Where to begin with VOIP
July 14, 2015 12:37 PM   Subscribe

I need to find new VOIP hardware for my office. I don't even know where to begin.

I work in a small office and we want a new VOIP phone system. We intend to purchase 10-12 handsets. We need a setup where we can have 2-4 cordless handsets with 1-2 headsets and the rest of the phones can be corded. We are looking for SIP enabled hardware, and it will need to work with Comcast.

Thank you in advance for ANY help you can give me.
posted by bibliogrrl to Work & Money (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are you looking for phone recommendations? I've been happy with Polycom devices.
posted by demiurge at 12:50 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do you already have a telephony server (PBX) that you're going to connect these handsets to, like an Asterisk or Call Manager?
posted by Runes at 12:53 PM on July 14, 2015

Disclosure: I'm a developer for a VoIP company, and we generally work with businesses about your size.

The best solution for a small-to-medium business is often a hosted system--it has minimal up-front costs, but you get all the features of VoIP system. Most companies will even offer to lease you hardware so all you have is a monthly bill (my guess would be around $250/month for 10 extensions, plus $9 or so for each leased phone).

As for the phones themselves, Polycom desk phones are great, and the VVX line is fairly cheap (around $90 wholesale for their entry-level, if you aren't leasing/renting). For wireless, we've had great success with Panasonic's TGP-500 series, but we have some customers and partners who use the Yealink W52P, and they've been very happy with it.

There are some downsides to this approach, though... For instance, if your Internet goes down, your phones are down. You should be able to forward your calls to cell or landlines, though, if that happens. Additionally, if you don't have a SIP-aware router, you may have issues with call quality, depending on the amount of traffic you have flowing through your network. (That said, a consumer router like the Linksys E2500 lets you define certain devices to receive prioritization. That should help significantly, and is a very cheap device.)

(If you are looking for a SIP-aware router, I can recommend some. We build custom ones, but we also have experience with routers sold by other companies.)

The other option is an on-premise PBX. A number of companies sell these (Switchvoxes, from Digium, are very nice, and Cisco and Avaya sell some as well, among other companies), or you can build your own (for instance, with FreePBX)--either way, you should be able to bring in a PRI (basically an Internet feed that is split into a number of lines--Comcast sells these) to feed lines to the PBX, or you can go with SIP trunking, which does the same thing as a PRI, but over your existing Internet connection (but SIP trunking has the same downside as hosted service, in that if your Internet goes down, so do your trunks).

Hopefully that helps you out a little bit... And I'd be happy to go more in-depth on any aspect of VoIP, if you want :-)
posted by kethonna at 1:00 PM on July 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Update! We do have a Telephony server.

(and thank you all so far for the great answers!)
posted by bibliogrrl at 1:06 PM on July 14, 2015

Also work for a major-name VoIP manufacturer...

If you have a telephony server already (presumably some flavor of Asterisk?) then you're most of the way there. You just need phones and a provider. Comcast business actually does offer this service in some markets.

Phones? Polycom's really good. So are Snom, Grandstream, some flavors of Cisco and a slew of others. Polycom works pretty well though, and used stuff can be had for pennies on the dollar.

If you don't want this to be a science project, a number of the hosted providers will take care of EVERYTHING for you from beginning to end. Some questions you need to be asking yourself center around how dependent your business is on telephones and phone calls. For some, it's the lifeblood, for others, not so much - either way, it will help you frame your needs around determining what kind of support and services you want. Basic cheapo service may be adequate. You also might need something more than that.

All VoIP systems/services are NOT created equally, and prices often reflect this. If you narrow it down to a couple, make sure that you compare apples to apples.
posted by Thistledown at 2:34 PM on July 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

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