As more businesses contemplate the move over to a VoIP telephone system, the question of how much equipment is needed tends to crop up time and time again. What equipment is required for VoIP?
For VoIP, the minimum you will need is:
- Broadband connection
- Phone (IP phone, analog phone with ATA adapter, or softphone)
Depending on the type of deployment, you may also need:
- IP PBX server
- VoIP gateway
VoIP can be deployed in numerous ways, so the equipment you need will depend on the type of deployment that you choose. In this blog post, I’ll talk through the main types of VoIP deployment, the equipment each type needs as well as the advantages of each. By the end of this blog post, you will have a good idea of which deployment will meet the needs of your business best.
Different Types Of VoIP Deployment
It is possible to deploy VoIP in several ways, depending upon the requirements of your business. The two deployment types to choose between are:
The deployment you choose will dictate the equipment you need. But before we get into that, let’s take a quick look at these deployment types and how they differ.
What Is An On-Premises VoIP Telephone System?
As you may have guessed, this deployment is pretty self-explanatory. Choose the on-premises VoIP telephone system and you’ll have all the equipment on-site. Furthermore, you will be responsible for managing and maintaining it yourself, which has its benefits and drawbacks.
An on-premises VoIP telephone system is essentially the equivalent of a traditional telephone system. You have all the hardware on-site, rather than connecting to a system in a distant data centre when you want to make and receive calls.
On-premises telephone systems are often the best option for larger businesses that have the resources to manage their system. For example, a larger business might have its own IT team that can look after the VoIP infrastructure. Smaller businesses seldom have their own IT teams, meaning they’d have to outsource the managing and maintenance of their system. This can be costly, on top of the expense of actually purchasing the equipment required to create the telephone system.
What Is A Cloud-Based VoIP Telephone System?
A cloud-based VoIP telephone system is a business telephone system that is hosted by a third-party provider. This means that the provider hosts and maintains all the equipment in their data centre. Cloud-based VoIP is perfect for businesses that want all the features of a good business telephone system without all the hassle of managing one on-site.
With cloud-based VoIP, the provider looks after all the system equipment in their data centre. You access and manage the system using a web interface in most cases, and you make and receive calls using your broadband connection.
Because the system hardware is managed by your provider and hosted in a data centre, you require less equipment onsite if you choose this deployment type. Not only can this reduce upfront costs, but you also don’t need IT personnel on hand to maintain the system for you.
If you want all the benefits of an IP PBX without all the hassle of actually managing one, a cloud-based system could meet your requirements.
What Equipment Is Needed For An On-Premises VoIP Telephone System?
So now I’ve explained what each type of system is, it’s time to take a look at the equipment you’d require for each. First, what equipment is needed for an on-premises telephone system?
- Router: A router is a device that distributes data to all of your devices. This gives them a connection so they can use the internet. A router can act as a wireless access point. Alternatively, you can plug devices into it. You will need a router to distribute data to your devices, whether that’s IP phones or computers.
- Switch: A switch is a device that allows you to connect numerous devices to the same network using Ethernet cables. Some routers will have a limited number of Ethernet cables; nowhere near enough for businesses that have 10s, if not 100s, of devices to connect together. A switch is an unintelligent device designed simply to pass data to a large number of devices. You may not need this; it depends on how many devices you need to connect to your network. However, if you’re setting up an on-premises IP PBX, you probably will!
- IP PBX Server: The server is where the telephone system software is stored. All the functionality of the telephone system, from configuring hunt groups to adding new users, is on the server. As well as the actual physical server, you will need the software that is the telephone system.
- Broadband Connection: I’m sure I don’t need to explain what a broadband connection is! But it’s essential for voice over internet protocol telephone systems, for the obvious reasons.
- Phones: This is rather obvious, but you’re going to need phones to make use of your telephone system. Note that by ‘phones’, I don’t mean just phyiscal phones. In the context of VoIP, there are numerous types of phone. For example, your phone can be a piece of software installed on your computer.
This is everything that you will need for an on-premises telephone system. Each piece of equipment is essential and you cannot have an on-premises telephone system without it.
It’s obvious that the upfront outlay for an on-premises phone system is much greater than a hosted option. Not only do you have to purchase all the equipment, but it all needs to be configured. Setting up a telephone system can take days depending on the size of your system. Furthermore, you are responsible for maintaining your on-premises PBX. There are ongoing costs to be aware of, whether you have a team of staff or outsource the support to a telecommunications company.
Despite these disadvantages, an on-premises telephone system might be the best option for your business. For example, having to manage your system yourself might not be a disadvantage for your business. If you want to control your telephone system yourself and you have the expertise to do so, an on-premises system would be the best type of telephone system for your business.
What Equipment Is Needed For A Hosted VoIP Telephone System?
As I explained, if you choose a hosted telephone system, your provider has your telephone system hardware in their data centre. This means that you require fewer pieces of equipment onsite, because your provider looks after the majority of it for you. However, you will require all of the following equipment.
- Router: You probably already have a router. If you don’t, you’ll need one for your hosted telephone system. The router is a device that literally routes data to devices on your network. Depending on the router you have and the number of devices that you are using, they may plug into it. If your router isn’t sufficient, you will also need the following.
- Switch (optional, depends on your setup): As I said before, a switch is a device that allows you to connect numerous devices to your network using Ethernet cables. If your router doesn’t have enough ports for all your devices, a switch gives you more ports. That’s why you may or may not need a switch; it all depends on your setup and the number of devices that you have.
- Broadband Connection: A broadband connection is essential for voice over IP, no matter which type of deployment you decide to go with. A VoIP telephone system will not work without a broadband connection.
- Phones: The last thing you will need for your hosted telephone system is phones. There are numerous types of phone that you can choose from, including IP phones and softphones. The best type of phone will depend upon your business’s requirements and how your business functions.
You probably already have most of what you need for a hosted voice over IP telephone system. It’s likely that your business already has a broadband connection and a router, as well as a switch. The only equipment you might not have is suitable phones. The upfront financial cost of a hosted telephone system is therefore much cheaper than an on-premises telephone system.
There are drawbacks to a hosted option.
- Reliance on a provider: If your provider’s equipment fails, or they experience an outage, it takes down your telephone system. Some providers have procedures in place for these situations, such as hosting your system in numerous places. However, you’re always reliant on your provider offering a quality service when you choose a hosted solution.
- Monthly costs: You pay for licences (users on the system) monthly with a hosted VoIP telephone system. Usually, hosted VoIP is a cost-effective option as a result. Paying monthly for licences can also be a drawback if you have a lot of users. Depending on the number of users you have, it might be more cost-effective to purchase your own equipment and avoid paying monthly for licences.
Which Type Of System Is Right For Your Business?
Now you know what equipment you need and how different deployments are suited to different businesses, you should have a good idea of which deployment would be best for your company.
In general, hosted VoIP is the best option for smaller businesses that cannot afford to purchase their own equipment. For larger businesses that can afford their own equipment and don’t want to pay monthly licence fees, an on-premises PBX makes much more sense.