A Guide to the Basics of Business VoIP Setup
Switching to a VoIP system can save your business a lot of money, but setting it up yourself can present problems if you aren’t technically minded and don’t have help from someone who knows their PBX from their PSTN.
This article outlines the things you will need to consider, the equipment you’ll need to have and the basic steps involved in setting your VoIP up, and will help you decide whether you are equipped to do the job yourself or would be better off having someone do it for you.
Things to consider
When deciding on whether switching to VoIP is a good idea for your business, you first need to consider the following things:
- LAN – do you have a proper Local Area Network (LAN) in place to support your VoIP system? If your network doesn’t have the capacity to support all the extra data that VoIP calls will generate, you will need to upgrade it.
- Internet – do you have a reliable Internet connection from a provider you trust? Adding VoIP will mean any dropouts and downtime will cause interruptions to your phone calls as well as your data communications.
- Bandwidth – does your Internet plan provide sufficient bandwidth to cope with the addition of VoIP? It will need to run at a minimum of 2Mb/s to avoid poor call quality, lag and dropouts in your phone calls.
- Calling habits – does your business make a lot of interstate and overseas phone calls? If so, the savings you can make from using VoIP are a lot greater.
- Staff numbers – do you have enough phone users to justify having an onsite PBX? If you have 15 employees or less, you may be better off getting a cloud hosted VoIP service, where all the equipment is maintained offsite.
- Backup – should you keep your public switched telephone network (PSTN) landline as a backup? Because VoIP is digital, if your Internet connection or power supply is lost, so are your communications, whereas PSTN will continue to work.
What you will need
The following is a list of the equipment and services you will need to set up your VoIP system.
- A reliable broadband Internet connection with sufficient bandwidth to handle the extra data.
- An affordable VoIP service provider with a business plan tailored to your specific needs, so you aren’t paying for services you won’t use.
- A PBX server (if you have opted for onsite hosting), which is a normal computer connected to your network and assigned a static IP address.
- PBX software installed on your server that performs all the functions of a PBX.
- A wired Ethernet router with good connection volume and a VPN function if you plan to access your VoIP phone system remotely. You will need a PoE (Power over Ethernet) router if your phones don’t have power adaptors or you want to cut down on cabling.
- IP phones that are compatible with the PBX server and support System Initiation Protocol (SIP).
Basic setup steps
The basic steps involved in setting up and activating your VoIP system are as follows (although they may vary depending on the type of equipment you have):
- Power up your phones and bring up their web management interface in a browser. Most modern IP phones come configured to pick up an IP address on your network automatically.
- Enter the settings provided by your VoIP provider, including the SIP proxy address (the IP address of the SIP server), your assigned phone number and your user name and password for the extension, plus any other settings you may require such as a voicemail extension number.
- Reboot the phone and wait a minute or so, after which it should connect with the proxy server and you can try ringing it.
Obviously, it may not be as simple as this and you may encounter problems requiring help from your VoIP provider or other IT personnel. One way to ensure that setup goes smoothly is to purchase all your equipment from the one provider, so that everything is compatible and you only have to be concerned with one set of installation instructions.
Good luck and remember, VoIP is set to make landline telephones obsolete in just a few years, so it’s not really a question of if you make the switch, but simply a matter of when.