VoIP conferencing phones: A guide on choosing an IP phone for your business
Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) is the modern standard for conference calls. With teams becoming more distributed than ever, VoIP technology offers better quality and more affordable options for businesses to stay connected.
VoIP conferencing phones, also known as IP conferencing phones, are a little different from traditional phones in that they use an internet connection instead of a phone line to make high-quality one-to-one and group calls.
More importantly, the ability to leverage VoIP technology along with the complementary hardware has many business benefits compared with using a traditional analog phone line.
Let’s get into why using your cell phone isn’t quite the same as having a VoIP conferencing phone.
What is an IP conference phone?
What are the types of IP conference phones?
There are many types of IP conference phones and each has a specific use case for your business. Think about it like a VoIP toolbox—not every tool is ideal for every situation. (But virtually all IP phones do offer HD voice technology for premium sound quality.) Here are the main types of IP phones and the scenario where they are most useful:
- Desktop VoIP: This is your basic business phone and looks really similar to the classic landline phone. In traditional companies, every employee has one of these on their desk, and they connect to your VoIP phone system using an ethernet cable. Desktop VoIP phones are handy for everyday voice calling and group calling.
- Wireless VoIP: Just what it sounds like: a cordless phone that connects to the internet via a wifi connection—no pesky cords required. Wireless VoIP is most helpful when the person using it is on the road a lot.
- Receptionist VoIP: Similar to the desktop phone but with way more bells and whistles like backlit display. Receptionist style IP phones will typically have multiple lines and easy routing options. They often features like multiple USB ports, native Bluetooth wireless connectivity, and an intuitive user interface. Receptionist VoIP phones are best used by people who need to route calls on a daily basis.
- Conference VoIP: Conference IP phones are specifically designed to be the best audio conferencing phones for medium sized to large rooms. They allow multi-party conference calling and typically offer superior audio quality by reducing background noise. Conference VoIP phones may also have microphone coverage for larger spaces so they can pick up the voices of anyone in the room, regardless of where they’re sitting. These types of VoIP phones are typically used in medium to large sized conference rooms where many people need to be on a call at once.
- Video Phone: A video phone is the exact same as a regular phone—with the added ability to add video. There is typically a camera built into the unit or added on. Video phones can be very handy when you need to quickly switch to video calling for a more personal feel and/or to share screens:
If you decide not to go with a VoIP service, the alternative is a traditional analog conference phone. The main difference between these two phones is how they transmit audio signals, but there are pretty significant business advantages to upgrading to a VoIP phone.
Analog conference phones vs. VoIP conference phones
The original business conference phone technology of the “Mad Men” era is called analog. Analog phones transmit voice audio through a network of copper wires that physically connect to your phone.
Video over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is different in that it requires an internet connection to work. VoIP turns audio signals into digital data packets, which travel through ethernet cables or wifi and are then put back together once they reach their destination. VoIP allows you to communicate over the internet, and is often paired with a webcam or camera that can transmit live video for virtual meetings.
Deciding whether or not you want to upgrade your business phones from analog to VoIP? Here are the main differences between the two:
|Analog Phones||VoIP Phones|
|Technology||Sound waves travel over copper wires||Voice transformed into digital data that is then transmitted|
|Medium||Copper wires||Internet cables or Wifi|
|Requirements||Landline||Live broadband connection|
|Cost||From $30/month plus set up fee and long-distance charges||From $10/month plus set up fee|
|Scalability||Limited to hardwired offices and difficult to add/remove lines||Easily scaled globally and simple to add/remove lines|
|Mobile app option||No||Yes|
|Features||Simple and straightforward (i.e. making and routing calls)||Diverse features including Bluetooth wireless connectivity, video conferencing, cloud file sharing|
You don’t have to be in the office to make calls using your VoIP service. You can make calls when on the road or at home, using either a mobile app or a VoIP adapter and an internet connection. (A VoIP adapter converts analog signals into digital data and acts as a bridge between your analog telephone service and the digital network that carries your calls.)
How do VoIP conference phones work?
- Log on to the site or app that’ll be hosting your conference call
- Click the “Conferencing” option
- Enter the call’s details including:
- Name of the meeting
- Date of the meeting (be mindful of international time zones)
- Start time and end time
- Emails of the participants
- International dial-in numbers (for international conference calling)
- Add any participant access codes
- Click “Confirm”
- You’ll have the option to send the conference call invitation as an email. The email will include instructions on how to join the meeting.
Joining a meeting is even more straightforward. Simply visit the conference calling service’s website and click on “Join meeting,” or click on the invite link in the email invitation.
Most IP conferencing solutions provide both free and paid versions. Free versions typically limit the number of participants, call duration, host controls, and other features. Depending on your particular business needs, it’s worth looking into both free and paid options to see what would work best for your business.
Are there any disadvantages to using a VoIP conference phone?
Regardless of the VoIP conferencing solution you choose, there are some potential downsides to consider—these don’t all apply to every VoIP conferencing provider, but they crop up often enough. The three main potential disadvantages are:
- Internet connectivity issues: Your VoIP system will only be as good as the internet system that supports it. While VoIP doesn’t require a ton of bandwidth, you may need more depending on how many calls your business needs to make.
- Other connectivity issues: If you’ve ever experienced delayed replies or a scrambled screen, then you know how frustrating it can be if your connection doesn’t allow for seamless communication. These types of interferences are referred to as latency and jitter. It happens when the data packs that are transmitting the information aren’t reassembled in the right way or fast enough. It results in a scrambled screen or choppy transmission of sound.
- Limited location tracking: Since calls are made and received from IP addresses, there isn’t a way to track their location. This typically isn’t an issue for most business calls. It’s usually only problematic if you’re using a VoIP phone to call an emergency services number because they won’t be able to track your location easily.
How to choose the right VoIP conferencing phone: 7 questions to ask
When it comes to VoIP conferencing phone options, there are so many options to choose from. It’s important to select the right one depending on your particular business needs. Here is a checklist of seven questions to ask yourself when you’re looking for the best IP phones and conferencing solution for your business.
- What is my budget? Each VoIP provider has different offerings. Choose a package that meets your needs and make sure it’s easy to upgrade (and downgrade) as needed.
- What size are my conference rooms? The choice you make will depend on whether your conference rooms are small or large to medium sized. Depending on the room size, you’ll need phones with the right microphone range, noise reduction, and sound pickup range so you don’t compromise on sound quality.
- Is my business growing? If you run a growing business, you want to go with a phone conferencing system that can scale with you. Avoid locking yourself into a plan that lacks flexibility.
- What features matter most for my business? Different features satisfy different business needs. For example, do you need a video conferencing option to share presentations? Or perhaps you’d like the ability to record calls for quality control and training purposes. Think about the features that matter most for you and prioritize those when making your decision.
- Do I have the hardware to run off SIP lines? SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol and is what gives VoIP phones the ability to make, transfer, and terminate calls. SIP is essentially a set of protocols that allow you to communicate using audio, video, and messaging. Phones that run on SIP lines can be located in multiple places but be registered on the same server. Learn more about SIP lines here.
- Do I have the bandwidth to support VoIP? Your VoIP phones will only run smoothly if you have the right bandwidth. You can check whether or not you have enough bandwidth with your ISP provider, but this is typically how much bandwidth you need for the number of lines you require:
- What VoIP hardware do I want to use? If you want to use Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) or Bluetooth headsets with wireless mic, ethernet ports, video phones, or other types of VoIP equipment, make sure your VoIP solutions can support them. (We’ll dive deeper into the types of VoIP hardware below.)
If you’re interested in using VoIP conferencing phones for your business, but are hesitant to make a long- term commitment or upfront investment, you can also look into renting them.
Should you rent or buy VoIP phones?
Depending on what your budget looks like, either renting or buying a business VOIP phone can be a viable option for you.
One thing to keep in mind is that this is a long-term business solution, so make sure you do whatever you feel comfortable committing to.
The obvious advantage of renting is that you can avoid a large up-front investment. For example, for an office of 20 people, it would cost around $8,000 or more for the VoIP hardware, network switches, router, plus installation and training fees.
Renting also lets you set a predictable monthly budget, and when it’s time to renew your contract, your VoIP servicing company will typically take back all the hardware and replace it with updated versions.
If you decide to rent, always read review sites before selecting your VoIP provider to make sure you’ll get the best possible customer service.
Maximize your conference call experience with VoIP hardware
VoIP conference phones boast a variety of hardware features and accessories to help keep things running smoothly and efficiently. Here are some of the most important VoIP features and hardware to look out for when choosing the right set-up for your business:
- Expansion wireless speakerphones: Adding extension microphones is helpful when you need to increase the number of active call participants in larger conference rooms. You can opt for either a corded version or the more convenient and sleek looking expansion wireless speakerphones that can come with wireless mic.
- Wireless headsets: Wireless headsets are a more ergonomically friendly way for employees to take phone calls. Plus they don’t have all the annoying cords that usually get in the way. You can go with either DECT or Bluetooth headsets—both offer much better workplace mobility than wired headsets.
- LCD Display: LCD displays make it easier for you to see call logs, incoming caller IDs, and presence data. They also offer high resolution and great color quality and are more energy-efficient than other types of displays like LED.
- Multiple USB ports: USB ports are handy for plugging in corded headsets and can also be used for mobile phone charging. (Bonus!)
- 360-degree microphone pickup: If you have larger conference rooms, make sure your IP conference phone can pick up voices no matter where people are in the room. In addition, the phone you choose should be able to cancel out background noises and offer HD voice quality for seamless conference calls.
How to set up a VoIP phone system
Once you’ve settled on your preferred IP phone provider, here are your next steps for quick and easy implementation:
- Figure out how many phones and which types you will need. How many users (employees) need access to the phone service? Some providers offer the option for employees to have an extension instead of a number, which can help with cost savings.
- Test your office internet to make sure it can handle your new VoIP system. Your bandwidth will determine how many lines you’re able to have. Here’s a simple table to help you calculate how many lines you can have depending on your bandwidth.
- Prioritize the features you want. Decide which features are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves to make sure you’re not overspending.
- Check out user reviews and comparison sites before committing to make sure you’ll get the best possible user experience and customer support.
- Set up and configure your system:
- Connect your PBX box to your ISP system, if necessary. A Public Branch Exchange (PBX) box is a physical box that connects to your internet service provider (ISP) to route calls. Most VoIP service providers handle this for you, but if you do need to set this up, it’ll have to connect to both an ethernet port and a power source.
- Next, connect your VoIP phones either by connecting it to wifi or by plugging in an ethernet cable to your PBX box or a router.
What are the best VoIP conference phones?
Excited to get started on your VoIP conference phone journey? Here are some of our favorite VoIP phones and why. These are just a few of the amazing IP phones to choose from—feel free to check out a more comprehensive list here.
When it comes to IP desk phones, both Polycom and Yealink are brand leaders in the industry.
- A large, color multi-touch display
- Unparalleled voice clarity of Polycom HD Voice™
- Integrations like Bluetooth headsets to improve workplace mobility
- Add-on expansion modules which enable presence view for up to 98 users
- 29 touch keys for moderate to high call volume
- HD audio quality
- The ability to monitor the in-use status of up to 27 other users
- An intuitive user interface that makes usability and navigation easy
Choose a VoIP conferencing phone that fits the size of your conference room. Here are our favorite phones for large and small-to-medium sized rooms:
- HD voice technology for the best sound quality and acoustic clarity for larger rooms
- Background noise reduction including any non-verbal sounds
- 360° microphone coverage
- Up to 20-foot microphone pickup making it ideal for larger conference rooms
- Versatile speaker phone connectivity over USB, Bluetooth, NFC, and IP
- Large color, touch-screen display
- Connects to an ethernet cable
- HD voice technology for the best voice clarity and acoustic clarity for small-to-medium sized rooms
- 14-foot microphone pickup range making it ideal for medium-sized rooms
- Superior background noise reduction
- 360° microphone coverage
- Versatile speaker phone connectivity over USB and Bluetooth
- Large 5” LCD touch-screen display
- Connects to an ethernet cable
Wireless conference phones are ideal if you need in-office mobility or if you work in a small business that needs plug and play wireless technology. Our favorite out of all the wireless conference phones is the Yealink W60P cordless phone and here’s why:
- It has DECT cordless technology for secure communications.
- You will always experience clear audio performance with its HD voice technology.
- A backlit 2.4" color display helps you see everything clearly.
- You can connect up to 4 handsets per base and, therefore, make 4 simultaneous calls.
- Its powerful charge gives you 30 hours of talk time and 400 hours of standby time.
When deciding on a receptionist phone for your business, go with one that makes sense for your size. Here are some examples:
- Ideal for knowledge workers in mid-sized to large enterprise businesses
- High quality HD voice and superior sound quality
- 2 USB ports
- Native Bluetooth and WiFi
- Up to ten lines with programmable line keys
- 5” wide touch screen color display
- Dedicated RJ-9 headset port
- Share a single network connection with your phone and PC using the integrated 2-port gigabit Ethernet switch
- Ideal media phone for busy executive offices or any team member handling multiple calls
- High-quality HD audio for ultra-clear sound
- High-resolution color display
- Large LCD touch screen display for easy viewing of call logs, incoming caller IDs, and presence data
- 16 lines including two phone lines and 14 lines supporting presence
- Native Bluetooth
- Support internal extension-to-extension video calling with Polycom VVX camera
- Available USB ports that are ideal for plugging in headsets and can also be used for phone charging
- 29 touch keys for moderate to high call volume
- All Yealink business conference phones and desk phones feature HD voice for superior audio quality
- Monitor the in-use status of up to 27 other users
- 7” color touchscreen backlit display
- Has a corporate directory feature
- Two-port Gigabit Ethernet switch
- Dedicated RJ-9 headset port
- USB port support for Wi-Fi and USB recording features
Ready to take the plunge into the world of business VoIP conferencing phones? It’s really easy to get started—all you need is internet access and a premium service provider like RingCentral. RingCentral hosts your PBX box for you, so once you hook up your VoIP phones and download your mobile app, you can enjoy your customized professional VoIP phone service whether you’re in the boardroom, at your desk, or on-the-go.