Six Tips for Buying IP Phones

Lesley Hansen, UK Marketing at snom, provides readers with her guidance on what to consider when purchasing IP phones.

For the majority of businesses today telephone handsets have become an afterthought. Telephony is so ubiquitous and reliable that it is easy to forget all handsets are not created equal. We pick up the phone, hear a dial tone and expect it to work. The office telephone system has come a long way and as the workforce becomes younger and roles become less office based there is an increased focus on mobile phones and BYOD that disregard the value and importance of the IP Handset.

There are however features that are a must for the purchase of new IP Handsets whatever your choice of office system. Businesses should be demanding quality, security, interoperability, design, attractive pricing and above all feature rich functionality that ensure IP Handsets are efficient and tailored to modern business communication needs.

Quality is not a single aspect; it can refer to the quality of the development, the quality of the handset build and the quality of the voice achieved. For example one small but important difference is a special coating snom apply to our keys which protects the print and ensures they last a long time even when used daily. At snom we are so convinced about the quality of our phones that since July 2013 we have a warranty of 24 months on our products. Ensuring you are buying a high quality handset is key to having a cost effective installation and avoiding ongoing issues.

Security: Securing VoIP communication minimises threats to the network and the risk of theft of private information by a hacker. Security issues with a VoIP implementation often have little to do with the telephony system. If an existing network has security vulnerabilities, these can be exploited once VoIP is implemented. Your choice of handset can play a vital part in addressing security concerns. For example the snom 710 comes with a preinstalled security certificate for quick and secure provisioning without manual interaction. It also supports the latest VoIP security protocols to ensure secure desktop communications.

Interoperability ensures the handsets you are considering are compatible with a large number of SIP components and VoIP systems of other manufacturers. Standard based handsets reduce operational cost and complexity and so have the ability to reduce the cost of building and supporting a telephony infrastructure. Interoperability meets the requirements for rapidly deploying IP Telephony solutions.

Design: a sleek ergonomically-designed handset is pleasing to the eye, but also to the comfort of the users, particularly users who have to be on the phone for long periods of time. For example some snom handsets have specially designed grips which hold and release the receiver and so compliment overall user-friendliness by eliminating the noise normally associated with lifting and replacing the receiver. Others enhance user comfort by having a foot stand allowing two positions for the handset (28° and 46° angle) that can be setup and changed easily without tools. It is the small details that distinguish a high quality and user aware design.

Attractive pricing: There is no sense in buying a handset and saving £20 and then replacing it in 12 month time with another, it would be more effective to buy a good handset in the first instance that can be relied on to deliver a 5 year plus life to your business.

Feature rich functionality: select handsets that are not characterised only by a large number of functions but rather those that have the functions that are going to be used and which will simplify business communication significantly. Key functionality to look for will vary depending on the use intended for the handset but amongst the key ones to look for are – support for multiple independent identities, programmable PBX-style keys, speaker phone, power over Ethernet, short code dialling, support for a large range of codecs, wideband audio, and handset offering hands-free operation according to TIA-920 standard.

Your business is dependent on cost-effective, feature-rich devices that enable enterprise customers to communicate in the most seamless way possible. In short, customers should not have to give their IP phone a second thought. It should just work.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine