Marketing and communication today are so heavily dependent on the Web that it should come as no surprise at all that phones can exist as software only. These software phones (softphones) and their cousins, webphones, offer similar functionality to hardware phones but with additional features and the cost savings associated with not needing to buy physical phones. A softphone has several benefits compared with a regular old desk phone, as well as a number of features that also come with VoIP (voice over internet protocol) desk phones. Therefore, softphone technology can be a valuable part of a unified, cloud-based telecommunications system.
Softphones versus Webphones
Firstly, there may be some confusion about webphones and softphones because they are superficially similar. A webphone is simply a browser-based piece of software that works like a telephone. A softphone is an application that works within a VoIP telecommunication system to duplicate many of the features of a traditional desktop phone.
A softphone is similar but can run as a desktop app, a Web app, or a smartphone app. These applications typically have dial pads like a touchtone phone, so the user interface is familiar. The typical software mimics the basic functions of a physical telephone – talk, forward calls, and take messages – while adding more communication features. Some of these phones will run on any common operating system for computers or smartphones. Some will only work on Windows or Apple devices though.
Webphones run like any other software, while softphones need a VoIP system to run on; they are usually sold as features of a unified communications suite of tools. Webphones may or may not have a familiar “phone like” interface. They will need a relatively fast and stable Internet connection to deliver satisfactory performance.
The Benefits of Softphone Technology
Softphone technology has several benefits:
- Cost Savings – Money saved by not buying hardware phones. If you go 100% to softphone technology, the savings could be substantial. If a suitable business phone costs $100,a business that needs 20 at one time has to spend $2,000.
- Portability – The phone works on any phone, tablet, or computer with access to a stable broadband connection to ensure mobility and convenience for laptop and smartphone users.
- Easy Scalability – Adding new app users and setting up their devices is even easier than buying new phones and plugging them in. Of course, the cost savings continue as a business adds more lines.
- Easy Conference Calling – This is easier to manage because users can run a video or audio conference without switching to, or setting up, a third-party system.
A quick search for Apple softphone apps or Windows softphones will reveal several options, each offering a variety of features. Some features are standard, but many are not. Some functionality may cost extra too. If shopping for a softphone be sure it offers the standard features your business needs.
A softphone may be installed separately but they are usually components of a unified communication suite, a set of hardware and software that handles standard VoIP calls, teleconferencing, chat, and more. Mobile communication solutions like Zultys Mobile Communicator include a softphone feature for iPhone and iPad users.
Essential Softphone Features
Naturally, a business phone should have a variety of features that consumer phones tend to lack. This is just as true for a softphone. Most softphone applications will have these features:
- Video conferencing
- Caller transfer
- Caller ID
- Multiple lines
- Extension dialing
- Call forwarding
- Voice mail
- Audio conferencing
- Shared contact lists
- Instant messaging
A dial pad for entering conference PIN numbers and other information using a softphone is also a must. A regular phone obviously offers that capability, and softphones should offer that same capability, but this should not be assumed. In addition to the simple ability to take voicemail messages, some softphones, like VoIP telephone systems, will offer the capability to send a voice mail message via email or get a transcript of the message. Softphones may be able to imitate VoIP phones in the sense of displaying a status, such as “Away” or “In a Meeting.”
Considerations When Selecting a Softphone
Predictably, the operating system on your computers or mobile devices will be important. Know the operating devices in your technology ecosystem before selecting a softphone provider. Bear in mind that, as software, you need a softphone that is compatible with the operating systems on the devices your business uses. For most companies, this means they need something that runs on Windows or macOS devices. A softphone option may come with a vendor’s unified communications suite of tools, so if softphones are of interest at all, check that they are available.
Softphones can place a substantial demand on network resources, so you want a fast and stable network before going with IP (Internet Protocol) telephone services and softphone applications. So, check the bandwidth requirements of your telecom system against the bandwidth your communications are taking now.
Softphones are a Valuable Communication Tool
Softphones may not replace desktop phones in the next few years, but they do offer a valuable alternative to physical VoIP phones. Some Internet Protocol telephone systems also offer softphone options too. If you want to know more about the unified communications systems that include softphones, hard phones, and various communication and collaboration features, set up a free consultation with us.