The phone system you choose can be a make-or-break decision for your business. There are many factors to consider when you’re deciding between a landline and a VoIP system, including cost, reliability and functionality. You may be inclined to write off a landline as an antiquated setup, but traditional systems have benefits that may work better for your business.
Read on to see which business telephone system is right for you. If you already know the type of setup you need, check out our roundup of the best business phone systems to continue on your purchasing journey.
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Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a type of communication technology comprising both hardware and software. It allows you to make phone calls using an internet connection rather than a traditional analog landline that uses wires or optical fibers. VoIP is also known as internet calling or IP telephony.
VoIP is transmitted through various methods, including traditional phones, smartphone apps, computer software and specific VoIP-enabled phones.
VoIP works by breaking up your voice into digital packets, like electronic envelopes, and sending those packets as data to the recipient over the internet.
VoIP is available in a variety of systems, making it accessible to anyone with a reliable internet connection. You can use these methods to make VoIP calls:
Here are some of the features that make VoIP business phone systems appealing:
A virtual receptionist, often called a virtual assistant, can perform many of the traditional functions of a human receptionist through fully automated features. For example, it can answer phone calls, deliver recorded messages, direct calls and engage in a number of other useful services, all of which are included in VoIP packages.
Most likely, as a consumer, you’ve already encountered virtual receptionists when calling customer support lines. The automated directories, which include up-to-date information and changes to the system, can help resolve issues before a caller needs to be connected to a person.
Automatic call forwarding is one of the most helpful features for VoIP users. Essentially, this function automatically redirects calls to the VoIP line to another line of your choosing. For example, one common use is to redirect office calls to your cell phone while you’re traveling or working in the field. Calls to an individual can also be forwarded to a receptionist during important meetings. In general, this feature gives you more direct control over your accessibility to others.
When there is an emergency, you know the number to call. There are only three digits to press, and then you immediately get connected to help. Imagine if such easy and reliable access existed for more than just emergency dispatchers.
Well, it does, and it’s called three-digit dialing. With a VoIP system, you can program any numbers you deem important with a unique three-digit code. This easy-to-remember code makes it a breeze to contact staff members, vendors and others you communicate with frequently. Three-digit dialing gives you simplicity for any number that deserves it.
As the name implies, this VoIP service sends voicemails to your email. However, it’s essential to understand that this is not a voice-to-text feature; voicemail to email does not create a written version of the message. Rather, it makes an audio file of the voicemail and emails it to you.
This can make it easier to access, save and share voicemail messages. With some versions of this service, you can even delete messages in your voicemail box from your email. It amplifies the convenience of managing your messages.
An additional feature available with most VoIP phone systems is the ability to get a virtual phone number. These numbers aren’t tied to a specific device but instead allow calls made to that number to be forwarded to other lines, such as a personal cell phone. Check out our Grasshopper review to learn why this platform is a great option if you’re seeking a virtual phone system.
The equipment you need for a VoIP system depends on which VoIP method you use. First and foremost, however, you will always need a strong, reliable and secure internet connection. Call quality and reliability depend on the strength of your internet connection. You must ensure that your system will not drop service or be susceptible to hacking. [Check out the top business internet service providers.]
Next, if you plan to use an adapter, you’ll need a compatible landline phone. If your adapter plugs into a wireless router rather than a phone outlet, you will need a router. To get VoIP over a computer, you’ll need a laptop or desktop computer with an internet connection, the proper software or program, speakers and a microphone. Many people opt for a headset that plugs into the computer for better sound quality and ease of use.
If you’re using a smartphone, you will need a Wi-Fi connection and a VoIP app. Most apps (Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger) offer free calls to other users with the same app. Others allow you to call a regular landline or mobile number, though this usually costs money. Some providers offer a hybrid option that lets you make VoIP calls using minutes included in your home phone plan.
VoIP systems are becoming more popular as the world continues to digitize. They offer significant perks, like lower costs, increased reliability and better sound quality. But VoIP systems aren’t right for everybody, especially those with unreliable internet connections or businesses that require significant telephony features.
If you decide that a VoIP system is the best option for your business, you can select from a variety of highly rated VoIP phone system providers. See our comprehensive Nextiva review for one possibility.
The landline phone system was invented in 1876 and has remained largely unchanged since then, with the exception of some innovations, like caller ID. Landline telephones work by sending signals through a series of physical switch boxes via copper wire from one phone to another, making them reliable and fast. However, maintenance can be complicated and time-consuming.
Landlines transmit voice signals over wires or, now most commonly, fiber-optic cables. When you speak into the handset of a landline phone, the wires or cables transmit your voice as electric signals. On the receiving end of your phone call, your voice is converted back into sound waves for the other person to hear.
There are two types of landline phone systems:
Over the years, landline phone systems have adopted several convenient features.
Caller ID displays both the name and number of an incoming caller on your phone’s screen. This way, you can preview calls before deciding to answer the phone. You can use this feature to screen unwanted or unknown calls.
Call waiting essentially allows you to put a caller on hold as you pick up an incoming call. When you’re already on a call, you’ll hear a tone signaling an incoming call. You can then decide to place the first caller on hold and answer the second call.
As with VoIP systems, landlines also support call forwarding. You can redirect calls from your landline to a mobile phone or another landline.
This feature allows you to have a conversation with two people simultaneously on the same phone call. While on a call with one person, you can press a button and then enter the number of the other person you’d like to join. After picking up your call, the second person joins you and the first caller on the same line.
Landline systems are quite easy to set up and require only a few pieces of equipment. You’ll first need a landline base, which is the central component of your landline system. You’ll also need a handset, which is the part of the system you hold to your ear when you’re on a call.
In cordless systems, the handset communicates wirelessly with the base station. In corded systems, the handset is physically connected to the base via a coiled cord. Finally, you’ll need a landline cord to connect your base station to the wall, which links your system to your phone service provider.
Landline systems may seem like a relic of decades past, but there are valid reasons to continue using them.
If you have a landline system but want to take advantage of what VoIP has to offer, consider using a SIP trunk service, which allows you to use your legacy landline PBX (private branch exchange) equipment while still making connections over the internet.
If you’re deciding between a VoIP setup and a landline system, these are some factors to consider:
Here’s how VoIP and landline systems stack up against each other:
Mobile device, landline phone (if using an adapter), router (if needed for the adapter), laptop or desktop (optional), headset (optional)
Landline base station, handset, landline cord, headset (optional)
Virtual receptionist, caller ID, call forwarding, call waiting, three-way calling, three-digit dialing, voicemail to email
Caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding, three-way calling
Starting at $10 for apps; $60 to $1,000 for a physical system, depending on its complexity
Starting at $200 per landline device
Only monthly app subscription cost
Additional $15 to $40 per line per month
Internet connection required
For a quick way to determine which type of business phone system is best for your company, evaluate which of the following descriptions is a better fit for your company.
A VoIP system is a great choice for your business if flexibility, scalability and cost efficiency are your top priorities. VoIP’s internet connectivity also makes this type of phone system ideal for businesses with remote or hybrid arrangements.
VoIP offers significant cost savings on long-distance calls, making it a budget-friendly option if your business has a high international call volume. VoIP systems’ features also suit many key business needs, such as conference calls. These systems can also integrate with other business software and applications, allowing you to easily connect and streamline your workflows.
Landline systems are more suitable if your business prioritizes reliability, security and consistent call quality. Because calls are transmitted through a cable, landlines are fortified against hackers, giving these systems an established track record of data security and privacy.
Landlines are also dependable during internet outages. They ensure stable communication during emergencies, which is crucial if downtime can lead to significant losses for your business. If your company is located in an area with poor internet connectivity, you might find that a landline system is more dependable for maintaining communication.
Customers want to inquire about their orders, clients want to discuss partnerships and shareholders want to talk about investments. Each of these parties needs a way to reach you, making a phone system an essential part of your business, especially as it grows. Both landlines and VoIP systems are excellent options for keeping you in contact with the people who help keep your company running and patronize your services. The right type is the one that best meets your needs.
Shayna Waltower contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version.