Many years ago, phones were analog systems. They consisted of voice circuits made of copper wire, and transmitted voices as electrical signals. In recent decades, analog phones were replaced with digital phones, which are still traditional phone systems that make calls through phone lines.
Voice over internet protocol, or VoIP lines, send voice data through a data connection (the internet) rather than over phone lines. Older VoIP systems used on-premises hardware for managing calls, but in recent years, software-based VoIP solutions have become much more popular.
Software-controlled VoIP systems are managed in the cloud, offer advanced features, and can integrate with other business systems like CRM and social networking. Here’s what you should know about digital vs. VoIP phone systems:
- Wiring – With a VoIP phone system, you only use half the wiring required for a digital phone system. Digital phones require both a voice and a data cable, whereas with VoIP systems, you plug the phone into an Ethernet wall plate, and then plug a computer into the back of the phone, so there’s only one cable to the desk with VoIP systems.
- Cost – VoIP call costs are generally lower than costs with digital phones. Moreover, the hardware required for a VoIP system is generally less expensive too. International calls on digital systems cost around 90% more than on VoIP systems. If your business makes a lot of international calls, VoIP will save you money on these calls.
- Power – Digital phones use very little power, and that is drawn from the phone line itself. In contrast, VoIP phones have to be connected to an AC source, or they have to have a converter called a Power Over Ethernet (POE) injector, which allows the phones to draw power and data through the same network cable.
- Bandwidth – With a VoIP system, bandwidth is shared amongst computers and phones in the office. If bandwidth is inadequate, phones or computers may perform more slowly. VoIP phone systems can be fitted with backup internet connections, so that if your office’s internet goes out, the phone system won’t go out with it. Digital phones are unaffected by bandwidth, so with a digital phone system, you won’t have to worry about the possible need to upgrade your broadband connection.
- Mobility – VoIP phones are more portable than digital phones. With a VoIP phone system, moving a phone is simply a matter of physically moving a phone to another connection, and the phone number follows automatically. This makes office moves much simpler. With digital phones, transferring phones requires getting a technician to transfer the numbers to the new location.
- Maintenance – With digital phones, maintenance has to be done by a technician on-site. However, with VoIP phones, the system can be accessed remotely by anyone with administrator access privileges. With hosted VoIP systems, software upgrades happen automatically, so on-site maintenance is practically nonexistent. Furthermore, with VoIP systems, adding new lines can be done easily and quickly, without having to have more wiring installed.
Digital vs. VoIP Phone Systems
If you need a couple of simple phone lines and don’t require many features, or if you want to keep voice data separate from the rest of your organization’s data, then a digital phone system may be right for you.
However, if you want a range of enterprise-level phone features for your small business, and if you want a phone system that is flexible, scaleable, and easy to move, then VoIP is the way to go.
VoIP systems are also superior if you have remote workers, telecommuters, or traveling employees. With hosted VoIP systems, all the hardware except the phone handsets is located with your hosted VoIP provider, so up-front investment is low, and getting started is a matter of minutes or hours rather than days or weeks with traditional phone systems.