Small Business Archives - Netlines

What is a VoIP Number & is it Useful for Business?

A VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) number is a phone number given to you by your VoIP service that looks and functions like a normal phone number. The internet is used to route calls rather than the traditional telephone system, and they are unique to each business or person and not dedicated to a location.

VoIP numbers and VoIP phone systems may also be called:

  • Virtual phone number / system
  • Cloud phone number / system
  • Internet phone number / system

In this article we aim to help you discover more about VoIP numbers, as well as the VoIP pros and cons to help you decide if a VoIP phone number is the best option for you or your business.

What is a VoIP Phone Number?

In the not-so-distant past, you may have had several phone numbers: your home phone your desk phone at work, your cell phone, your car phone, and even your vacation home phone!  Someone trying to speak with you had to know where you were so they could call the correct number because each phone was assigned an individual number.

VoIP numbers are assigned to individual people, not telephones. A VoIP number can be used on almost any device connected to the internet. Any device enabled with the virtual number can be used to make or receive a call, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops, or dedicated internet phones.

So, imagine when that important call comes in when you are working from home, as many of us are these days! Instead of your desk phone at work ringing and the caller finding no answer, all your VoIP connected devices ring simultaneously. When you answer, the caller is unaware you are not at your desk, and they are happy to have reached you.

There is even more to VoIP numbers than being easily reachable! There are numerous additional benefits of using new internet-based phone systems as most providers include many of these benefits as part of their standard package. New mobile data and cloud-based technology enable providers to offer an amazing range of facilities. You can review the features of the Netlines Business Phone App here.

How Does VoIP Work?

A VoIP phone (or any other VoIP enabled device) uses a microphone to convert your voice into an analog electrical signal. This is then converted into a digital signal (data). This data is then squashed into a “packet” of data and transmitted over the internet to the device you are calling. When the device is answered, the data is “unpacked” and converted back into an analog signal. This signal is converted back to sound by the loudspeaker in the receiver’s device.

From the user’s point of view, there is little difference in user experience between the VoIP phone call and the traditional phone call. You dial the number, the call is transferred, the other phone rings, the recipient answers the phone, and you chat. In the end, you “hang up” the phone.

To enable this to happen, you will likely need some slightly different equipment instead of your old phone.

Internet Connection

The main requirement is that you have an internet connection. Fiber-optic connection with unlimited data is preferred, but VoIP is possible using a copper wire connection and a limited data plan. However, call quality may be reduce, and additional costs may be incurred with heavy use.

The most common VoIP connected devices are:

A compatible desk phone and adapter to connect it to the internet. Most internet providers now supply a Wi-Fi router that includes a socket for a phone, which allows you to plug your phone into the router.

A laptop or desktop computer with an internet connection. You will also need a headset, or speakers and a microphone. Most laptops include speakers and microphone as standard.

A smartphone or tablet with an internet connection. All you need to do is download your chosen app and follow the simple set up instructions. If you already have a smartphone, you can already use VoIP calling simply by setting it up. The Netlines App is incredibly easy to install and use.

person using a VoIP number on a smartphone and laptop

How Do VoIP Phone Numbers Differ from Landline Numbers?

What is a Landline?

The traditional landline phone uses a microphone to convert your voice into an analog electrical signal, and an exchange is used to connect the phones. This signal is then transmitted via a pair of copper wires to the receiving telephone. The receiving phone uses a loudspeaker to convert the electrical signal back into sound.  

The landline system does have its disadvantages and limitations. When you call someone, you effectively rent the copper wires that connect your phones for the duration of the call, making it expensive. A landline system is limited to features like call diverting and playing an automated message. Plus, the technology itself is becoming obsolete. Companies are moving to VoIP, while fiber optic technology is replacing the old, twisted copper pair systems.

The main differences between the traditional phone system and the new VoIP systems are:

Many More Features

The new cloud phone services available today offer an abundance of features, and many are included in the most basic packages. Any additional features for old-fashioned, traditional phones need to be paid for and supplied. You can see examples like from NetLines such as groundbreaking conference call facilities and call recording.  

New Up-to-Date Technology

The main technological difference is VoIP systems are digital, while the old phone system is still partially analog. Digital data transmission happens incredibly fast compared to old analog data. The digital signal makes the data compatible with other digital systems such as digital voice recording, call logging, or cloud-based virtual assistants.

Reliability

This new VoIP technology is reliant on both your and the call recipient’s internet connection and hardware. Any malfunction in the system could lead to disconnection. Fortunately, modern electrical equipment is reliable and robust. The simplicity of the old, twisted-pair copper wire system does lead to an exceptionally reliable system. VoIP falls slightly behind in this area only.

This table shows some of the differences between VoIP and landline phone numbers.

Features

VoIP Number

Landline

Requires Internet Connection Yes, ideally high-speed fiber optic but can use anything over 3 MBps up and down. No
Advanced Features Included in Monthly Plan Normally yes – check out some of the features available with a Netlines monthly plan. No
Impacted by Internet Outages Yes. Fortunately, these are becoming increasingly rare. No
Long-Distance Costs Included in most monthly plans Expensive and charged by the minute
Multimedia Communication Can include video calling and conference calling No. Limited to voice only
Device-Agnostic Communication Yes No
High Setup Fee No setup fees. The customer can normally set the system up by downloading an app and following instructions Yes – an engineer needs to visit and install the line and any extras like an exchange or answering machine
Requires Telephone Hardware No – Can use existing hardware such as a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop. Yes

Advantages of VoIP Over Landline Systems

Modern Technology Integrates with Other Systems & Services

An example of this is sending SMS or MMS from your computer to a smartphone. The two systems are linked via the VoIP phone number. It is possible to integrate multiple devices, use several numbers on one device, and use one number on several devices.

Choose Your Features

VoIP phone numbers usually come with a long list of free features so you can tailor the features to your business needs. Should you need something more specific, you can add the desired feature to your package.

More Flexibility

A VoIP phone number can give your business greater operational flexibility. You can choose what kind of numbers you have for different purposes, including toll-free and vanity numbers. The numbers are mobile so your employees can work remotely or share a hot desk, shift departments, or branch offices easily.  An incoming call can simultaneously ring on several different devices, allowing the call to be answered wherever the recipient is. Internal business communications are easier, and you have a choice of types of call, including team video conferencing between the office and those working remotely.

using VoIP to have a video conference call while traveling

Cost

Virtual phone numbers can save your business money because the set-up cost can be lower, and the operational cost is often significantly lower than landline options, particularly if your business is national or international. The conference call facility means virtual meetings are possible saving you travel time and costs. Some estimates show a saving of 40% to 80% compared to landline systems.

Scalability

As your company evolves and grows, so can your phone system. There is no need to replace expensive exchange hardware or route new cables to desks. Simply download the app onto the required devices and set up the required features, and you can add more numbers to your business for new staff and departments as needed.

Easy to Block Spam & Telemarketing Calls

Spam and marketing calls can plague a business with unnecessary distraction and timewasting. A VoIP number can be easily protected from these calls with a variety of anti-spam options like an auto-attendant or call management system.

Disadvantages of a Virtual Phone System

Sound Quality

Until recently it has been true that old landline phones can offer better sound quality than an internet phone, but this is rapidly changing. Sound quality is due to the available bandwidth of the system and the reliability of the connection. As internet connections become more stable and have greater bandwidth, the sound quality increases.

Reliability

Reliability is also due to the stability of the internet connection. With an old landline system, the traditional connection was via solid copper wires, making it exceptionally reliable. Due to the instability of internet connections, common problems include weak Wi-Fi signals, calls dropping, and calls being interrupted.

Types of Internet Phone Numbers

An additional advantage of a VoIP phone number is that you can choose the type of number(s) based on their advantages and how they’ll work best for your business. You can even mix and match different number types to different business needs.

Local Numbers

Local numbers are great for a business looking to connect with the local community because they can help you build local trust within an area. You show you are a local company with a local base, and this infers a greater understanding of local customer’s needs. You may be sitting in HQ on the other side of the country, but your customer does not realize this.

Toll-free Numbers

Toll-free numbers demonstrate you are serious about your customer relations and want them to call you so much that you are willing to pay for the call. Toll-free numbers are great for helplines, customer service centers, and direct order lines. Plus, the toll-free number makes you look like a large national company. Using an internet phone system means you will only have to pay the local rate for your customer’s calls, even if they call you from the other side of the world!

Vanity Numbers

Vanity numbers help people remember your number and become part of your marketing strategy. Get the best possible vanity number as your main sales desk number and incoming calls will increase! It is much easier to remember a catchphrase or business name than a string of random numbers. Think about 1-800-46-33339 or 1-800-Go-FedEx. See which one you remember tomorrow.

Why Should I Get a VoIP Number?

You should consider getting a VoIP number if any of the following applies to you:

  • You have a new business;
  • You are looking for a quick way to get a business number;
  • You are looking for a cost-effective number;
  • You know you will be expanding your business either in staff numbers, branch locations, remote working, or mobile operators;
  • You need more facilities like an answering system, video conferencing, or call management system;
  • You want to save money both on set up costs and long-distance phone calls;
  • You need to future-proof your business technology and avoid investments in hardware that will be soon outdated;
  • You want to replace outdated hardware with new systems;
  • You want to integrate different communication systems like mobile phones, video meeting rooms, laptop computers, and cloud-based storage.
man working from home office using VoIP number for business

Can I Switch to a VoIP Number?

A quick business analysis is necessary to make sure you have everything you need once you have decided you want a VoIP number. Today, most businesses are already equipped with the foundational basics and are ready to get started with an internet phone system. However, considering your options, needs, and your growth will help prevent any minor glitches once the system is implemented.

Can Your System Support VoIP?

The first thing to check is that your existing hardware like laptops, desktops, and mobile cell phones can support the VoIP software you have chosen. Check out the technical specifications of the hardware and match them to the requirement of the internet phone system.

Can Your Network Infrastructure Support VoIP?

Checking your internet connection, upload speeds, and download speeds is vital prior to implementing a VoIP phone system. There are several free services to do this, like Speedtest.net. Is your current connection sufficient to handle the number of simultaneous calls you think you will be making as a business? More simultaneous calls, video streaming, web browsing, cloud storage, and backup systems require greater internet bandwidth. To be safe, upgrade your connection if you are close to the limit. Consult your VoIP supplier and internet service provider if you are unsure or need assistance choosing the best service package for your needs.

Are Your Employees Ready for VoIP?

There is little point in providing a great communications system for your employees if they do not know how to or want to use it! Luckily, internet phones operate in a similar way to existing cell and desk phones. Social media has also already introduced most people to video calling. There should be little problems encountered in rolling out a new phone system.

How Do I Get a VoIP Number?

Choose Your VoIP Provider

The first step is to find a VoIP service provider. A simple web search will show you are not limited to the normal run of the mill landline providers. There are hundreds of providers all offering different prices, services, and facilities. Choose the one that is right for your business that will let you evolve and grow. You can compare the favorite providers in this useful comparison table.

Decide on Your Phone Number

Choose your number(s) or transfer any existing numbers to the new system. Keeping your existing number may save you from changing any existing marketing. You can always include any new numbers in future marketing campaigns, but this is the best time to decide if you need an additional toll-free or a vanity number.

Set Up Your System & Start Making Calls

In some cases, it is a simple as downloading an app to your device. Set-up can be a matter of minutes and before the end of the day, you could be saving money by using the internet to call your Hong Kong supplier and your client in the Cayman Islands!

What About the Future?

The mobile communications revolution has been quietly happening since the invention of the internet. Recent developments in cell phone technology and fiber optic broadband, coupled with Wi-Fi and 5G innovation are going to further change the way we communicate. VoIP looks to be right at the center of the paradigm shift and the basis for future business communications. Things have certainly come a long way from two twisted copper wires!

Categories: Small Business

How to Choose Your Business Phone Number

Despite the growth of internet sales and communications, the preferred method of customer/business communications is by phone. The traditional phone call still tops the charts when it comes to ordering goods, asking questions, and sorting out complaints.

The first part of the customers’ journey is often picking up the phone and dialing your number. Your phone number is a subconscious reflection of how the rest of the journey will go, so making the right choice is important for business owners.

Make the first part of the journey easy and the customer will feel assured and more confident about your company. They will be more likely to call again and again and again.

So, you need a suitable phone number. Phone numbers for business can differ in many ways from the normal private personal number. There are several different types, and selecting the one most suited to your business model is crucial. 

What Are the Types of Business Phone Number?

Knowing how to choose your business phone number starts with understanding the available options. We’ve listed the different types of numbers below with a few of the benefits (pros) and disadvantages (cons) of each along with estimates of the price.

Local Business Phone Number

Pros

  • Shows you have a local presence
  • Great for building local relationships with customers
  • Easy and cheap to set up

Cons

  • Can make your business look smaller than you’d like
  • Not good for building trust and relationships with customers from outside of the area code

What is a Local Business Phone Number?

A local business number looks like a normal number with a local area code. It’s used to show people your business has a physical locality.

An example of this could be the number for your local office or shop. The head office might be several states away, but your business has a local office.

It portrays local knowledge and familiarity with the local market needs. It can help customers feel more connected than a national or international number. It suggests you serve a community, and this can help build trust.

Local numbers are usually a three-figure code that relates to your city or region. They are perfect for businesses with a physical presence that needs to get friendly with locals.

Of course, you can always use a local number alongside a national or vanity number to give customers a choice.

Costs

Local numbers are easy to set up and are cost-effective. You can even get a free local number with some service providers, while others may charge a minimal fee such as $10 per month.

Toll-Free Phone Number

Pros

  • Make the company look large and established
  • Gives your customers a way to contact you for free

Cons

  • You lose the local business image
  • You must pay for the customers’ calls

Toll-free numbers are usually 800 numbers (including 800, 888, 877, 855, 844, and 833). They help your business look like a national big business. A toll-free number does the customer a big favor by giving them a free way to contact you, but of course, you must pay for their calls!

A toll-free number is a great way to boost your customer service and marketing efforts. It helps improve your professional image and indicates you are prepared to invest in your customers. You want them to contact you and are willing to pay the costs of that contact.

They’re ideal for online businesses without any main customer-facing head office or HQ. A small business may choose one to appear larger than they are or signify an intention to grow and take on the bigger competitors.

Costs

Toll-free numbers also cost little to set up. Costs start at around $10 per month for a simple number. You do have to pay for all the customers’ calls, so long-distance or cell phone calls could make this expensive.

Vanity Phone Number

Pros

  • Easy to remember
  • Can spread your marketing message and brand

Cons

  • More expensive than a normal number
  • Sometimes difficult to buy popular numbers

What is a Vanity Business Phone Number?

A vanity number is a number that uses the letters on the phone’s keypad to spell out a word.

For example, a donut shop might have the number 1-800-JDONUTS. On the keypad, the customer dials 1-800-536-6887. You can see that remembering “jdonuts” is much easier than 536-6887.

You can get a significant increase in incoming calls (estimates range from 25% to 50%) with a vanity number. The simple reason is that the number is more memorable.

It’s also easier to include in advertising. Imagine a radio jingle for a shop called “J’s Donuts.” “JDonuts” is much less “clunky” to fit into a jingle than “536-6887.” It’s difficult to accidentally misspell “donuts”, while it’s easy to mistype 536-6887 and end up calling a nonexistent line.

Vanity phone numbers can also help with your brand awareness. The number can tell people what your company does. It’s a low-cost addition to your marketing strategy and can also portray your business as a large-scale enterprise and helps you boost credibility.

Your existing customers will be able to easily remember your number and new customers will learn the number much faster. Both add convenience to your customer’s “journey” to the sales department.

Costs

Your vanity number can cost anything from $19 right up to over $10,000, and you can buy them directly from the service provider.

Global Phone Number

Pros

  • Offer international customers a great way to contact you
  • You can reroute calls from all over the world to your HQ

Cons

  • More expensive than a normal number
  • Often internet based only

What is a Global Business Phone Number?

Your global business phone number acts as a local number to your customers anywhere in the world. The caller must only remember a simple local number to reach you in the head office on the other side of the ocean, so they’re great for international businesses.

A global number can also be a vanity and toll-free number, so your international customers can call you on a local, easy to remember, toll-free number. Now that’s true customer service! You can even have all of your global numbers routed to your main customer services center or HQ.

These are usually virtual internet-based numbers, and you can normally find a whole bundle of extra services available with the virtual number.

Costs

Costs can vary widely. A simple package can cost as little as $30 per month, and an enterprise-sized pack with extra services can cost over $500 per month. It pays to shop around!

Virtual Phone Number

Pros

  • Modern technology integrates with cell and landline phone systems
  • Offer huge flexibility and variety of services
  • Cost-effective for small businesses

Cons

  • Reliant on a good internet connection

What is a Virtual Business Phone Number?

A virtual business phone number is one that does not have a physical phone or line. They’re sometimes known as online or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) numbers.

Traditional numbers rely on an actual phone line. At the end of the line are a phone and any other expensive equipment such as the answerphone, switchboard, call recorder, etc. When someone dials the number, their phone is connected to the physical line and phone at the other end.

With a virtual number, all of these services are provided by software (SaaS – software as a service). They can be server or (more recently) cloud based.

Managing these extra services can be extremely easy. For example, the NetLines business phone system can be controlled via an app on your existing cell phone! This also means that you can get a second phone number without buying extra equipment.

Your virtual number can be set up to transfer incoming calls to any mobile cell or fixed landline phone, which makes this option ideal for businesses with remote workers.

Costs

Some providers supply a free virtual number, and others may charge a nominal $10. Virtual numbers are cheap and easy to set up making them great for small or mobile businesses.

NetLines is the most affordable virtual phone system on the market, starting at just $9/mn. View our plans and pricing here.

Area Codes to Avoid

Over the years, several area codes have become associated with various phone scams and robocalls. An example is where the phone rings but quickly cuts off. You call the number back only to hit a long-drawn-out recorded message. Later you find it cost $30 a minute to listen to the message.

Local and Federal governments regularly issue warnings about scammers working in a certain area and malicious calls using a certain number. Some area codes are used more than others.

Having a phone number with the same area code may have negative connotations and these numbers should be avoided. Typical numbers include the area codes 684, 671, 670, 787, 939 and 340. If you’re based in an area with one of these area codes then use a virtual, vanity or toll-free number.

Which Type of Number is Best for Your Business?

Only you can decide what type of number is the best fit for your business calls. It’s difficult to generalize and say one number fits one business type perfectly.

We can however make some rudimentary guidelines as follows:

  • Businesses trading in localized areas who depend on building local customer relations will benefit from having a simple local number
  • Established businesses with a loyal customer base are likely to favor the toll-free number. This is especially true if sales are dependent on phone conversations and repeat orders
  • Vanity numbers can be especially useful to businesses that drive sales via big advertising campaigns. The number is easy to remember and raises brand awareness
  • A global number is useful for the international sales business with local trade centered in various countries around the world
  • A virtual number could be useful to all types of business, big or small, who are looking for more facility (auto attendant, call recording, etc.)

Virtual business phone systems, such as NetLines, can offer you the most flexibility, affordable features and multiple number types all in one app on your existing phone.

The Bottom Line

Quite simply – choose the easiest one to remember.

Your business phone number is important. It’s part of someone’s first impressions of your company and reflects your company image in their subconscious.

Spend some time considering the best type of number for your business since it becomes part of your branding and advertising. Changing your number later will be difficult.

Also consider that technology is changing and ever advancing. Old traditional technology is slowly being replaced with cloud-based virtual systems, so investing now in a virtual service could be a prudent investment for the future to keep your company at the cutting edge of technology.

Categories: Small Business

Support Small Businesses this Holiday Season

Buying from small businesses is a great way to support your local community all year round – but as we approach the biggest shopping season of the year, it’s even more important to keep small businesses in mind. This year, small businesses are struggling more than ever due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, so showing support by buying gifts from your local shops, boutiques and restaurants will help them stay in business through the pandemic and continued lockdowns. 

Even if local businesses in your state are closing up shop due to the rising cases of COVID-19, you can still support those businesses and get your holiday shopping done all at the same time. Here are some ways everyone can shop small and local this holiday season, regardless of the restrictions in your state.

1. Shop online

Most businesses these days have an option to purchase their items online. Even if they don’t have a website, they might have an Instagram account to showcase their items so shoppers can see what they like and contact the store about purchasing details. With the internet, there are endless ways to support small businesses near and far – even in the midst of a pandemic. So look online to see what options are available for shopping at your favorite local boutiques, and find the perfect gift for your loved ones that will help keep those small businesses alive.

2. Purchase digital gift cards

Whether you want to treat your significant other to a wine tasting at your local winery once the pandemic subsides, or surprise your mom with a gift certificate to her local spa, purchasing gift cards online is a great way to support small businesses this holiday season, even if those businesses aren’t open right now. Visit the website of the business you want to support and look for an option to purchase a digital gift card, or contact the business for more information. 

3. Order in from local restaurants

Restaurants have been heavily affected by the pandemic, so it’s important to keep your local restaurants in mind while enjoying family time at home during the holidays. Consider ordering in some nights rather than cooking every night – maybe even dedicate one or two nights a week to ordering from your favorite local spot or visiting the restaurant to safely dine-in. Even when you do decide to cook at home, you can still support local businesses by purchasing ingredients from your local farmer’s market or family grocer. 

For small businesses that are switching to a more digital-based system, find out how NetLines can help streamline communication among your team. 

Categories: Small Business

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