5 minute read |

How are VoIP Phones Powered?

VoIP phone service background
VOIP | VoIP Services

Deploying VoIP phones in a business setting has many requirements, regardless of whether the system is a simple, hosted VoIP solution or a more complex, on premise solution. These range from compatible hardware, free or purchased software, VoIP optimized router, QoS settings and so on. But perhaps the two most important considerations are power and Internet access.

These requirements to power VoIP phones are common to any deployment and an absolute must have. Without either power or internet, VoIP phones will not work. Calls cannot be made or received and even other VoIP dependent functions such as presence info, messaging, video calling etc. will stop working. It is often given as one of the reasons for a few businesses that cannot upgrade their phone system to VoIP – they may not have reliable access to power or high speed internet.

Powering Regular Landline Phones

Some people wonder why only VoIP phones require power and how landlines used to be powered. The way landlines work is that they receive power directly from the wires connecting them to the phone network. Hence there is no need to get another power source or worry about whether the phones will function when the power goes out in a disaster. In fact, quite a few organizations have some landlines precisely to maintain connectivity during any disaster.

VoIP phones on the other hand need an external power source. Though there are ways of providing power to these phones just like landlines, most phones or business settings may not have those options. Hence power requirements are an important consideration but are often forgotten in the haste to switch or upgrade to VoIP.

Powering VoIP Phones

Most VoIP phones – the ones that look like your regular phones – will have an outlet for power, along with an RJ-45 port to connect the device to the data network. Naturally soft phones or VoIP apps have no such provision or need. Most of these phones are plug – and – play devices when combined with auto provisioning. They can be used immediately after connecting them to the network and power source.

Some VoIP phones – usually the advanced models – have PoE (Power over Ethernet) capabilities which means that they can be powered simply by virtue of the ethernet connection. They do not require any additional power source. Practically speaking, they draw power from the outlet similar to regular landlines. However they are still not widely used as they tend to be more expensive.

Business Continuity, Emergency and Disaster Management

The power considerations for VoIP phones do not end just because you have connected the individual devices to a power source. Given the requirement of external power, there is a very real danger that the business phone system will go down in its absence. This is not something that was a problem for businesses when they used older landlines. But the power requirements for VoIP phones are a real issue when it comes to disaster management and business continuity plans.

Backup Power

When it comes to power, VoIP devices need to be considered at the same level as other computing equipment such as routers, desktops, laptops etc. Most businesses will have some form of backup power for the most crucial systems – whether it is in the form of a large generator, a secondary connection or an uninterrupted power supply system. Any and all VoIP devices should preferably be connected to the backup power source to ensure that they continue to function even during a blackout or other emergency.

Unfortunately this may not be a feasible option for some businesses either due to the intricacies of connecting these devices to the existing backup system or because the power source does not have spare capacity. In such cases, an alternative might be to connect only a few crucial devices to the secondary power supply. Other employees can continue to make and receive calls using VoIP apps, work issued mobile devices or even software installed on their respective laptops.

Business Continuity

Such measures are perfectly suited for temporary hiccups such as technical issues or short power interruptions. However long term business continuity planning may require more intensive preparation and bigger budgets. For instance, if only a few devices are connected to the UPS system, it cannot be a feasible solution if an emergency knocks out the power for more than a few hours. The business will be severely handicapped in performing daily workflows and responding to customers.

If any enterprise has access to unlimited resources, the best alternative would be to arrange for a separate power supply specifically for the business phone system. But since that is an expensive option, the next best thing would be to ensure that there is sufficient additional capacity in the existing system to assure that the phones can be added without any issues.

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