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Which is better – VOIP or Landline?

It is becoming increasingly apparent, that landlines will slowly but surely be phased out in coming years. In their place we will have VoIP (voice over internet protocol). Whilst there are some concerns over some aspects of VoIP, there are two irrefutable benefits: lower cost and increased functionality. This article will give a detailed comparison of the two services, looking at systems that can be bought and hired. Plus, it will review some of the market leaders in VoIP, analysing the features, flexibility and support they offer. But what is becoming clear, is that the question is increasingly becoming not ‘should I change to VoIP?’ But ‘when will I change to VoIP?’

Pros and cons of VoIP Vs Landline
Cost
When it comes to cost, VoIP is certainly the cheapest way to communicate. Many providers offer far cheaper calling rates with VoIP to VoIP, with many offering you either totally free calls or incredibly low rates. If you’re a business that spends a serious whack on your phone bill, this is a sure fire way to reduce that monthly bill.

But what happens when you ring from a VoIP to a landline/mobile though? That is not quite as cheap. It is still far less than calling from a landline or mobile, but you will likely pay a monthly fee to a gateway provider that allows you to make those calls. But this negative shouldn’t put you off too much, as usage of VoIP increases, more people will use VoIP and your costs should only decrease further.

Beneficial for Businesses
Having one supplier for voice and data not only provides greater efficiency, but it also means technologies and computer applications can all be linked, helping to streamline your services and optimise efficiency.

Plus, if your business operates from a number of locations, or has a number of remote workers, some of which are abroad, having one service/system to contact everyone with is not only cheaper, but easier to organise, install and manage. On top of that, is the fact that landlines restrict you to making calls in one fixed location. VoIP allows you to make calls wherever you are, as long as you have an internet connection. This allows instant communication on the go, making it perfect for businesses who need to stay in contact with clients and colleagues even when they’re not in the office. On top of that, if you need a large number of lines or high user versatility for example in a call centre environment, then VOIP definitely has the key advantage over landine.

Quality of lines
One drawback for VoIP is the quality of calls. People understandably fear the quality of calls may be far less than landlines and a few years ago, this was true. Now however, infrastructure has improved, internet reach has broadened and it is hard to tell the difference between a call made using VoIP and a call made from a landline.

Restricted features
One area of concern with VoIP is that although it offers a greater flexibility and a great array of features, in some areas, there are some features and services which are lacking that come as standard with landline, or you pay a premium to include them. Features such as ringing emergency services, three-way calling, blocking caller ID, call waiting and voicemail are all services that you often get as standard with landlines, but may be unable to get with your VoIP provider, or have to pay extra for. That’s why this article will look to review the features that different providers offer, to ensure you don’t miss out features essential to your business.

So now you have a better understanding of the advantages and drawbacks of VoIP. But which providers offer the best service in terms of features, flexibility and support?

BT Broadsoft
Broadsoft connects 9 million users every year via VoIP across 80 countries. But as a business, what do they offer you and how does that fare with other market leaders?

Features
Broadsoft offer a serious range of features, that make you question whether VoIP really does restrict you in comparison with landlines. You can expect the following:
• Free unlimited standard UK mobile and landline calls
• Smart call handling
• Call recording
• Call pausing
• Users can make calls from up to 6 devices per extension
• Call redial
• Call name retrieval

In terms of features they fall towards the higher end of the spectrum. But, if you wanted even more in terms of standard features, Claranet (further below) may be a better choice.

Flexibility
This is perhaps Broadsofts strong suit. Customers have the option to scale up or down relatively easily. For example you could opt for advanced features, such as HD Voice and advanced conferencing options.

Plus, whilst they offer standard 12 month and 24 month contracts, you can also benefit from a 30 day rolling contract. This is fantastic for a business, allowing you to trial first, to find a plan that suits your business needs. Plus, if your business expands, it allows you to upgrade to a more suitable plan.

Support
Whilst 4 out of 5 customers report Broadsoft provides better support than any other vendor they’ve had experience with, they don’t have 24/7 support, 365 days a year like others. However, you will benefit from standard phone line support throughout the working week and at certain times throughout the weekend.

Vonage
Vonage are an increasingly popular provider that offer a range of plans to suit your business needs. They are particularly good for small businesses of less than 30. Plus, a useful addition to their plans is a free office phone and the fact you won’t have to pay for delivery or installation.

Features
What features do Vonage provide you as an emerging business? You can expect the following:
• Speed dial
• Last number redial
• Intercom
• Voice remote access
• Block call rejection
• Virtual voice or video conferences

If you’re a bigger company, of up to 30 people, you can select their advanced business plan. For that price you get unlimited calls to UK landlines and mobiles, plus the very useful added feature of making and receiving calls on multiple devices.

So you get most of what you expect in terms of features, but you don’t get calls to emergency services or call waiting services. So if you want stand out features, other vendors in this review may be stronger contenders.

Flexibility
Vonage fall in the middle of the flexibility spectrum. 12 months isn’t an overly lengthy contract, but if you want to cancel your contract you will have to pay a termination fee, the price of which depends on your chosen plan. However, there is the possibility of upgrading your contract if your business needs grow within the length of your contract or when your contract is up for renewal.

Support
Vonage receives glowing reviews for their hands on technical support. If you do have an issue, they can be contacted via phone or email and if the problem requires it, they will come out to fix your issue. Customers have been happy with little or no wait times and how helpful the support team at Vonage are.

However, their support lines aren’t open 24/7, 365 days a year like Claranet for example. So, if you want support that you know is always going to be there for your business, whatever the time, whatever the day, Vonage might not be the provider for you.

Telappliant
With over 20,000 customers using their services everyday, they’re doing something right. But what do you get for your money with Telappliant?

Features
Telappliant score very highly in terms of features. You can expect the following:
• You can play music for people on hold
• Queue calls
• Conference calls
• You can run video conferencing
• They offer totally free VoIP-to-VoIP calls
• Record calls for training or security purposes

If you want features, Telappliant are a worthwhile provider, that can offer you all the standard features and a few useful extras.

Flexibility
Telappliant offer a range of flexible contracts for customers to choose between. You can opt for a 12, 24 or 36-month contract. You get better value the longer contract you opt for, but you will have to pay a substantial termination fee if you wish to cancel your contract early.

Support
They offer fast and effective support options and receive positive feedback about their support, which should put business owners at ease. You can get business phone support 9am-6pm, Monday-Friday and for Ethernet services you get an enhanced 24/7 phone support.

Claranet
Claranet is one of Western Europe’s largest independent managed services providers, hosting and connecting thousands of people everyday via VoIP. But what do Claranet offer and how do they compare to other VoIP providers in the market?

Features
Claranet score highly on the features front. You can expect the following:
• Call forwarding
• Call waiting services
• Call ID blocking
• Call name retrieval
• Last number re-dial
• Video calling
• Three-way calling
• Call return and transfer

Their features are all focused on ensuring efficient use and connecting numerous people at the same time, making them ideal for businesses. Plus, they score just as highly in terms of features as most of the other vendors in this review.

Flexibility
But Claranet stand out when it comes to flexibility. They are one of the very few providers that whilst offering the standard 12 and 24 month contracts, will also offer flexible one month contracts. Not only is this perfect for new businesses that want to trial the new service, but it’s also an effective way of establishing your needs before you sign up for a longer, better value for money contract.

Support
Of all the VoIP providers, Claranet quite possibly offers the best support. With their business options, you get UK support 24/7, 365 days of the year. Whatever the time, whenever the occasion, Claranet will be able to offer you the technical support you need to get back up and running.

Should you buy or rent?
As you might expect, buying your billing system comes with several advantages. First and foremost, you’ll pay less in the long term. If you buy, you’ll pay a fixed price with a lease and you could save up to 20% in the long run.

Buying can give you more flexibility. Many leases prohibit customisation of software beyond their standard packages. Whereas if you buy the system outright, you are free to introduce new services as your business needs change.

Security is another reason to consider buying a VoIP system. Many hosting companies have had a number of security lapses, having issues over data control and confidentiality.

If you lease, you are relying on a hosted company. If that company were to go under, you may have no way to bill or serve your clients.

Having said that, leasing comes with advantages too. Many hosting companies allow you to upgrade your contract as your business needs change. Plus, many offer 30 day rolling contracts seeing to it that you’re not tied in and providing your business with much needed flexibility. It is also worth noting support when you lease is cheaper and more accessible.

The final verdict
VoIP providers are offering a cheaper alternative to landlines, with many offering totally free VoIP to VoIP calls. This could see both domestic and international calls cost your business far less than ever before. Whilst there are understandable concerns about call quality, it is worth highlighting that the quality of VoIP calls are now pretty much as good as landlines. The one thing you may sacrifice with VoIP is features. Many do not offer calls to emergency services, call blocking or three-way calling as standard. However, if your business doesn’t rely on these features, then this may not be too much of an obstacle.

Whilst all VoIP companies in this review would be sensible choices, in terms of features, flexibility and support, the over all winner would have to be Claranet. Not only do they offer an extensive range of features as standard, they offer rolling one month contracts, plus fantastic customer support. You can get technical support from them any time of the day, every day of the year. Their support network and flexibility is simply a cut above the rest of the providers in this review.