Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) has quickly become an important topic for IT departments and businesses that are looking to expand their phone service past a single location.
Today’s companies are switching to cloud phone services to better equip their staff with the tools they need to efficiently and effectively communicate in the hybrid workplace. Simply put, SIP phones are one of the most cost-effective options available to companies.
We’ll break down what you should know about SIP phones, including why your business might be missing out by not implementing a SIP phone system.
Related: Understanding SIP Trunking
What Is SIP?
SIP is a protocol that manages and handles multimedia communications like voice and video calls. If you want to use SIP, you’ll need a SIP phone that establishes a communication connection over the internet. SIP phones need an internet connection to be able to make reliable, secure calls.
SIP phones provide businesses with a more unified communications system by integrating basic phone calling features with instant messaging, video, and more. SIP Phones bring scalability, flexibility, and reliability to the table.
Created in the 1990s, SIP had bold aspirations to change the way businesses communicate by providing a protocol to enable various types of communication.
You can find examples of SIP in use in many communication products, like online meeting software, desk phones, and software-based phones. Many organizations are moving away from their legacy communication systems and turning to SIP providers to improve their calling capacity while lowering costs.
How SIP Phones Work
SIP phones operate using straightforward commands. The network traffic between SIP devices looks similar to how we access web pages through HTTP. While the technical specifications can get complicated, there’s good news: the everyday user doesn’t have to do anything with these commands—the SIP phone takes care of them automatically.
When you make a call from a SIP phone, it notifies the server it’s connected to, like your business’s VoIP service. Next, that server sends the call to the Public Switched Telephone Network and establishes the call once the other party answers on their end.
SIP Phones vs. VoIP
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) lets people make phone calls over an internet connection rather than using a regular phone line. SIP is one of the most widely accepted standards that people and businesses use to facilitate VoIP. While VoIP exists without SIP, SIP offers the most compatibility over other online calling software.
Features of SIP Phones
SIP phones look like your typical office phone, but beneath the surface, they offer much greater functionalities when managing calls. In addition to making phone calls, SIP phones can place users on hold and transfer people to other extensions. They outperform traditional office phones when it comes to call quality, too.
The functions that SIP phones offer come from the back-end, which is one reason why many IT leaders are drawn to the technology. SIP phones can connect to your VoIP service without needing any extra hardware or servers, and because they don’t use traditional phone lines, SOP phones are much less expensive to maintain.
The top features of SIP phones include:
- Advanced call forwarding
- Hold (with or without music)
- Conference calling
- Shared call appearance
- Mobile & desktop app integration
- HD phone calls
- Call recording
- Customer caller ID
Different Types of SIP Phones
There are generally two categories of SIP phones: hard phones and softphones. Both options offer better performance than traditional phones, along with many distinct benefits. SIP phones only work with cloud-based phone systems.
Hard phones look (and behave) like traditional telephones. They typically connect via Ethernet cables, but there are cordless forms also. However, there are three different varieties of hard phones. These are:
- Basic SIP phones: Are like starter VoIP phones and are what you’ll likely see used in call center settings. They come with a dial pad and can make and take internal and external phone calls. Basic hard phones are budget-friendly and easy to use.
- IntermediateSIP phones: Are a step up from the basic ones and offer additional functionalities. They often include multiple extensions and a browsable directory. These SIP phones also typically have more physical buttons to use VoIP features and are common across offices and with employees that work from home.
- Advanced SIP phones: Include all of the functions of the previous tiers and often have full-color displays and Wi-fi and Bluetooth capabilities. Visually, they look more refined and are popular among business executives. They also have fewer physical buttons because you can access all of the applications using the display screen.
The biggest limitation of hard phones is that they aren’t mobile. Softphones handle that aspect.
Softphones, which you might also hear referred to as calling software of VoIP apps, provide phone service through software that you install on a laptop, desktop, or mobile phone. It’s usually as simple as installing a VoIP app and connecting a headset and microphone to get started making and receiving calls.
Softphones in a business setting can be installed by system admins or by the users themselves using a self-service format. Using softphone technology in large offices requires the IT department to carefully examine their network utilization.
Traffic from SIP softphones can’t get singled out as easily as other network applications. For example, companies that use mandatory VPNs should complete a VoIP speed test to evaluate their connection before making the switch to softphones.
Using VoIP, the call quality adapts to changes in the network, like limited bandwidth. Also, using softphone features on your mobile phone all day will likely result in a shorter battery life, meaning that IT leaders have to plan ahead if they want to deploy softphone apps to employees.
How SIP Phones Can Help Your Business
Switching to SIP phones can be a cost-effective option for businesses of all sizes. There are a few big advantages other than the ones we’ve mentioned, including:
- Your company won’t depend on copper lines and a local telephone company for service.
- There is basically no maintenance or need for additional configuration.
- All employees, including remote workers, can connect with each other easily.
- SIP phones offer increased call security through encryption.
- Cloud-based management means instant delivery of features for your phone system.
Ready to connect your employees and customers with a cost-efficient, effective communications system? Reach out to G12 Communications and see how we can help.