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VoIP Softphone Mini Guide
August 17th, 2016

VoIP Softphone Mini Guide

Ian Linton

Softphones are bringing the benefits of VoIP to the office and mobile workers and saving businesses money, compared to an investment in desk phones. And, because they bring VoIP to mobile devices, sof...

Softphones are bringing the benefits of VoIP to the office and mobile workers and saving businesses money, compared to an investment in desk phones. And, because they bring VoIP to mobile devices, softphones are giving businesses greater flexibility and improving productivity away from the office.

A softphone is a software application that runs on a desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone and allows the user to make and receive VoIP calls over the Internet. Apart from a working computer or mobile device and an Internet connection, no other equipment is needed. So, for companies that have already invested in those devices, softphones represent a low-cost investment in advanced VoIP communications, compared to a conventional wired telephone system.

Simple to set up and use

Softphones are quick and easy to set up – load the software and activate the listening device. Softphone applications are available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android operating systems, so they can be installed on a wide range of devices.

Users can then make and receive calls using a simple interface that resembles their existing operating system. Alternatively, they can select one-click dialing from a list of contacts. An intuitive control panel provides access to other VoIP features and functionality. Headset users may accept and end incoming calls using integrated controls.

Business-class performance

Many users will recognize the phone function based on their experience with a consumer VoIP applications like Skype or GoogleTalk. However, softphones offer business-class performance. Free business softphone programs are available for download on the Internet and App Stores. They offer a good entry-level service with limited functionality.

Manufacturers and service providers offering business systems with branded desk phones may include free softphone software as part of the complete package. These softphones mirror the same features as their desk phones.

Standalone business softphones are available for purchase. Service companies offer entry, standard, premium and enterprise versions each providing different levels of functionality.

VoIP features

Softphones contain the same VoIP features as desk-based phone systems, although the range of features depends on the level of service you choose. Softphones come with basic features like hold, mute, redial, voicemail, and transfer, but also a number of other useful tools such as instant messaging and video calling.

Softphones also provide the productivity benefits of Presence and Unified Messaging, the convenience of Follow me, call recording, instant messaging and collaboration facilities like web, audio, and video conferencing.

Higher-level softphones integrate with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, Outlook, and other popular business applications. This makes softphones useful for sales and marketing teams, as well as contact center agents.

Each softphone comes with its own set of features, so it pays to check the full specification before buying.

Sound quality

Softphone sound quality depends on two factors – the quality provided by the service provider and the device quality. Business softphone manufacturers offer quality calls up to HD voice.

Headsets range from basic versions to professional models supporting wideband stereo sound. Wireless headsets are useful for employees who want to answer softphone calls away from their desk but within wireless range.

Employees who use microphones and speakers on calls should ensure their existing equipment produces the right sound levels and quality. Integral microphones and speakers may not be sufficient. There are also high-quality conference phone units that work with softphone applications to support conference calls as well as individual voice calls.

Enabling the mobile workplace

Mobility is a strong business driver. Employers want to give their people the flexibility to work wherever they choose, but without losing the productivity and efficiency they experience at office-based facilities. Traditional wired desk phones simply cannot offer that mobility or flexibility.

Thanks to softphone use on mobile devices, VoIP becomes a seamless service with the same set of phone resources wherever the employee is working. In fact, many leading vendors offer softphones to integrate with enterprise PBX systems.

That makes the softphone an essential tool for sales representatives and service engineers who spend a high proportion of their time away from the office. But, it’s also useful for employees to maintain contact when away from their desks.

Applying VoIP technology to a mobile device improves efficiency and productivity inside and outside the office. Employees now choose to work anywhere – in the office, at home, and hotels when traveling – with the same communications experience.

And, there are cost savings to make on mobile phone bills. VoIP on a softphone can operate at lower calling rates using a WiFi network in place of the mobile voice data plan. This is a benefit for employees who pay a mobile phone bill and employers who reimburse them for business calls.

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