Increase Connectivity and Slash Your Phone Bill With VOIP
I've been using VOIP telephone services for over 15 years now - ever since I started my first job back in 2007. VOIP has been my telephone system of choice ever since. And, having used voipfone.co.uk for all of that time, with minimal downtime, great pricing and excellent customer service, I had no hesitation in recommending that Nature's Laboratory swap our outdated ASDN line and PBX system for a brand new VOIP setup.
But how exactly do you go about moving from a landline-based phone service to a VOIP setup without any downtime? And what exactly are the benefits of moving to VOIP anyway? Here are some answers.
Setting Up A VOIP System
Here's a quick explanation of how I went about setting up our VOIP system. You may wish to follow these instructions, but I offer them without warranty or guarantee of any kind!
Create a VOIP Account
First things first, you'll want to head over to voipfone.co.uk and register an account. The great thing with a VOIP system is that because it's web based you can configure loads of stuff directly through the Voipfone dashboard. Once you've registered your account have a poke around. You'll find loads of information on the Voipfone site, and having a good look at all the menu options will give you an idea of the kinds of things you can easily do with a VOIP setup.
Register a Local Landline Number
Next you'll want to register a number. For us this meant registering a local 01947 number. The idea with this is that you can configure your new VOIP setup using this dummy number. You don't need to give this number to anyone, it's purely for testing purpose. Another great thing about VOIP is you can have any number of numbers attached to your account - and you pay monthly for them, so it's not expensive and makes testing your system far easier as it removes the guess work.
Order Your Phones
Once you have your Voipfone account and a landline number you'll want to get hold of some decent VOIP phones. At Nature's Laboratory we went for the SNOM D335 and D385 models, the latter with a wireless headset. These are PoE compatible (though for simplicity we're running them all with DC adapters). These phones have a great browser-based configuration panel, making it really easy to manage their settings from any computer on your local network. We have 9 phones in total.
Configure Your Phones
Voipfone.co.uk provide a handy setup wizard for Snom phones. This worked pretty well for us - I just had to add the individual extension numbers to the 'Account' field and then restart the phone to get it to connect to the right extension. I also setup the speed dial keys and configure dial tones and even added little profile images to each phone. I won't bother talking you through the whole process - the instruction manuals and help info on both the Snom website and Voipfone.co.uk are pretty helpful.
Setup Your PBX (Optional)
Although we're running multiple extensions, and migrating from an existing PBX setup with a 'press 1 for X' type menu, we decided that was overkill for our firm. Instead we're just using the PBX system to play a welcome message, and then automatically connecting to our main extension. However, if you want to operate a fully-functioning menu-based PBX system then Voipfone make it really easy. Follow the instructions inside your account. They even provide some basic default recorded messages so you can fully test the system without having to record your own.
We opted to get our welcome message and our voicemail messages recorded professionally by a voice artist we found on Fiverr. I'd highly recommend doing the same if you run a small company - it can make a big difference to how people perceive your business.
Test Your System
Now you've got your phones configured, your PBX setup and your voicemail messages uploaded it's time to test your system. Remember than dummy landline number you registered earlier? Call it! All being well you'll hear your professionally recorded PBX message and then connect to one of your extensions. Make sure you get familiar with how to hold and transfer calls. We ran our VOIP system alongside our old phones for a couple of weeks to give staff time to get familiar with the new handsets and practice transferring calls and so on.
Request Landline Number Porting
Once you're happy your VOIP system is ready for launch you need to go through the number porting process. It's fairly straight forward, but requires a bit of paperwork and possibly some details from your existing phone line provider. I was dreading this bit, but it was actually pleasantly straightforward.
As part of the porting request you'll nominate a day for the transfer to take place. We opted for 31st August, and sure enough that's exactly when the porting occured. Apparently the guys who manage the numbers have a 4 hour SLA with Voipfone. With our number it took around 20 minutes for the number to be ported, which all worked seamlessly.
Cancel Your Spare Number
Now your physical landline number has been ported to VOIP you can cancel the dummy landline you registered, it's surplus to requirements.
Benefits of Moving to VOIP
Moving to VOIP may just sound like a high-tech alternative to a phone system which already works perfectly well. And in some cases it is. Certainly if you only have 1 phone and 1 number then a traditional landline service might be better. But for more businesses there are plenty of benefits to moving to VOIP. Here are a few.
Flexibility & Freedom
- Add extensions easily from your Voipfone account, paying per extension per months means you're not tying yourself in to an expensive contract for a long time and can easily tweak your system as new members of staff join your team.
- Plug your phones in anywhere. Literally. I could take my phone and plug it in in Australia and it would work just as if I was at my desk in Whitby. This is great if you have people who work from home or your business is moving premises.
- Add a 'softphone' to your mobile. You can use your mobile as a VOIP handset by using a free softphone app and configuring it as another extension on your system. This can save you money, as you don't even need to buy VOIP handsets if you don't want to.
- Run multiple numbers and have them direct-dial certain extensions. My original VOIP number calls my extension only - meaning my clients can still contact me directly and not have to be transferred from our front desk. You could run multiple landline numbers and have them call different departments, or provide a freephone number in addition to a standard geographic landline.
- VOIP services tend to work out cheaper than traditional landline setups. I've done the numbers and I think our phone bill will drop from around £140/month to something like £50 - I'll report back on that later!
In a world where digital communication, email, WhatsApp and social media are increasingly the norm, there's still something valuable about hearing someones voice. At Nature's Laboratory we love chatting with our customers - it really is good to talk!
VOIP provides the flexibility and freedom we associate with web-based systems with the familiarity of a geographic landline number and traditional looking phone handset. This ensures your customers can continue to contact you in the way they always have done, and staff can get on with their jobs without having to get to grips with an entirely new technology.
Thinking of moving to a VOIP system? If you don't fancy setting it up yourself why not get me to do it? I can guide you through the process and help you configure a system which meets your business needs. Contact me if you'd like to talk about that.