How to set up a VoIP phone system for your Small Business

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony is a combination of software and hardware that allows you to make and receive calls via the internet, thereby leveraging your existing internet connection (if you have one), rather than traditional phone lines.

Businesses which anticipate to make and receive a lot of call should consider switching to a VoIP. Consequently, with a VoIP system small businesses can potentially save money on long-distance calls and enjoy many other benefits, such as:

  • Making and receiving conference calls from anywhere in the world
  • Enable call waiting
  • Create a voicemail service for multiple employees
  • Set up several phone numbers
  • Route calls to other employees
  • Conference with in-house workers
  • Set-up a digital receptionist or interactive voice response (IVR) system.

Here we detail what you need and how to set up a VoIP phone system in your home office or small business.

Getting Started: What you need to set up a VoIP phone systems for your business

Whilst setting up a VoIP phone system in a home office differs slightly from setting one up in a small office for a business, in either case you will need a total of just five items regardless of the space you are setting your system up in:

You’ll need:

1. Wired Router

A VoIP Ethernet router needs to provide the right combination of connectivity, security, and speed. You should choose a router which is the most reliable rather than simply buying the most expensive router on the market.  

A few adjustments need to be made on the router once the VoIP phone system is set up.  There are some advantages that wired connections offer over wireless connections like improved speed, however this is at cost of mobility.

2. Cables, handsets, and headsets

You will need to purchase additional connection cables for your computer and also invest in one or more phones that are VoIP compatible.  

For businesses with more than one employee, it is likely you will want to set up your computer as a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) server to allow internal calling between employees.

3. VoIP, PBX, and Additional Software

Several different software options exist that you will need to investigate in order to find the one that is right for your particular business.  PBX software is best for basic and general phone calls and is ideal for your home office if you receive or make a small limited number of calls.  

An all-in-one software program is more suited for small businesses.  The market is abundant with specific software programs for operating a computer as a phone, which will free up a lot of valuable space in small offices.

4. Internet Connection

Nowadays, everyone has an internet connection in their home. And no business would get off the ground without a website.  Keep in mind, the more calls your company is making, the greater the bandwidth you need. 

Since VoIP utilises the internet to route voice calls, consider that you will now be send and receiving more traffic over your internet connection and may need to increase the bandwidth to support both data and voice traffic.

5. VoIP Provider

You will need a company to provide your monthly VoIP service.  Costs for this service vary depending what kind of package you choose.  You will also need to consider buying or transferring your telephone numbers to your VoIP provided. 

The two primary VoIP options: Desk phone vs. Softphones

VoIP packages are available in two types – physical VoIP system and software-only plan, commonly referred to as desk phones and softphones, respectively.

Desk phone

Similar to traditional landline phone handsets, a VoIP desk phone has a base and a handset or a headset.  Some of the newest models have a touchscreen or a display screen.

Some VoIP desk phones are typically larger than portable home phones and the base contains many more buttons to allow configuration of different phone numbers and connections.  If you only have a small number of employees, don’t waste your money on a larger phone – go for a smaller set.

Softphones

Your VoIP phone system can be installed entirely on your desktop computer, laptop, or smartphone.  This is usually a dedicated piece of software with a graphical user interface (GUI), which basically displays the keypad on the computer screen.

Users can use this keypad, either with a mouse or finger (in case of a touchscreen), to type out the telephone number or answer a call.

Desk phone VoIP – Setup

For a small office or home office, you will need a PBX server. A PBX server is relatively straightforward to setup however it will need to connect to a network. This can be done via a standard Network Interface Card (NIC).  

The PBX server must also have a fixed IP address so that it is always accessible for phone calls.  This will prevent the network from being shared with another system.

Next step would be to set up the physical phones. The Ethernet cable is used to connect the phones to the same network as the PBX. This step can be skipped if your phones have PoE (Power over Ethernet) technology.

Once the hardware install has been completed, you can move on to the installation of the VoIP software. Most VoIP software is easy and self-explanatory. Once you commence the install, the computer will take over and you will only have to click ‘open’ or ‘start’ at the end.

To obtain the full amount of compatibility for your VoIP phone system, you may need to adjust your Ethernet router’s configuration. Here are two options for doing that:

1. Permit Universal Plug and Play (UPnP)

These are the linkage protocols that allow the networks to locate one another. When this is enabled, it allows your VoIP system to connect to the PBX server.

2. Permit Network Address Translation (NAT)

This will modify the network address information. It is to enable the IP address to reconnect to another network over the traffic routing device.

Softphone VoIP – Setup

If you are worried about setting up the VoIP desk phones, a simpler option may be to choose a softphone, which will allow you to use your tablet, or computer to make your phone calls. Once the software is installed, any devices connected to that particular system will be automatically searched for and connected.

You will need to follow the instructions for installing the VoIP system software from your VoIP provider and you will require an authorisation code, which you will receive when you pay for the VoIP service.

What to consider when setting up VoIP in a Home Office

For VoIP in your home office you will need to use a special VoIP phone adaptor.  Many different models and styles of VoIP phone adaptors available, with some plugged into the router, whilst others plug in between the computer and the router.

Regardless of where the VoIP adapter is plugged in, you will need to turn off or disconnect all the components before the installation.

Troubleshooting

One of the most common problems is one-way audio call.  This is when a person you call from your home office can hear you, but you can’t hear them.  You may find that despite following the above instructions, one-way audio call persists.

One way to fix this issue is to connect the VoIP phone adaptor directly to the modem. Another fix is to place the adaptor in the DMZ (the dramatically-named ‘demilitarized zone’) or secure area of the router. 

As a last resort, you may try disabling the router’s built-in firewall. Hopefully the other options will work before you need to resort to this option.  If your VoIP call quality is still suffering, it’s probably best to contact your internet service provider and VoIP provider who can assist you further.

And that’s it. That’s how simple it is to set up a VoIP phone system at home or in your small business office.

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