Once your business has decided to go with hosted VoIP, it would be easy to think your work is done. After all, you no longer have to worry about keeping the resources to manage the service in-house, as VoIP can be run almost entirely in the cloud. While this makes life easier for IT, employees will continue using desk phones for telephony, and there are important decisions to be made here along with your choice of hosted VoIP provider.
One of those decisions has to do with choosing the right SIP phones to complement your VoIP service. If you think that all SIP phones are the same, you stand to miss out on some important features that may not become apparent until after the fact. To ensure this doesn’t happen, here are three key SIP phone attributes based on my research that you should look for when planning your move to hosted VoIP.
1. Deliver a quality experience
More than anything else, SIP phones are about bringing the benefits of VoIP to your employees. With hosted VoIP, reliable dial tone should be a given, and you don’t need to be concerned about connectivity and network management. VoIP service is largely a commodity, and the real differentiation takes place at the endpoints where employees engage directly with VoIP.
In terms of quality, legacy telephony has set the bar high, meaning that the audio quality has to be consistently good and the core features easy to use. If you go with low-end phones with poor audio quality, employees will notice right away. To ensure this doesn’t happen, SIP phones should support the G.729 codec, and if you want to aim higher with HD audio, they should support the G.722 wideband codec. If your SIP phones don’t deliver a quality experience, employees will gravitate to other modes that do – such as mobile devices or PC-based VoIP – at which point your investment in hosted VoIP will be for naught.
2. Meet the needs of end users, aka your employees
Today’s employees are always-on and often mobile. Legacy telephony comes up short on both, and these are precisely the kinds of needs that VoIP addresses. When it comes to SIP phones, you should be looking for Power over Ethernet, which provides direct network connectivity from any broadband connection. This way, employees can use VoIP from any location with all of the calling features just as they would have from their desks.
SIP phones don’t support mobility outside the office, but some employees need to be on the phone regularly while away from their desk but still onsite. To meet their needs, you need to look at DECT (News - Alert)-based cordless SIP phones, especially models with a long range and a signal that does not interfere with Wi-Fi. Another use case would be desk-based employees who are on the phone all day, such as contact center agents. They will welcome a headset option, and for this you need to consider comfort, audio quality, and ease of use.
Not all SIP phone vendors offer headsets and not all third-party headsets are fully interoperable with all SIP phones. More specifically, you should also weigh the merits of wired and cordless headset models. Cordless models provide more freedom of movement, but note that there are two basic types – Bluetooth and DECT – and that the latter has a much longer signal range.
3. Compatibility with VoIP provider
This is a complex topic, but the main message is that SIP phones and VoIP service comprise a holistic telephony solution when used together. There is a wide range of VoIP providers to choose from, and they all offer a different set of features. Not all SIP phones are certified with all VoIP providers, so you need to be sure that both can support the features you absolutely must have. If not, you risk coming up short and undermining your investment in hosted VoIP.
This article touches on three ways that SIP phones can enhance the value proposition for hosted VoIP. While this may be sufficient to persuade you to think more critically about SIP phones, there is quite a bit more to consider. For a more comprehensive understanding of how SIP phones drive value, I encourage you to review my latest white paper, Key Considerations for Choosing SIP Phones, sponsored by VTech Communications, Inc. at http://businessphones.vtech.com/JA. There are many vendors to choose from, and the white paper will help you make informed decisions about the right SIP phones for your needs.
Jon Arnold (News - Alert) is principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and strategy consultancy based in Toronto, Ontario. The consultancy’s primary focus is providing thought leadership and go-to-market counsel regarding IP communications and disruptive technologies. You can follow Jon's everyday insights on his influential Analyst 2.0 blog and on Twitter.
Jon Arnold is principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and marketing consultancy with a focus on IP communications, and writes the Analyst 2.0 blog. Previously, he was the VoIP program leader at Frost & Sullivan.
Edited by Maurice Nagle