VoIP: The Definitive Guide

“VoIP” simply stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol and means the use of the internet for telephony. It’s the basis of many modern phone systems and allows voice calls through well known apps and services. At Gradwell, we’ve had almost 20 years of experience in supplying and supporting the technology to over 8,000 customers nationwide and beyond.

What is VoIP?

Ever used Facebook’s call function? That’s VoIP. FaceTime or FaceTime Audio? VoIP again. Skype? Well, you get the idea.

VoIP telephone services allow you to make low cost calls over the internet; using a multitude of different networks and operators, you can connect with members of staff, clients and customers across the globe both cost-effectively and efficiently.

There’s very little to get to grips with when making a VoIP call – you dial a number, and connect through to the person(s) on the other end – most of the time you won’t even realise the difference!

So what’s the point? Well, VoIP is incredibly cheap (sometimes free!), usually faster, more reliable and, what’s more, affords numerous flexible features.

Back in the early days of VoIP, the unreliability of dial-up connections meant that landline calls were highly superior – VoIP was beset by poor audio quality and high drop rate.  However, with modern internet speeds, including Fibre Optic broadband and Leased Lines, VoIP telephony far surpasses landline connectivity in quality and innovation.  If you run a business, you know how beneficial this is: vital sales calls, multi-partner conference calls, being available for your customer or client when they need you the most.

VoIP can also be a great addition to your home – in fact, it may become essential, with Openreach planning to switch off their ISDN network by 2025, migrating nearly all UK landlines over to a SIP trunk -based VoIP service.



What are the different types of VoIP systems?

VoIP as a technology exists to power calling. Typically a business user will come across it in the following ways:

Mobile applications

These include Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Facetime and any other voice application designed to run primarily on a mobile or tablet device. This also includes mobile apps for business communications, like Slack, Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

On-premise IP PBX systems

An IP PBX is essentially a phone system that uses VoIP to place and receive calls. Traditional PBXs used analogue connections, whereas IP PBX systems use internet connections and SIP Trunking (or alternative technology) to route calls to and from the traditional phone networks. On-premise refers to the fact that the system is housed or managed internally. This approach requires more up-front spend (capital expenditure) as well as in-house expertise. These systems will also need a SIP Trunk provider to function.

Hosted PBX systems

There are many names for these systems including Cloud Hosted PBX, Hosted Voice, Cloud Calling and so on. Hosted PBX systems are cloud hosted, meaning the provider takes care of all functionality, security, updates and delivery. All the user has to do is set up hardware (deskphones) and configure the setup of their system and users as they see fit. Hosted systems are becoming increasingly popular, particularly for small businesses, as they require almost no capital expenditure or in-house expertise.


How Does VoIP Work?

But how does this differentiate from traditional phone calls? First, we’ll need to debunk some jargon:

In terms of landline calls (or ISDN and PSTN, to give the two types their technical names), VoIP bypasses the national landline network’s copper wire by using data packets of information (usually audio) transmitted across a network.

These IP packets are received over the packet-switched network, and ‘de-packetised’ as the voice you hear through your VoIP endpoint – the technical term for a VoIP desktop phone, VoIP mobile phone, soft phone application (VoIP Software), or other receiver.

Mobile phones operate calls through connection to the PSTN, maintained via a terrestrial network of base stations.

When you use VoIP, your voice is converted into digital information which is then transmitted in as data over the internet, unlike the way traditional phone lines work via a local phone provider.

For business phone systems, a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) refers to the main piece of tech that routes all your calls, using Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) in SIP trunks to make those connections. Modern PBXs are also called IP PBXs to indicate they use VoIP, rather than analogue connections (although now this is often assumed).

Your PBX can be a physical bit of hardware, run and maintained by you (or your IT department); however, with modern cloud solutions, your VoIP provider can usually run your PBX via the cloud – essentially a phone system combined with Software as a Service (SaaS). This allows you to control your system with a personal online control panel, resulting in instant access to your add-ons and personal features, as well as a real-time overview of your business telecoms.



What are the benefits of VoIP?

Talk anywhere
With VoIP, you can talk to anyone, anywhere as long as you have an internet connection. This means, with the right provider, you can choose any number and make and receive calls with it from anywhere in the world. This is particularly common with small businesses who want a global footprint. Remote extensions are usually standard with VoIP, PSTN extensions are expensive when using PSTN, as additional dedicated line installs are needed.

Disaster recovery
VoIP services are perfect for protection from disasters as all data and functionality is provided in the cloud. Gradwell’s hosted VoIP service offers a comprehensive disaster recovery service, including remote access to your system, cloud backup, and rerouting to business mobiles.

Cost savings
Ultimately, the outstanding benefit of VoIP is the price. Not only is there the capacity to conduct a variety of free calls, but the monthly costs are phenomenally lower. The average business line rental for PSTN is almost 4x times greater than the VoIP equivalent. As bandwidth is utilised efficiently, there is less wastage – one internet connection is all that’s necessary to transmit all voice information.


What features do VoIP phone systems include?

A VoIP phone system provides you with the unique opportunity to take advantage of a wide variety of additional services.

Call recording: Record both inbound and outbound calls, often including the ability to link with a CRM system and contact records

Custom hold music: Because no business wants to use exactly the same hold music/message as everyone else…

Intelligent call routing: VoIP allows you to quickly change call routing behaviour based on conditions such as time of day, location of call and more.

Virtual receptionist: Also known as Interactive Voice Response or IVR, this allows a user to enter options via voice or keypad, making answering a high volume of calls far more efficient.

High quality audio: Often overlooked, high quality internet connections like leased lines mean greater bandwidth for calling, which mean far higher call quality than traditional analogue phones.

Voicemail to email: A lifesaver for a mobile workforce, VoIP systems can send recordings of voicemails to email (and other applications), sometimes even with text transcription.

Multi-device access: The obvious but crucial benefit of VoIP. Access the same number for inbound and outbound calling, no matter where you are in the world, on any device with an internet connection.

What our customers say

Thierry Moussu

Thierry Moussu

Head of Digital Relations, Direct Energie

Scalable and open, the RingCentral Engage platform was exactly what we needed both in terms of our increasing contact load and our desire to be innovative with regard to digital customer relations.

Frédéric Gonin

Frédéric Gonin

Head of Customer Service Transformation CANAL+

RingCentral Engage is a pillar in our customer care strategy. RingCentral Engage’s software and expertise has helped us to improve quality of service, enable peer support and self-service, and move our subscriber interactions into the digital domain.

Marie-Hélène Albertini

Marie-Hélène Albertini

Head of Forums and Social Networks, Customer Service, Orange France

RingCentral Engage has enabled us to embrace our customers on digital channels at scale. The solution was able to satisfy the complex and demanding standards of our business, reconciling the imperatives of community marketing and corporate communications with the obligations of customer service helped us to improve quality of service.