Woman having a call on her laptop

A complete guide to understanding softphones

Woman having a call on her laptop

The rise of agile and remote working means that flexible communication options are in high demand. Softphone systems offer a leading solution to this growing requirement.

In this article we explain how softphones work and the benefits of implementing them in your business.

What is a softphone?

Softphones are internet-based phone systems that can be used on any connected device. They allow users to make phone calls via the internet without the need for dedicated hardware and are designed to emulate the straightforward functionality of a traditional phone system.

Key parts of a softphone system include the interface, which acts as a platform for communication between user and device, and the engine, that handles call processing via APIs. 

Softphone systems are typically delivered by VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) providers, enabling users to have access to many features they are already familiar with. These systems work on most devices, and due to their link to VoIP technology, they can make and receive calls to and from anywhere, at any time. 

Softphones offer video and messaging communication options, which have become vital among increasingly remote workforces. Other key features include contact directories, extension dialling, and caller IDs, as well as other traditional capabilities like call holding and transfers. 

Colleagues in meeting

How does a softphone work?

VoIP-based softphone systems work by sending voice data to recipients, which is broken up and converted into binary code. The recipient device can then decode the message, turning it back into the original voice data and the sound it carries.

Despite the application being web-based, the system can be linked to real telephone numbers and be accessible to landline phones, making them a flexible form of communication. 

Cloud-based softphone systems offer the greatest flexibility for remote working scenarios, but browser-based versions can also successfully facilitate them. In both cases, internet connection strength and bandwidth are critical to call quality and the prevention of latency. However, it is possible for routers to be adjusted remotely to prioritise voice data packets. 

Using a cloud-based system allows users to untether themselves from all physical devices, including on-site servers and phones themselves. Call routing and recording is also streamlined and enhanced by cloud-based softphone systems, features which were previously difficult and time-consuming. 

Once your system is established, users can enjoy the flexibility of receiving calls, to either their desktop or their smartphone, and seamlessly keep their teams updated from wherever they are.

Benefits of a softphone system

There are many benefits for businesses that choose to use a softphone including cost reduction, accessibility, CRM integration, and enhanced collaboration. 

Cost effectiveness

Cost-effectiveness is one of the most distinct benefits of using a softphone system, as it negates the need for expensive hardware and the infrastructure to support it. Hardware also comes with the costly disadvantage of being breakable or susceptible to malfunction, which can require expensive periods of downtime and specialist support. Installation costs are avoided when opting for a softphone solution, and you can get up and running quickly when opting for a softphone. 

Collaboration

Collaboration can reach new heights when you adopt a softphone approach, even whilst remote or hybrid working. Softphone systems commonly provide messaging and video functionality alongside their standard calling capabilities.

These additional communication options provide the seamless channels that global teams need, with the ease of being consolidated within one system. This mitigates the complexity of using various separate applications for messaging and video calling.

Colleagues in a conference call

What are the requirements for a softphone?

There are some basic and essential requirements that need to be considered before bringing a softphone system on board. The first one is simple; you need computers, tablets, smartphones, or other types of connected hardware within your organisation to communicate between.

Next, you must ensure that the endpoints involved support the same VoIP protocol as the one associated with the softphone system you wish to use, and the endpoints must have at least one common encoder. 

With the necessary devices and other basic requirements in place, you will then need to complete the setup process, including the installation of the VoIP application itself. During this process, your chosen phone settings will need to be applied, which will then position you to make your first softphone system call. Once this phase is complete and a reliable internet connection is established, your organisation will be equipped and ready to go.

Softphones, SIP & VoIP

In this article so far, we have predominantly referenced VoIP as an overarching term, but within this remit are other protocols used for VoIP communications. One of the most widely used protocols is known as SIP, which stands for Session Initiation Protocol. SIP is used for signalling, establishing, and managing multimedia sessions, which can involve messaging, video, and audio communication methods.

VoIP refers to any form of technology that enables voice signals to travel over the internet, such as broadband telephone and internet telephony. Platforms like FaceTime and Skype can be grouped under this umbrella term, but they are not based on the SIP protocol. 

In summary, not all VoIP systems require SIP to operate, but most enterprise-grade phone systems rely on it. These technologies are fully customisable and work with each other, and SIP can be considered an industry-standard method of achieving VoIP solutions. The VoIP approach comes with some specific benefits, and scalability is at the top of the list because it enables customers to access video communications and instant messaging as and when they may require it. 

What are the challenges of a softphone?

Security 

Security can be a challenge for some organisations when adopting and using softphone systems. This is due to them being IP-based and a potential target for malicious actors, especially as softphone communications commonly move through several servers before being received.

To ensure your phone systems are secure, you can deploy encryption and other security mechanisms designed to protect data traffic and endpoints. Working with a trusted provider, like BT Business, also ensures that your phone systems remain secure.

Complexity

Depending on the expertise of your IT teams, it can take some time for IT professionals to adjust, troubleshoot and get accustomed to using softphones. If network managers are new to VoIP systems, there is a range of new terminology to learn, and existing data networks will need to be integrated to achieve seamless continuity. This is another hurdle that can be avoided by working with an experienced provider when adopting a new softphone system, enabling you to expedite the process and achieve a smooth transition.

Improve your IP communication with BT Business

Choosing to implement a BT Business softphone system is the best option for seamless and secure integration, dynamic system management, cost control and future proofing.

Our cloud-based systems are highly resilient due to our use of multiple data centres that offer the highest level of security, protecting you from unplanned downtime in the unlikely event of an outage at one location. We provide even greater peace of mind by offering dedicated support at any time, further contributing to seamless adoption of the technology business wide. 

Colleagues working in an office

Transform the way your organisation collaborates

Whether you need a fully cloud-based VoIP system that provides flexibility and streamlining for your business communications, or on-premises PBX systems that deliver a hybrid approach, BT Business supports customers to achieve their communications outcomes. From a small business to an enterprise-grade organisation, we are positioned to support businesses of any size.

Transform the way your organisation collaborates

Whether you need a fully cloud-based VoIP system that provides flexibility and streamlining for your business communications, or on-premises PBX systems that deliver a hybrid approach, BT Business supports customers to achieve their communications outcomes. From a small business to an enterprise-grade organisation, we are positioned to support businesses of any size.

Colleagues working in an office

Transform the way your organisation collaborates

Whether you need a fully cloud-based VoIP system that provides flexibility and streamlining for your business communications, or on-premises PBX systems that deliver a hybrid approach, BT Business supports customers to achieve their communications outcomes. From a small business to an enterprise-grade organisation, we are positioned to support businesses of any size.

Colleagues working in an office

Transform the way your organisation collaborates

Whether you need a fully cloud-based VoIP system that provides flexibility and streamlining for your business communications, or on-premises PBX systems that deliver a hybrid approach, BT Business supports customers to achieve their communications outcomes. From a small business to an enterprise-grade organisation, we are positioned to support businesses of any size.

Colleagues working in an office

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