Voice-over internet-protocol (VoIP) phone services offer businesses many robust features at an affordable price. However, the VoIP setup process can seem daunting, especially if you are not tech savvy. However, setting up a VoIP system can be as simple as assessing your budget, selecting desired features, and plugging in the necessary network equipment.
If you are in the market for a VoIP service that’s easy to set up and use, check out Ooma. It comes with all the phones you need and an easy-to-understand set of core telephony features, as well as advanced features like a virtual receptionist and the ability to adopt a toll-free 1-800 number. Click the link below to get started.
The specific steps to setting up a VoIP system include:
1. Assess How Many Users You Will Need
Before you subscribe to any business phone system, the most important thing you should do is assess the size of your company and determine how many of your employees will be using your VoIP system, or if shared resources such as conference rooms will be used. This is especially important due to the fact that most VoIP services charge on a per-user basis.
Pro tip: Many services, like Jive, will offer lower per-user prices if your company is of a certain size. In Jive’s case, you can enjoy custom pricing if you have more than 100 users signed up with the service. It is also worth noting that sales representatives from service providers may have a certain amount of agency when it comes to discounts. It is certainly worth bringing up the subject with your sales agent.
2. Ensure You Have a Compatible Network
A VoIP network runs over the internet, so it’s important that your internet speeds are fast and stable enough to support the number of users you defined in the first step. If you do not have a suitable connection, call quality will suffer. You can contact your internet service provider (ISP) to discuss your internet package’s expected performance, or you can test your system using our free VoIP speed test to determine the number of phones your current speed can support.
To test your connection using our free VoIP speed test, simply click on the button below:
The faster your internet connection, the more VoIP phone lines it can support. For example, a 500 Kbps upload speed will support a maximum of five lines, whereas a 10 Mbps upload speed will support a maximum of 100. Your speed test should tell you how fast your internet is, and, therefore, how many phones it can support.
For example, the results of your speed test will give you two numbers: your download speed and your upload speed. Because you’re limited by the lower of the two numbers (which is almost always your upload speed), we’ll refer to that as your bandwidth. Make a note of this lower number from your test. Next, find the closest match to your bandwidth in the chart below:
Number of Supported Lines Based on Your Bandwidth
|Bandwidth (Upload Speed)|
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 converts the units from Mbps to Kbps; if your speed is already expressed in Kbps, then skip this step.
- Divide your result from step 1 by 445: This will tell you the recommended number of phone lines your connection can support.
- Divide your result from step 1 by 100: This is how many phone lines your VoIP system can support in a perfect world if your internet connection is stable and consistent and no bandwidth is being used for other activities, like browsing or downloading.
For more detailed information on testing your network speed, check out our guide to VoIP speed tests.
3. Determine Your Desired Features & Hardware
There are no shortage of VoIP services available to small businesses today; all carry different costs, and each offers a unique feature set that makes them ideal for certain environments. No matter what your budget or unique needs are, there is sure to be a solution that is a perfect fit for you. However, it is important to take the time to research your options and compare them with what you want to accomplish with your business phone setup.
The following features are found in some, but not all, VoIP systems:
Virtually all VoIP systems will provide you with a local phone number that reflects your region’s area code. However, some services, like Jive, allow you to adopt a 1-800 toll-free number so that callers can get in touch with you at no cost to them. It can also help your business command a more established presence over the phone. Not only that, but some services even let you adopt an international number or vanity phone number.
An automated attendant greets and routes inbound calls to pre-specified extensions, phones, or voicemail boxes. A multilevel attendant can even route calls to multiple locations or external phone numbers. While this functionality is found on many VoIP services, it is not always included in certain packages.
Call Center Features
If your company has sales or customer support operations, you will want features that accommodate a call center. This includes things like automatic call distributors (ACDs) that handle and distribute all incoming call traffic for you.
This also includes interactive voice response (IVR) systems. IVR is often found in call centers and sales environments where agents are speaking with a high number of callers every day. IVR isn’t found on many VoIP services, so be sure to research the options available to you.
4. Choose Your VoIP Provider
Once you have determined what features are most important to you, you are ready to choose a VoIP service. We recommend looking at our VoIP service buyer’s guide to examine what options are available to you. From there, all you need to do is get in touch with your preferred vendor, and a sales representative will help you get signed up with the service.
Some services, like Grasshopper, are basic in nature and provide little more than a business phone number and call management functionality. Other solutions, like RingCentral, offer advanced features like instant messaging and video conferencing. Determine what capabilities are “must-haves” for your organization and what you can reasonably afford.
5. Connect Your IP PBX With Your ISP
Depending on what type of VoIP service to adopt, your subscription might have come with a physical public branch exchange (PBX) box. A PBX is a piece of hardware or software that automatically receives and routes incoming calls and works with your internet service provider (ISP).
It is worth noting that the majority of mainstream VoIP services will host your PBX on their own servers, so you may not have to physically do anything to complete this step. However, if you do have a PBX box, you will need to connect the PBX to a power source. You will also need to plug it into your office’s router via an Ethernet cable.
Once your PBX is connected, you should be able to get started connecting phones to the hardware. Follow the setup instructions on a connected administrative computer as provided by your vendor. Every IP PBX box will come with its own set of instructions, and, in some cases, the vendor you purchased the box from will be able to send a representative to do this process for you. Contact your service provider for more details.
6. Plug In Your VoIP Phones
Most VoIP systems let you make and receive calls via a desktop web app. However, if you want to use physical desk phones, you will need to connect your VoIP phones to the service. To do this, plug an Ethernet cord into the port on each VoIP phone, and connect the other end to one of the Ethernet ports on the back of your PBX box. If you are using a hosted PBX service, you can usually just connect the phone to a router or your computer.
Some VoIP phones even come equipped with Wi-Fi, so you may be able to skip this step altogether. In some cases, you may even choose to just use the mobile app provided by your VoIP provider. This could save you the hassle of setting up desk phones if you don’t think you would use them.
7. Configure Your Service Through Your Vendor’s Settings Menu
No matter what type of VoIP service you have, you will need to set up your VoIP network through your service’s settings menu. This is usually found in a menu titled “settings” or “management console.” Here, you will set up your phone tree, assign extensions to your employees, and configure other options like voicemail greetings, business hours, and software integrations.
This process will vary widely depending on what service you have. Any modern VoIP service will likely have guided help to setting up their VoIP system. Please consult your provider’s help channels for more detailed information.
Optional Step: Connect VoIP Mobile Apps
If your VoIP service offers a mobile app, you will be able to essentially put your work phone in your personal smartphone and take it with you wherever you go. This will be a fairly straightforward process. Simply search for your VoIP service on either the Android or iOS marketplaces (depending on the device you have). Download the app, and then use your VoIP service’s login credentials to connect your work phone.
This is a completely optional feature that you can skip if you like, especially if you do not expect to take any calls while out of the office. With that said, mobile apps are one of the most helpful features that VoIP systems have over their wired landline counterparts. Check with your VoIP service provider to see if they have a mobile app for smart devices.
VoIP Setup vs Landline Phone System Setup
There are a number of key differences between a VoIP platform and a traditional landline service, and how to set up VoIP differs from how to set up a traditional system too. That said, VoIP offers several benefits, which make it worth the process. If you are a small business, the first thing you might notice when setting up your VoIP system is that VoIP telephony is much cheaper.
A VoIP service can also do things that a traditional landline simply can’t do. For example, VoIP services allow you to use your mobile phone as an extension of your office phone, which extends your phone system to literally anywhere you’re located. You can also integrate most VoIP platforms with outside business software like customer relationship management (CRM) platforms as well as take advantage of additional features such as advanced call routing and voicemail-to-email.
How VoIP Systems Work
Unlike a landline which requires dedicated wires, VoIP phone services use your business’ existing internet connection to convert and transmit audio as data. While Skype and other services like Vonage are examples of good VoIP services for individuals, other VoIP options like RingCentral and Nextiva offer the same technology, but on a larger scale for businesses.
With that in mind, VoIP also works in a nearly identical fashion to a traditional phone system. You can make and receive business calls using any type of phone, whether it’s another VoIP phone, a cell phone, or a landline. It may run on a different network, but you can use it just like any other device.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I call landline phones with my VoIP phone?
Yes. While the technologies that each system uses are different, you can communicate with landline phones in the same way you would with a VoIP phone or a mobile device. Simply dial the number and let the phone ring.
Can I connect my VoIP service with any of my other business software?
In many cases, yes. Jive and other services provide the ability to connect data with other pieces of software. For example, you can connect Jive with a CRM like Salesforce so that all incoming calls are automatically added to the system as possible prospects. It’s a massive benefit that VoIP technology has over traditional landlines.
Can I use my VoIP system if I lose power?
No. Because VoIP phone systems depend on an internet connection, you will experience a service outage if your power goes out. However, you will still be able to make calls on your VoIP service’s mobile app if your local cell service is still active.
VoIP phones bring small businesses a full range of telephony features at a fraction of the price of a landline setup. Not only that, but they are often very easy to set up, even for less technical users. All you have to do is make sure a few key components are plugged in and that you have the right internet speeds for a VoIP network.
For businesses looking for an affordable and easy-to-use VoIP service that can grow with your business, try using Ooma. It has one all-inclusive plan for only $19.95/month per user, so you only pay to add new users and never have to pay extra for additional features. Get started today.