Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is technology that makes it possible to use the IP network to make phone calls with IP or VoIP phones. VoIP phones are either hardphones or softphones. What’s the difference between the two categories of phones and how do you choose the right IP phone for your business’ needs?
What’s a Hardphone?
A hardphone is an actual device with a handset that is connected to the IP network of your business (or home). It looks and behaves very much like a traditional desk phone. You use the hardphone just as you would a landline, except your internet needs to be functioning in order for it to work. It’s always connected to the IP network, whether your computer is on or not. The devices themselves come in different varieties with a wide range of features.
Hardphones are easy for everyone to use and they can be used without computer knowledge. Call quality is clear because hardphones have dedicated voice processors and don’t share resources with other applications, while the handset eliminates the use of computer speakers to transmit the caller’s voice the way a softphone does. Basic hardphones have a handset and a dialing pad. The next level up features a large screen and more buttons on the dial pad for accessing the company phone directory. More advanced hardphones may have touch screens and built-in video displays for video conferencing.
Hardphones offer features like call waiting, call forwarding, and hold. These features usually incur extra charges on landline phones, but on a VoIP hardphone, they’re included.
What’s a Softphone?
A softphone turns your computer or laptop into a phone through the use of software applications that must be installed. When you want to make a call, a window appears on the screen of your laptop or computer, and you use the dial pad to place the call. You can either talk through the microphone and speakers on your computer or laptop or through a headset with microphone. Using the speakers and microphone included with the device is convenient, but it doesn’t offer clear call quality if there is background noise. Plus, these kinds of calls in an office setting disturb and distract the employees sitting nearby. A headset solves most of that problem, making the softphone more efficient for an open office setting.
Softphones may be ideal for employees who travel frequently because they can use their VoIP phone and all business phone features anywhere they go with their laptop or tablet. They’re also perfect for call center or help desk situations, where the employee making and receiving phone calls would always be situated in front of their desktop or laptop in order to retrieve and enter information.
Because there are no physical devices associated with softphone installation, the installation process is easier than that of hardphones.
Fidelus Technologies, based out of New York City is a Professional and Managed Information Technology Services company focused on customer success and business efficiency. Our services provide seamless networking, data center, wireless, security and unified communications expertise for medium and enterprise sized businesses. We have a consultative life cycle approach that includes requirements gathering, assessments, solution design, planning, project management, engineering, adoption and evolution (training) services to fully support the IT needs of your organization.
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