For many growing firms, legacy telephony systems are no longer up to the task of keeping in touch with colleagues, customers and suppliers. Old-fashioned landlines are not only more expensive to run, but also less reliable, harder to maintain and offer few of the advanced features that are considered essential to modern users.
That's why in just a few years, legacy landlines will be a thing of the past. By the end of 2025, BT Openreach will switch these networks off for good. Therefore, all businesses will need to investigate alternative phone services before too long. And for many companies - especially small enterprises - the answer will be a VoIP phone system.
However, you shouldn't view this as simply something you have to do. Instead, it's an opportunity to make your communications more efficient, boost the productivity of your employees, provide a better service to customers and save money, all at the same time.
What's more, by getting ahead of the 2025 deadline, you'll have plenty of time to evaluate your needs and make certain you're choosing the best VoIP solution. This guarantees you don't end up overpaying for a system that may be intended for larger firms or offers services you won't use, for example.
So what do you need to know about VoIP phone systems for small businesses? Read on for our comprehensive guide to the technology.
Introduction to VoIP for small businesses
Moving to a VoIP phone system for small businesses may seem like a significant change for a business owner. This may be especially the case if you haven't looked at upgrading your communications solution for many years - or even since you were just starting out. However, technology has come a long way in recent years, and a VoIP system offers a great combination of high-quality calls, a wide range of extra features and a low price.
What is a VoIP service for small businesses?
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and, as the name suggests, it relies on internet connectivity to make and receive calls. Unlike a traditional landline, which converts audio inputs into electrical signals that are then sent down a copper wire, it turns your voice into digital data. This is then sent to its destination as a series of packets using your broadband cables.
While there are several options with VoIP, including on-premises solutions that are managed entirely on-site in your data centre, most small businesses are likely to be better off using a hosted VoIP service. This is a cloud phone system where all the connections and behind-the-scenes routing is handled off-premises in a cloud server.
This offers a number of advantages for small firms. For instance, it's much cheaper to run and, crucially, you don't have to do any maintenance on these systems. Instead, it's all taken care of by your provider.
All you need to get up and running with a VoIP small business phone system is a broadband internet connection and the right hardware to physically make and receive calls.
While for many businesses, this is likely to mean a compatible desk phone handset, it doesn't have to be. One of the great things about VoIP technology is that it can be used on a wide range of devices, including traditional handsets, mobile phones or even a laptop or desktop PC - in which case all you need to get started is a web browser and a headset with a mic.
Why do I need a small business VoIP system?
One of the main reasons to move to a VoIP phone system is to ensure you'll still have phone services after the upcoming landline switch-off. By the end of 2025, existing legacy landline networks in the UK will be retired, to be replaced with entirely digital communications. Therefore, if you're one of the millions of people up and down the UK still relying on this technology, you'll need to investigate your options sooner rather than later.
While there will be several choices available, VoIP is the obvious answer for small businesses. Alternatives such as SIP Trunking, for example, are mainly designed for larger businesses with multiple users, and so come with additional complexity and costs that make them impractical for less-sizeable firms.
VoIP, on the other hand, is perfectly suited for the needs of small businesses, startups, freelancers and other organisations where budgets and technical skills are limited. It's easy to set up, comes with a simple pricing structure usually based on the number of users, and doesn't require any extra training to use.
How does VoIP compare to a traditional landline?
For end-users, the experience of using a VoIP phone system is likely to be much the same as the services they're familiar with. In many cases, individuals won't even need to replace the handsets they use, as most hardware manufactured in recent years will already be compatible with VoIP connectivity. Indeed, 91 per cent of bOnline users agree that their VoIP system is easy to use.
Employees can therefore make and receive phone calls just as they did in the past. There's no need to use special numbers, and when it comes to quality, 82 per cent of VoIP users say their calls are clearer than with a landline.
However, managers will often find they have far more options available to them compared with legacy alternatives. For example, even the most basic VoIP packages typically come with a range of call-handling features that allow you to forward incoming phone calls to specific devices, set up call menus and assign business hours. This makes it easy to tailor your VoIP service to the exact requirements of your business.
Working remotely? Use any device anywhere!
- Make business calls from your computer
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- Available on iOS & Android devices
- Powerful call controls in your hand
- Join meetings from anywhere
- Never miss a call
Benefits of a VoIP service for small business
Switching to a small business VoIP system offers much more than just futureproofing your business beyond 2025. It's also great for your bottom line and provides you with the flexibility and extra services you need to grow your company and better serve the needs of customers.
What are the benefits of a VoIP phone system for a small business?
One of the most important considerations for any small business is cost, and this is an area where VoIP services shine compared with legacy landline systems. Traditional phone services often come with substantial expenses, including separate line rental fees and high call costs. However, often, you don't get much for your money beyond the basics, with any advanced services likely to require an extra subscription and engineering or maintenance work to get connectivity set up.
With VoIP, on the other hand, all you need is included in one easy-to-understand package. There are no hidden costs and everything is priced on a per-seat basis, with most deals offering unlimited calling so you don't have to worry about any nasty surprises when you get your bill. This means that you always know exactly how much you're paying for your communications platform.
What's more, you're not locked into any long-term contracts, which means you can flexibly add or remove services whenever you need to. And as VoIP services for small businesses are designed with company owners in mind, not IT professionals, there's no complex cabling, engineering or routing work to worry about - it's all taken care of for you.
What features does a small business VoIP system offer?
As well as the simple pricing and ease of use, one of the biggest benefits of a small business VoIP solution is the number of additional features you have access to - all at no extra cost.
At bOnline, for example, our most popular packages give you access to more than 50 additional tools and services, ranging from advanced call-handling features to improved integration and collaboration tools and comprehensive reporting features to ensure you've always got full visibility into your IP phone systems.
Some of the most common features you can expect to find in any good VoIP telephone system include, but are not limited to:
- Call menus
- Call forwarding
- Call queuing
- Call recording
- Customised greetings
- Hunt groups
- Out-of-hours call routing
- Voicemail to email
- Contact syncing
- Video conferencing
- Phone extensions
- Mobile and desktop calling
- Call reporting
- Call monitoring
- Integration with CRM/Office 365 systems
Of course, if you don't need all of these bells and whistles, you can opt for a more basic service that focuses on making and receiving calls. However, even for the smallest businesses, having the ability to easily add these services when needed can give great peace of mind and means you won't have to worry about finding new phone solutions in the future.
What are the risks of moving to a small business VoIP solution?
When done properly and with an expert provider, moving to a small business VoIP system should be a hassle-free, risk-free activity. It can be completed in a matter of minutes with no need for an engineer to visit. However, this doesn't mean there will be no potential issues to overcome.
One of the most common questions small businesses have when considering a switch is what will happen to their existing numbers. Having to change phone numbers can be one of the biggest risks faced by a firm when upgrading its communications. This can result in confused and unhappy customers who struggle to get in touch with the business, as well as greatly increased costs and administrative effort, as signage, promotional materials, advertising and online directories all have to be updated.
However, this does not have to be the case. Any good VoIP provider should allow you to keep any existing number you already use, ensuring that the transition to an IP telephone system is seamless.
One other risk to be aware of is that, unlike legacy landline phones, VoIP solutions do require both power and internet connectivity to work. Therefore, you should ask your chosen provider what solutions it has in place for the unlikely event your premises loses one or both of these. For instance, many services will automatically redirect incoming calls to designated mobile devices during a power outage, while others may use battery backups.
As long as you plan ahead, power outages should not pose any disruption to your communications when using VoIP, but you need to make sure you're aware of what the options are to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
FAQs about VoIP for small business services
Small businesses often have neither the time nor the technical know-how to devote large resources to procuring, deploying and managing their phone services. That's why bOnline's solutions are designed to be used by business owners, not just IT professionals.
However, if you do have any questions about how VoIP technology works and what it will mean for your business, we're always happy to help.
What do you need to make VoIP phone calls?
The two things you need to make a phone call using a VoIP system are a broadband connection and a suitable device on which to make and receive calls.
In many cases, existing handsets that were purchased in the last few years should be perfectly suitable for making VoIP calls. As long as they're compatible with the technology, all you have to do is plug them in. However, older devices may not have this capability, so it's worth checking. If you do need to upgrade to more modern hardware, you don't need to break the bank to do this. At bOnline, for example, we can provide handsets from brands such as Yealink for as little as £47 plus VAT.
As long as you have an internet-connected device with access to a web browser or a mobile app, you can even get up and running with VoIP without a dedicated handset. All you need is a headset to plug into your machine, or use your existing smartphone, and you're all set.
How reliable is VoIP as a business phone system?
VoIP is a highly reliable form of communication. In most cases, providers will provide a minimum uptime guarantee and, as long as you have a stable internet connection, you can enjoy high availability at all times. On top of this, call quality is often significantly higher than legacy networks, as digital signals are less prone to interference that can reduce audio clarity.
Compare this with landline phones, which may be highly prone to disruption from adverse weather, power outages or other interference to exchanges or cables, and VoIP is often the more reliable solution. In the unlikely event that connectivity is interrupted by a lack of power, backup systems automatically kick in to keep you connected via routing to mobile devices.
How much does a VoIP business phone system cost?
VoIP services can usually offer significant savings when compared with landline alternatives. On average, customers can save between 30 and 50 per cent on the total cost of their phone system, while one study by Microsoft suggests 82 per cent of users report savings. What's more, they're also cheap to install and usually do not even require an engineer visit.
At bOnline, for instance, our small business VoIP systems start at just £6 per user, per month before VAT. For this, you get to enjoy unlimited inbound calls and over 40 features such as call forwarding.
However, our most popular options, which include unlimited outbound calls and over 50 features, start at £13.95 per user (plus VAT). This allows even the smallest companies to enjoy high-quality, professional-level services that would in the past have been reserved solely for larger firms.
What are the recommended internet speeds for VoIP services?
You also don't need blazingly-fast internet in order to benefit from VoIP services. For a single call, most services only require a minimum speed of around 3Mbps, with a recommended speed of about 5Mbps to ensure the highest possible quality.
As Ofcom notes the UK's average broadband speed stands at 59.4Mbps as of 2022 - up from 50.4Mbps the previous year - this should be more than adequate for most small firms' needs. However, if you are looking to grow your business or expect to have several lines in operation simultaneously, it may be worth investing in a faster connection. Check out our phone and broadband bundle deals to find one that fits your requirements.
Do VoIP business phone systems work for remote employees?
Yes. Another benefit of VoIP phone systems is that it's easy to set them up for use by remote and home-based workers. For example, call forwarding means you can redirect incoming calls to any mobile devices, making sure that employees or business owners never miss an important call when they're working in the field, whether this is at a customer site or when on the move.
It's also easy for home-based workers to access VoIP services through a desktop web browser or via an app on their personal mobile phone, so they can remain in touch when working at home with no need to set up a dedicated office line or reroute calls.
Can a regular phone call a VoIP?
One of the great things about a VoIP system is that it connects seamlessly with external phone networks, so from your customers' point of view, the experience of getting in touch will remain completely unchanged. With the right provider, you can even keep all your existing numbers so that the transition process doesn't interrupt your business communication at all.
How do I set up a VoIP phone system for my small business?
If you've decided a VoIP phone system for small business is right for your company, how should you go about finding the right deal? There are dozens of providers in the UK that offer such systems, so you need to be sure you're choosing one that meets your needs.
What should I look for in a VoIP business phone system?
You could opt for a phone system from one of the UK's biggest communications providers such as BT or Virgin Media Business. But can these companies provide the level of customer service and small-business expertise that you need?
Going with a provider whose services have been built from the ground up with less-sizeable firms, startups and freelancers in mind offers businesses a more personal experience from professionals who have a much better understanding of the unique needs of these companies.
What is the best VoIP phone service for small businesses?
There's no simple answer to this, but when looking for a business VoIP phone service tailored specifically for small firms, it pays to do your research and look at what other customers have to say before making a final decision.
At bOnline, for example, we're proud to have a TrustPilot score of 4.6 out of 5, based on the real reviews of more than 6,000 of our happy customers. Other key things to look out for when looking for a VoIP provider include companies that won't lock you in to lengthy contracts and are upfront about their pricing, with no hidden fees to give you a nasty surprise when the bill comes in.
How can I migrate to a small business VoIP system?
Moving to a VoIP phone system is usually a very straightforward task. In many cases, it can be done online in as little as two minutes, with your new provider taking care of all the work behind the scenes. This means all you have to do is plug in your handsets to the router provided by your new supplier - or log in via a mobile app or web browser - on your live date and you can pick up exactly where you left off from your previous provider.
Still unsure about whether VoIP systems for small businesses are right for you, or want more information about how to complete the switching process? Call bOnline today on 0203 697 4166 or get in touch via our website to get started with a great-value, feature-packed solution today.