For decades, the traditional phone system has worked in basically the same way, but Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services are increasingly presenting a viable alternative. When asked why they are making the move, most businesses give one answer more than any other: money. But exactly how much does VoIP cost?
How much VoIP phones cost
When services such as Skype first appeared, their biggest selling point was the ability to offer free or low-cost calls – even internationally.
The one drawback was that the call quality was less reliable. Internet connection speeds generally lagged behind what was needed and, as a result, voice quality was poor and video unreliable. The only reason you’d use it, therefore, would be cost.
Since then, though, things have changed. 3G has been followed by 4G, and 5G is on the horizon. Even basic business broadband packages offer speeds of 20Mbps and more, with many pushing into gigabyte territories. At these speeds, voice quality becomes comparable to traditional landlines, video is clearer and it opens up additional services such as audio to text, video conferencing and much more.
The options open to businesses are therefore much wider:
- Hosted VoIP: The provider hosts all the equipment necessary for housing the IP-PBX and controlling the technology. This is normally a more affordable option.
- On-premises: You host all the equipment in your office which means you’re responsible for its upkeep and maintenance. Installation is quite expensive, but you retain full control over the technology as well as access to advanced features.
- Hybrid VoIP: A half-way house for people who want to upgrade to VoIP but don’t want the cost of rewiring associated with moving to a full system.
Cloud-based hosted VoIP
The most affordable option is cloud-based hosted VoIP. There are many providers out there with prices generally ranging from between £20 per month to £50 per month. The costs may rise further if you want additional lines. Many will offer a cost per user, but this might be discounted if you’re buying in bulk. For example, you might have costs of £30 per user up to a total of five, but if you need a hundred users or more the cost could fall to £20.
A fast internet connection may be able to handle call capacity plus general internet traffic without any problems, but slow connections may struggle. You may need to upgrade or set up an additional internet connection dedicated to VoIP, which will obviously cost more.
Many systems will also provide VoIP phones or headsets as part of the package, although you may have to pay for additional equipment. You might also buy customised headsets privately. Although they will cost more, they do allow you to choose the exact type of system you want. You’ll also have to make sure the headsets will be compatible with the new system.
Costs will normally be tiered depending on what features you have. For example, a basic package might include options such as voicemail, mobile apps or customer support. An intermediate service might add fax or an unlimited number of VoIP calls while a premium service may enable it to sync with other platforms, such as Salesforce.
Individual calls will often be free of charge or come with a much smaller fee. Most will have a certain number of calls you can make free of charge or at a much lower cost. It is possible to have lengthy video conferences, for example, between multiple participants based in many different parts of the world for a fraction of the cost of a traditional call.
Getting started, then, is affordable and you can also ensure you only use as much capacity as you need. If you need more, you can upgrade and, if you need less, you can cut back. It’s a great way to optimise your costs and avoid waste.
The biggest downside is security. Data shared online with third-parties can be vulnerable and there are many cyber criminals out there looking to take control of it. You will be dependent on your provider’s security systems, but if they do experience a problem, you will still be liable.
If you’re a larger organisation with more than 40 or 50 employees, you may need an on-premises PBX phone system. Rather than having all the equipment hosted through a third party, you will host it onsite. This means buying all the equipment and managing it yourself, which may include employing people to oversee maintenance and repair.
The upfront costs, then, can be high. Depending on the size of your organisation – how many lines you want, the number of employees and features you’re looking for – costs could be anything from a few hundred pounds to several thousand per user.
However, ongoing costs can be lower than with a cloud-based provider. Because the data will all be contained within your own system, rather than being shared online with a third party, you will also have more control over security.
This is a useful option if you’re integrating with an existing or outdated PBX system. To integrate with an analogue onsite system, you will usually require a gateway or integrated access device (IAD) which connects to a port on the PBX server. This might include a one-off charge of between £100 and £300 and you may have regular charges of anything between £100 and £300 per month. This allows you to retain your current system but add additional VoIP features such as cheaper international calls.
Choosing a VoIP provider
There is a wide range of VoIP providers to choose from. Some are better than others and offer various features at different price points. The more you shop around, the better your chances of finding an option which meets your needs. Here at Amvia, our comparison software can help you find the best deal for your business. Contact us today to find out how we can help.