Voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) services offer customers a wealth of features at a more affordable price than landline-based setups. However, the setup process may seem overwhelming, especially if this is your first time. Luckily, there are simple steps that can help you assess your budget and figure out what your desired features are before you need to plug in any necessary hardware.
Each VoIP service will have its own unique steps in the setup process. However, the following guide will give you a general understanding of what most processes entail. You can also download our e-book on setting up a business phone system for additional tips and added instruction designed to help you make the most of your VoIP phone system.
1. Evaluate a VoIP System’s Benefits for Your Business
Most mainstream VoIP systems provide considerable benefits over traditional copper landline services. First and foremost, they cost far less than a landline setup in the sense that monthly service costs are lower and that VoIP systems provide unlimited domestic calling at no extra charge.
Their internet-based nature also gives them features that just aren’t possible on a landline. This includes modules like video conferencing and team messaging along with these additional helpful benefits:
- Mobility: Leading systems on the market, like RingCentral, offer mobile apps for iOS and Android devices. With these apps, you can log in to your VoIP service and take calls with your work number.
- Integrations: Most services have the ability to connect call data with popular outside solutions. This can mean anything from cloud storage systems like Google Drive to customer relationship management (CRM) platforms like Salesforce.
- Accessibility: Many services offer voice-to-text functionality so that you can read messages.
It is worth mentioning that VoIP systems are but one kind of business phone system available. There are also virtual phone systems, like Google Voice and Grasshopper, that allow you to use your personal smartphone as a business phone. While they are internet-based, they require an existing line to forward calls from. They also lack advanced features. The trade-off is that they are usually far more affordable than standalone VoIP service.
If you need help deciding on the best type of phone service for you, we recommend taking our quiz to help you decide.
2. Assess How Many Users You Will Need
Before you subscribe to a new business phone service, take stock of both the current size of your company and the projected growth of your team. Consider how many of your employees will be using your VoIP service. Not every employee may need a line, and some might need more than one. Additionally, you should determine if shared resources like conference rooms will be used. This is an important step because most VoIP services charge on a per-user basis.
3. Ensure You Have a Compatible Network
A VoIP solution works by transmitting calls as data over the internet. Because of this, it is vital that your internet connection is fast and stable. This is especially true if you plan on having all of your employees hooked up to the VoIP system. The speed of your network will dictate how many VoIP lines you can ultimately support.
We have created a free VoIP speed test to help measure the health of your network and complete this step.
As a rough example, a 500 Kbps upload speed will usually support five lines at most. At the other end of the spectrum, a 10 Mbps upload speed will probably support at least 100 lines. Ping refers to the amount of time it takes for a packet of data to leave your machine, go to another computer, and come back. Lower is better. Jitter refers to the variation in response time, and you will also want a low number.
Number of Supported Lines Based on Your Bandwidth
Bandwidth (Upload Speed)
Maximum # Lines
Recommended # Lines
Conversely, you can also do some simple math to calculate exactly how many VoIP lines you can support:
- Multiply your upload speed by 1,000: This is so you can convert the units from Mbps to Kbps.
- Divide your result from step 1 by 445: This will tell you the recommended number of lines for your connection.
- Divide your result from step 1 by 100: This number will determine how many phone lines your VoIP service could support in an ideal situation where your connection is stable and the network bandwidth isn’t used for any activities like web browsing or video streaming.
4. Determine Your Desired Features & Hardware
There are many VoIP services available to small business users. Each one is priced differently and offer varying features. Regardless of what your budget is, you can likely find the perfect fit for your needs. However, it is going to take research and diligence on your part to figure out the best choice for your team.
Most VoIP solutions have an automated attendant, but not all of them have multilevel capabilities that support forwarding calls to outside lines. You should also ask yourself what VoIP features you want, such as interactive voice response (IVR) and video conferencing.
You should also ask yourself if you expect to use hardware like a traditional desk phone. This is because most VoIP solutions offer desktop apps that allow individuals to place and receive calls with a computer headsets and mobile apps supported by most smartphones. If you expect to use a combination of hardware, then it is also a good idea to look for services that offer a feature like RingCentral’s call flip, which can help seamlessly transfer calls between devices.
5. Choose Your VoIP Provider
After you’ve decided what capabilities you want in a VoIP service, you can begin to examine the market and see what’s out there. We suggest reading our buyer’s guide to see our picks for the best small business VoIP systems. From there, you can reach out to a vendor’s sales team; they can let you know more about the system and give you more detailed pricing information. Sometimes, they can even give you a detailed tour of the solution.
6. Connect Your IP PBX With Your ISP
Depending on what system you go with, your service might require a physical private branch exchange (PBX) box. This is a piece of hardware or software that automatically receives and forwards incoming calls. It works in conjunction with your internet service provider (ISP).
Most small business VoIP systems, like RingCentral, will host your PBX on their own servers, which saves you the responsibility of installing and maintaining the box at your office. But if you do get a PBX box, you will need to hook up the device to a power source and your office router via an Ethernet cable. Once your system is set up, you will be able to connect phones to the hardware. Get in touch with your provider for more detailed instructions.
7. Plug In Your VoIP Phones
Most VoIP systems let you make calls with an app on your desktop computer or mobile device. However, if you want to use desk phones, you will need to connect the phone to your network. Luckily, all you need to do in most cases is simply plug an Ethernet cable into the port of each VoIP phone and connect the other end to your PBX box or router, depending on your setup.
In addition, some devices have Wi-Fi capabilities, so you may be able to skip the wiring process altogether. For more information on dedicated phones, check out our guide to the best VoIP phones for small businesses.
8. Configure Your Service Through Your Vendor’s Settings Menu
Regardless of what system you choose, you will need to configure your VoIP system through your settings menu. From this menu, you can do things like setting up your phone tree, assign extensions to individual employees, and set up your voicemail messages.
This process is going to vary depending on your service. In all likelihood, you will have a guided setup wizard for your system. Some systems, like Vonage, also provide human assistance in some packages. Ask your provider for more information.
9. Optional: Connect VoIP Mobile Apps
If your VoIP solution offers a mobile app, it means that you will be able to essentially take your work phone with you while you are outside of the office. In most cases, all you will need to do is search for your VoIP system in the Android or iOS app stores and download the app. You can use login credentials given to you by your provider and follow the on-screen instructions.
This is an optional feature that you can skip if you do absolutely no work outside of your office. However, it is a very useful feature for remote workers, as it does not require them to use their personal line. There are also less expensive alternatives on the market, like the free Google Voice app, that offers you a free local phone number and call record capabilities.
VoIP systems offer teams a full set of telephony features at a much more affordable price than that of a landline setup. They are also very easy to set up, as they only require hooking up a few devices to a router at most. With that in mind, make sure you have a network capable of handling VoIP before investing in a system.
We recommend RingCentral for teams that are in the market for a new VoIP solution. It is powerful, reliable, and exceptionally easy to use. Click the button below to start your free trial.