Our Business VoIP FAQ contains the most common questions and answers related to business use that we have received at WhichVoIP.com since 2005. Click on the VoIP question below that you are interested in and you will be directed to the corresponding answer.
If you have questions related to HOME use, consult our HOME VOIP FAQ page.
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Businesses Considering VoIP
Browse through the questions below. If you dont find the answer to your questions, use the comment form at the end of this article to ask us.
1. What VoIP equipment would I need and would I need space at my office for it?
It all depends if you choose a hosted VoIP solution or an in-house IP-PBX. For less than 50 lines we would recommend a hosted solution. For this all you need are the IP phones and a hosted provider. The hosted provider handles all of the calls and their routing for you.
For more than 50 lines you may want to look at an IP PBX. The equipment would be located at the office. Every office has a wiring closet of some sort where the existing telephone system and internet is connected. Some expertise is required to configure an IP PBX. You could then use SIP Trunks to connect your IP PBX to the internet and make low cost calls to the outside world. One advantage here is that internal calls just get handled by your IP PBX - for a hosted solution even internal calls get routed to the hosted VoIP provider and then back to your office so it uses Internet bandwidth.
2. Would I need to maintain any VoIP equipment?
Not necessarily. There are companies that provide hosted VoIP service. In this scenario, all phone calls would be directed to the hosting provider and all you need are IP phones so no real maintenance at your end. Adding lines or changing elements of your phone system is performed through a simple web portal.
For an IP PBX however, yes there is maintenance required. This is like a large computer server and as such requires software updates/patches and any changes to your system requires someone with the right expertise - often some form of VoIP integrator.
3. What type of Internet connection do I need for Voice over IP service - DSL/Cable or T1/T3 or even Gigabit Ethernet?
This is again dependant upon the number of users. A typical rule of thumb is to have enough voice channels available for 20% of your users to make calls at one time. So if you have 100 IP phone users, you would want to have at least 20 voice channels available at any time. In this scenario, a T1 would be a good candidate, since it would meet the bandwidth needs and is symmetrical in nature (i.e. same data rate for uplink and downlink). Also it would come with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) so you can ensure a decent Quality of Service (QoS). Lower cost service could work too, it depends on the bandwidth and reliability!
4. Why wouldn't I use a traditional PBX?
You shouldn't if you ever want to reap the benefits of having a single converged network, and having access to a large number of productivity increasing tools, such as video-conferencing, softphones, etc. Also they can be a nightmare to maintain as they are usually very old pieces of equipment and tough to find people and companies that can maintain it.
5. How long to set up VoIP at my office?
Again depends on the particular requirements. For hosted VoIP, an office could be set up in an hour or so.
6. Will I save money?
For a multi-campus corporation, the savings can be huge. Typically we see 50% savings and sometimes as high as 80% over traditional phone service. Feel free to request free quotes on this page.
7. How easy would it be to expand the number of VoIP phones?
For a hosted VoIP service it is easy. Assuming you have enough bandwidth, simply log into your secure web portal and add a line. Connect an IP phone and you are done! For an IP PBX there is some configuration required to turn on another phone line but negligible compared to a traditional analog PBX.
8. What are the 5 most important questions to ask a potential VoIP service provider?
First make sure you can port your numbers over to them. Ask if there are any contracts to be signed. Ask how many customers/phone lines they currently support and how often they have network outages. Check out user reviews (we have 4000 user reviews!) and look at their social media channels for outages!
9. Currently 15 people in my office with POTS lines. For VoIP how much bandwidth would I need?
If a business class solution is being targeted (i.e. highly critical in terms of voice quality), then use your router to ensure your phone service has priority thus guaranteeing a good Quality of Service (QoS) i.e. phone service does not go down under heavy Internet traffic at lunch time. If enough bandwidth is purchased for your Internet traffic then the QOS problems may be mitigated. Assuming you need 15 calls simultaneously (unlikely) then you should ensure you have at least 1Mbit/s of throughput available for phone use only.
10. How much does a T1/T3 cost?
T1 is approximately $300 to $500 per month for T1 depending on your location and service provider. A T3 will be consierably more!
11. How do we handle inter office extensions - Seattle branch to our San Francisco branch?
When you install an IP PBX and you purchase the DIDs (Direct Inward Dial) from the VoIP company (e.g. a SIP provider), you have the option to use 3, 4 or 5 digit DIDs. The phone company only passes the DID to your call manager. If the Seattle and San Francisco offices are connected over a leased line WAN (which is almost always the case), then their phone systems will be integrated. For example the phones in Seattle will actually be registered to the call-manager at the HQ site in San Francisco. As such all call signaling for the phones in Seattle go through the main call-manager. There are software features available which run on the Seattle router to provide back-up call-processing if the WAN connection ever fails. Hence there are no issues with 4-digit dialing. For a hosted system it is simple to set up in your secure web portal given to you from your VoIP provider - just set up a new extension which will correspond to the IP address of your IP phone regardless of its physical location in the world.
12. Can I share my T1 with Voice and Data?
Yes you can share your T1 with voice and data but a router configuration is recommended to give voice priority over data thus ensuring QoS.
13. Does the service provider handle the VoIP network at my office or do I need an administrator?
There are a few options here. The service provider will not manage your network. You can have a hosted system where all the call routing is handled by the hosted provider at their facility so very little needed at your end other than the phones. For an IP PBX you will likely need to employ an outside company to manage it, or hire an internal administrator. Often an IT department will look after this.
14. Should we buy IP phones and how much are they?
Yes, you will need to buy IP Phones. Check out our IP Phones section for guidance.
15. Do I need 2 CAT5 cables to my workstation from the switch, one to phone and one to my PC?
You only need 1 CAT5 cable from the switch. The cable from the switch will plug into the IP phone (which itself is a layer 2 switch) and then your PC will plug into the phone using CAT5 cable. If the access layer switch is enabled with power over Ethernet, then you will not even require a power supply for your IP phone. The data and voice traffic is segmented at layer 2 by creating a different voice and data VLAN on the switch. The IP phone will mark the traffic at a higher precedence or class of service than the data traffic coming from the PC. Hence both security and traffic prioritization are taken care of by the phone itself.
16. Do I need battery backup now for my phone service in case power goes out?
Most VoIP deployments are integrated with switches which have redundant power supplies. These switches are ideally connected to an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). Hence it is unlikely that power will ever be lost to the phones.
17. Can people outside my office still call me direct or do they need to go through an operator?
If you have purchased a DID, they can call you direct. Otherwise, it needs to be through an operator or auto-attendant.
18. Do I need to be familiar with and understand VoIP Protocols?
This is not really necessary as the provider will help you with any questions you may have around these. Every hosted VoIP service should support SIP 2.0 so the only potential area where it might become an issue is if you have very old IP phones that do not support the protocol that the service provider supports. If you are buying new equipment with the new service then it should be fairly straightforward. If you do however want to learn more, you can visit the VoIP Protocols page of this site.
19. Can I simply move my IP phone to another cube and keep same phone number?
Absolutely! It can be another cube in your office, or another cube in a different office across the country. That's the beauty of IP and MAC addresses (which your IP phone has) - at that point it just looks like a computer on the Internet. Gone are the days where wiring updates have to be made, thank goodness!
20. I still need access to a fax machine, what are my options?
We get this question a lot. There are actually numerous options available to you for faxing over IP, some better than others. If you are willing to give up on your fax machine then many providers have a virtual fax service, often for free. All you need is a scanner and email access. If you still need access to an actual fax machine we recommend a solution using the fax relay T.38 standard. For all of your options, potential savings and troubleshooting tips please take a look at our Fax over IP (FoIP) article.
21. My company needs a toll free number, what are my options?
A lot of businesses need a toll free number to give a professional look and so customers can call them free of charge. Some businesses also require vanity numbers so it is easy for customers to remember their phone number. There are a number of options here, take a look at our Toll free numbers guide to learn how this works and compare some providers.
22. We currently use call recording software for training purposes, is that possible with VoIP?
Yes it is possible and many hosted service providers offer this feature (sometimes included in their feature set or as an add-on feature for a small monthly fee). There are typically two types of options, one that records all calls based on set parameters (extensions/groups etc.) or one that is an on-demand option (employee can start/stop recording on-demand by using a combination of entries on keypad). Check out our call recording guide to learn more and compare some providers.
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