VoIP Phones vs Softphones

Posted on: 2016-11-29 | Categories:VoIP Services

One of the reasons for the popularity of VoIP is how easy it is to get started. If a business wants to purchase hosted VoIP services from a provider, it may not take more than five minutes to sign up with the new account. Since many vendors offer free trials or demos of their service, it is inexpensive enough to give it a shot.

For a small or medium enterprise, a high-speed Internet connection is quite often the only requirement for hosted VoIP systems. If your existing connection is able to handle the extra traffic from adding voice capabilities to the network, then there is not much that you need to purchase or upgrade for VoIP. Since the vendor provides all the functions of the business phone system over the Internet, there is nothing to maintain on the premises.

However, your business still needs phones that are capable of supporting the SIP protocol. The analog desk phones that you have been using so far certainly do not support IP standards. At this point many businesses will have to make a decision – use softphones exclusively or purchase dedicated VoIP phones.

There are benefits and disadvantages to each alternative. There is no definitive answer to the question of which one is the correct choice as you can see below.

Pros and Cons of SoftPhones

The term softphones is a source of confusion to people who are not familiar with VoIP technology. The VoIP softphone is simply an application that is installed on computers and mobile devices. Once it has been correctly configured with the necessary user account credentials (username and password), employees can make and receive calls through their work number.

Some organizations issue official work devices for employees while others encourage them to use personal phones. Users can install softphone applications on both types of hardware. These applications provide flexibility because you can use them on any device. They function extremely well for employees who are frequently traveling or otherwise away from their desk.

However, this flexibility entails compromise on another aspect – security. Since employees can install and use these applications from any device, there is no way for the business to guarantee that the Internet connection over which the voice data travels is secure. Suppose a manager is on his way to a conference and needs to handle a client call. They connect to the hotel’s free Wi-Fi which is publicly accessible by anyone.

Many businesses dismiss security for voice systems (since it is something they never worried about before) but there are various easily available tools that can capture data packets over unsecured, public Wi-Fi connections. If you have many employees who frequently use of phone applications over unsecured Internet connections, then there is definitely a high probability that you will experience a security breach sooner or later.

Pros and Cons of VoIP Phones

In a generalized manner, the benefits of softphones are the disadvantages of VoIP phones and vice versa. VoIP phones look and function exactly like the analog desk phones, except they support the necessary SIP protocol. Since it is a unit with dedicated audio hardware, quality of voice calls tends to be better than softphones. These units can handle additional functionality like conference calling with ease.

Although they do need power backup, there is no need to charge them regularly or keep an eye on battery levels. They do not easily get lost or stolen unlike mobile computing hardware. Many organizations have suffered security breaches via lost or stolen laptops and mobile phones. With VoIP desk phones, you minimize that risk.

On the other hand purchasing dedicated units for each employee can become expensive even if you do not go for the high-end models. Suppose you have 35 employees and each phone costs you about $100. That is still a significant bill for a small business looking to VoIP for cost reduction. No wonder it is tempting for businesses to rely solely on softphones or repurpose their existing desk phones with adapters.

As these are desk units, they are necessarily connected to an outlet through cables. You can’t simply take them with you like you can with softphone applications. Network compatibility is also something that you should keep in mind. Some vendors services will only work with specific models of VoIP phones and not with others. It is one of the reasons why you should use services based on the SIP protocol rather than proprietary protocols.

Quite a few organizations use a mixture of both rather than relying exclusively on one. Employees can use the desk units when they are in the office and softphone applications when they are away. With the rapid rise of security breaches, businesses also prefer to issue dedicated work devices that have proper security defenses. In this was, an organization can benefit from the advantages of both while minimizing any security risks.