technology over the traditional office phone line. Of course, video calls, messaging and voice calls are already available but generally on separate devices. SIP phones integrate them in a flexible and user-friendly way. The technology can also function on mobile devices, tablets and computers, as well as a desktop phone handset.
A SIP phone enables simple and secure communication between team members, no matter their location. It’s the next level of telephony for today’s business needs.
What Is SIP?
A SIP phone provides a VoIP service; VoIP stands for Voice over Internet protocol. VoIP enables the user to make a voice call, but instead of using an analogue phone line, VoIP uses a broadband internet connection. In the new age of voice, VoIP has been a game-changer.
SIP phones enable you to make secure phone calls over the internet. In this way, your communication, like email or video calls, comes courtesy of your broadband service provider rather than a phone company. SIP phones can perform all the tasks a traditional phone can but with some added extras, integrating the functions of a regular phone with video and instant messaging.
Developed in the 1990s, the decade when internet access began to be widely available, SIP was intended to take communication beyond the limits of a phone call. SIP phones broaden the idea of what a call can be. Where traditional phones are simply voices down phone lines, SIP phones facilitate communication via text, image, and voice without the need for physical wires and infrastructure.
Features to look for in a SIP phone
The combination of message, video and phone that a SIP phone offers is the future of business communications. But, with so many options available, how do you choose the right model for your needs?
Price, compatibility and how feature-rich the IP telephone is will all have a bearing on your choice. But here are some key features to look out for:
- Phones with Wi-Fi connectivity: These are great if you want a cordless phone that only requires a base station rather than needing to be plugged into Ethernet cables and a router. These phones are particularly useful if users are likely to be moving around
- Expansion modules are also something to check for, as they add features like speed dials and programmable buttons.
- Security is often a concern for firms when moving their communication online, but through voice codes, SIP phone systems offer more security than PSTN, the traditional network of circuit-switched telephone lines. An IP PBX telephone system can also switch easily between VoIP and external phone lines.
- You might also want to check for HD voice, enhanced sound clarity, integrated Bluetooth, and features such as caller ID, call recording, and the size and quality of the screen.
- Some screens are colour, some are backlit, and some are touch screens. It’s worth considering these options carefully and thinking about ease of use for your staff; the final choice really depends on which phone will suit your needs.
Categories/Types of SIP Phones
There are basically two types of SIP phones: hardphones, which are similar to desk phones, and softphones, also called software SIP phones. Both types have the functionality to allow voice, video, and message, but the handsets deliver this in different ways.
Desk phones or Hardware SIP Phones
Desk phones or hardphones have the appearance of ordinary office phones, with a typical receiver and keypad set up. The real difference is how the phone is built and its capabilities.
Desk phones can be corded or cordless, connecting to an IP network using Ethernet cables or through a Wi-Fi network. The cordless phones communicate with the phone’s base station, utilising a technology called DECT. The base station then connects to the IP PBX.
Softphones/Software SIP Phones
Softphones can be smartphones, desktop computers, laptops, or tablets. As the name suggests, it’s the software the device carries that enables it to function as a telephone.
Any device that’s sufficiently served with a microphone and speakers and has the right apps installed can be used as a softphone. The device will also need an IP-based connection to a SIP server.
Softphones often turn out to be the easiest option for smaller firms or those that have flexible work arrangements or are set up for hot desking or communal workspaces.
Brands and Phones
There are several brands in the SIP field to look out for. Both Panasonic and German firm Snom produce great quality voice over internet phones. Canadian company Mitel specialises in VoIP and Gigaset in cordless phones. Another name in the SIP sector is Grandstream Networks, which is a leading producer of IP communication solutions.
Let’s look at ten of the best SIP phones on the market.
The Poly CCX 700 Business Media Phone is at the upper end of the price range, but it’s a quality, clean-looking device with a large LCD display and award-winning Poly audio technology. It also comes with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Also, at the higher end of the price scale, the Unify CP600 is a high-end phone for the workplace, with its tiltable colour display, four-way navigator, Bluetooth, and near field communication (NFC) function.
Yealink produce a range of SIP phones. Their T57W has a handy colour touch screen, Bluetooth, Ethernet cables, and a USB port.
Also, from Yealink, the T54W Prime Business Phone is an advanced, feature-rich phone ideal for busy professionals.
The Yealink range also includes the T46U Ultra-elegant Gigabit IP Phone. This state-of-the-art SIP phone is perfect for executives and those managing multiple channels of communication.
Polycom produces the VVX 250 business IP phone (above), which, although more of an entry-level IP desk phone, has everything you would need and is reliable with good sound quality.
Also, from Polycom, the VVX 350 business IP phone is a grade up from the model we just mentioned. It has a high-resolution colour display and is a feature-rich phone that would suit more advanced users or managers.
For higher call volume, the Polycom VVX 450 business IP phone is a high-quality device. It can accommodate twelve lines and has a colour screen.
Cisco makes the 6821 (shown above). A two-line, entry-level IP desk phone. The phone is high-quality, reliable, and has good sound, reliable performance, and enterprise-grade sound quality. It’s the perfect phone for a home office.
Also, from Cisco, the 7841 is a great-priced energy-efficient business phone. It’s a great solution for a mid-sized company. It has high quality (HD) voice and good sound. It also comes with four programmable lines and is extremely user-friendly.
Advantages of SIP Phones for Business Communications
There’s no doubt that being able to fax documents from your phone or send instant messages to colleagues without having to spend the time on an email or phone call is a great time-saver.
Conference calls are also one of the clearest advantages of the SIP phone. A SIP phone should be a key part of an effective conference room setup. Some SIP phones are specifically designed for conference calls. It’s worthwhile having at least one phone in every conference space within your company.
The wealth of features that SIP phones offer and the flexibility of having multiple ways to send and receive information from one device are absolutely key. Technology such as SIP trunking, which allows network access to multiple clients simultaneously instead of individually, is another example.
The way SIP phones integrate with your business infrastructure is also an advantage. SIP phones use PoE or Power over Ethernet, avoiding the installation of electrical wiring and adapters, as PoE only requires a data network cable. This is a cost-saving, but it also avoids so much disruption to your office or business premises in terms of installation.
How to Choose SIP Phones for Your Business
Choosing the option that both suits your workforce and is compatible with your current network and in-company communication channels is really the key to making the right choice.
A smaller company or a businessperson operating from a home office will have different needs and potentially a smaller budget than a large enterprise. But a phone’s features and functions are also important. Less expensive options aren’t necessarily lower quality. If they come from a good brand, it just means they have fewer or more simplified features to suit a particular type of business need.
Most companies opt for a combination of softphones and hard phones. But the ratio of desk phones to softphones will depend a great deal on the typical roles within the business. Those using headsets, for example, such as customer service staff, really need a desk phone with Bluetooth and USB ports.
A manager or director might also prefer a desk phone, but possibly a more high-end option. For those on the move or working flexibly, softphones come into their own. For staff engaged in training and delivering engaging webinars, a softphone setup on a desktop computer might be the most practical and adaptable solution.
Set up a SIP Phone With Help From RingCentral
So, we’ve looked at the technology, the different options, brands, and models of SIP phones available, but what about the practicalities of actually setting your company up with the right devices?
It can feel daunting to make the leap to upgrade your communication systems. Many companies inherit a phone setup that’s out of date and flawed, and it can be tempting to stick with what’s already in place, especially when you’re limited on time and, to a degree, funds.
But if you consider the time and money wasted switching between incompatible methods of communication, making the change to a clearer, more efficient, more integrated way of communication becomes more appealing.
This is where RingCentral can help. For both small and large companies, RingCentral have the expertise and experience to efficiently set up your cloud-based communication system.
RingCentral can give you an agile and integrated phone system accessed through our user-friendly app. We’ll help you choose the right version of our product for your company, no matter how unique your needs are.
Each of our customers has their own story and requirements. From retail giants to local councils, we’ve helped organisations better connect and communicate. Smoother communication enables your staff to be more responsive but also more productive.
RingCentral have cloud communication solutions that are flexible and cost-effective for every size of business. We offer all-in-one cloud phone systems with team messaging, as well as video conferencing and more.
We’re always happy to discuss solutions for your company.
Originally published Jun 16, 2022