A brief introduction to softphones — how they work and why they’re important

A brief introduction to softphones — how they work and why they’re important

If you’re in the market for a new business phone system, then you’ve probably already heard of a softphone but wondered how it differs from a traditional landline. In a nutshell, a softphone is a software application that allows users to make and receive phone calls over the internet. This software is typically provided by a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) vendor and runs on any device you want to use as a telephone.

Perhaps the best-known softphone is Skype, which is available as both a consumer- and business-grade technology, but there are many other great options on the market. These applications work in conjunction with a headset and microphone. Some are entirely web-based, which means they can work on any smartphone, tablet, computer, and platform. Others exist in the form of firmware hardcoded into specialized devices known as VoIP phones, which work a lot like conventional telephone handsets.

What do you need to do to get your business ready for softphones?

The first softphones were primarily desktop applications that required a desktop or laptop with a specific operating system (usually Windows) to run on. The device also had to be equipped with a soundcard for audio recording and reproduction or otherwise provide the capability to connect to a headset.

Most business headsets use the universal USB interface, though some still use the standard 3.5 mm jack. You can, of course, use a softphone without a headset, just using the speakers and an external microphone instead, although this is not the best choice for private conversations and minimizing background noise.

Today’s softphones work on almost any internet-connected device, including popular mobile platforms like iOS and Android. All you need to do is download and run the application from the platform’s app store, and you can start making phone calls online. There are also plenty of other devices you can use such as a modern deskphone. These devices offer all the traditional calling functions while allowing you to use them with your VoIP solution.

Regardless of which particular VoIP service you choose, you’ll need a decent internet connection with sufficient bandwidth available for handling as many concurrent calls as you need. A single voice-only call requires a consistent bandwidth of 0.2 Mbps. With average internet speeds in the United States now nearing 100 Mbps, that certainly shouldn’t present a problem.

However, if you want to use video-conferencing features, you’ll need up to 20 times the amount of bandwidth depending on the quality. It’s also important that you set aside the necessary bandwidth for your VoIP system so that other bandwidth-hogging elements like video streaming and large downloads don’t affect call quality.

What are the benefits of using softphones?

The number one benefit of using softphones is that they’re much cheaper than running multiple landlines or an enterprise-grade private branch exchange (PBX). Because they’re defined by software rather than physical hardware devices, they’re also fully scalable.

Your employees, for instance, can use their own devices to access your VoIP system, which means you don’t have to invest in new hardware every time your headcount increases. In most cases, enrolling a new employee in your call center is simply a matter of setting up an account for them, and they’ll have their own extension right away.

Most VoIP solutions are fully cloud-enabled, which means they don’t depend on any particular hardware in any specific location. This makes them perfect for today’s mobile workforce. With no dedicated line and 24/7 connectivity, employees can easily handle calls from home instead of being restricted to a desk back in the office.

Another common feature in business-grade VoIP systems is find me/follow me, which automatically reroutes incoming calls to different company-registered devices. Administrators can also configure voice- or dialpad-activated menus that help guide callers to the right department or extension. That’s a lot more affordable than having to hire a full-time receptionist!

PC LAN TECHS delivers state-of-the-art softphone and VoIP solutions to dramatically improve your business communications. We also provide expert installation and proactive maintenance to make sure your phone systems are in top shape. Call us today if you’re ready to start enjoying the benefits of softphones.