How to Set Up a VoIP Phone System for a Small Business

A combination of the nbn™ and the continued advancement of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology have made VoIP an effective alternative to analogue voice calls. And with the old copper line network being retired across Australia as the nbn™ continues to reach more locations, VoIP and mobile will soon be the only way to make and receive calls.

While the concept of using the internet for voice calls might seem a little foreign to some, the reality is that many of us have already used some version of the technology before. Voice or video calls made with FaceTime, Skype, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and even WhatsApp all use VoIP technology. But VoIP also works with regular desktop and cordless handsets, once your small business is set up with a VoIP system.

How Does a VoIP Phone System Work?

As the name suggests, a Voice over Internet Protocol phone system uses your internet connection for making and receiving calls. Depending on the set up in your small business, calls can be made and received on computers, desktop and cordless handsets, and even mobile phones. Most existing phone numbers can be ported to a VoIP system, so your customers can still reach you on the number they are already familiar with.

The VoIP system converts analogue voice signals to digital audio data, which is then transmitted over a regular broadband internet connection. A VoIP server enables a connection to other phone networks if necessary. Sometimes, new equipment will be required when you move to VoIP in your business. Your nbn™ or broadband plan must support VoIP calls, and you might need Analogue Telephone Adapters (ATA) to be connected to your router. Your VoIP provider manages the rest of the equipment and technology necessary, off-site.

What Is Needed for a VoIP Phone System in a Small Business?

The primary requirement for a VoIP system is a broadband internet connection–either nbn™ or other fibre provider–with a plan like nbn50 or higher. Residential customers can use VoIP with a basic nbn™ plan, but in any business where you need to make and receive multiple concurrent calls at the same time as using the internet, a higher nbn™ speed is recommended. The speed or plan you select will be influenced by the number of concurrent calls you want to be able to support, and the amount of other internet activity happening at the same time. VoIP and other internet traffic share the same connection, so an inadequate plan could result in poor quality calls and a slower connection for other internet traffic.

But while a broadband internet connection is the primary requirement for VoIP, it is not the only thing you need.

1. Decide on the Type of VoIP System Needed

There are three types of VoIP phone systems available to businesses of any size:

  • Business Line – this is one or more individual lines, each with their own number, with incoming calls directed to a dedicated phone or distributed using a basic line hunt feature. Calls can only be made and received on devices connected to the nbn™ router or Analogue Telephone Adapter (ATA). This is only recommended for small businesses with one or two employees.
  • Hosted PBX System – like a regular on-premise PBX system, but with no need for a physical PBX. The software for this system is hosted on off-site servers managed by your VoIP provider, but it gives you all the features of a regular PBX system. Highly customisable, with you deciding how many lines your business needs, and what other features you want enabled, like line hunts, auto attendants, music on hold, and more. The upfront and ongoing costs for a hosted PBX system are much lower than a physical PBX system, making them accessible to small businesses that could not previously afford a PBX.
  • SIP – for businesses that already have an IP-enabled PBX system just need basic VoIP lines to make it work. Some extra features might be available if your PBX system supports them.

It should be noted that even if you decide on a hosted PBX or SIP system, you may still need a standalone business line for fax machines, EFTPOS, and alarm systems.

2. Handset vs. Softphone

The great thing about a VoIP phone system is that it automatically supports calls being made and received on handsets, computers or mobile phones. The softphone feature, which lets you use a computer or mobile phone for calls, is usually the default and included with your plan. It will require software to be installed on your computers and mobiles, and you might want to also equip each employee with a headset for privacy. The handset option is your traditional desktop or cordless handsets, which may require the addition of one or more ATA’s depending on the system you choose. It is possible to have–and use–both options, but it helps to understand how each works, and what is needed for each. Mobile app softphones are great and make it possible for business calls to be directed to your mobile phone and even to make calls from your mobile phone as if you were calling from the business number.

3. Find a VoIP Provider

Although most nbn™ providers offer VoIP services, many are aimed at residential customers and aren’t optimised for business use. You should rather look at nbn™ and VoIP providers that specialise in business connections. Not only will they be able to offer you a variety of solutions tailored for businesses, they will also offer a network and support that works best for typical business needs. With Commander, this includes the option for 4G backup, so your business can still make and receive calls if your internet connection is ever down.

4. Assess Installation Requirements

Regardless of which type of VoIP system you settle for, some changes to the existing phone cabling might be needed. Once you have decided on the type of system, your VoIP phone system provider will be able to help you assess any special installation requirements, such as new or extra cabling. Your VoIP provider can also advise if your current business numbers can be ported to the new VoIP system, and they should be able to take care of most aspects of the porting too.

Speak to a business VoIP professional at Commander to learn more about our small business phone systems and what would work best for your business. Or build your own plan online and get an immediate quote scaled to your exact requirements.