Working from home Guidance – VOIP phones

With the Coronavirus progressing and advice from government that we should work from home where possible, many customers are asking us about the options for answering their phones from home. Here’s a quick rundown of the options:

 

Forward to mobile:

It is possible to forward calls to your mobile but typically forwarding a main number to a mobile poses a few issues.. You will pay the forwarding part of the call, so if you’re quite busy this might not be the best option. If you are already on the phone, some methods of call forward will put the caller to your personal mobile voicemail – not always ideal. This is also a problem if you try to forward to several mobiles at once. You also can’t call back from the company’s main number, your caller-ID will be that of your mobile.

Typically if we forward to mobile, we will setup what is called Group Hunt for you. This means your mobile will ring at the same time as your office phone, so there’s no rush to cancel this divert when you are back in the office. We also setup ‘call confirmation’ requiring you to press 1 to accept the call on your mobile. This means callers will never end up in your personal voicemail, and instead will follow the company’s normal voicemail route – typically you’d get a copy of the message via email to deal with. It also means multiple people can be dealing with incoming calls simultaneously, not just one individual.

 

Take your office phone home:

If you have a VOIP phone from us, it is possible to take the phone off your desk home and use it exactly as you would in the office – including transfers, busy-lamp field (monitoring who is on the phone) and outgoing Caller ID. It will need to plug into your internet router using Ethernet.

The possible problems with this are that the phones require power, and usually in an office environment they are supplied power from the switch – which you can’t practically take home with you- so you need either a power supply (check the voltage!) or a PoE injector. Obviously because this is an international issue, there have been some issues getting hold of PSUs.

If you have a cordless phone, these connect via a base-station. This is a black box about the size of a paperback book, and is plugged into the network somewhere. The cordless phone sits on a charging cradle – this on it’s own isn’t enough to operate the cordless phone, you will need to locate and take the base station with you too.

In both cases, if your router doesn’t have enough Ethernet ports, you’ll need a hub or switch of some sort, to give you more ports.

 

Mobile Softphone:

Our system has a mobile App that you can use, it twins with (or replaces) your desk phone so you can call in and out via the company phone system using this. There is one main limitation with the mobile app, related to incoming calls. Typically we use queues for incoming calls, so your desk phone doesn’t show calls answered on another extension as a missed call on your extension. Queue calls can’t wake a mobile up from sleep, so when using the mobile app you’ll typically want to set it to ‘never lock the screen whilst charging’ and leave it on charge during the day.

The Mobile App is licensed at £1.50 per month per concurrent extension, so you can share a license if e.g. you are taking it in turns to answer calls from one day to the next.

 

Laptop Soft phone:

Our system also has a soft phone option, which you can use with a laptop or desktop computer at home. This is a fully-featured UC client allowing you to do as much – more in many cases- than you can from a physical phone.

Typically this is used with a headset, rather than the PC/laptop speakers and microphone, and again getting hold of good quality headsets in this climate has been tricky.

The Soft phone is £2 per month and is also concurrently licensed, so again if you are taking it in turns to answer calls, you may not need to license everyone.

 

Bandwidth

For the ‘take your phone home’ and ‘soft phone’ options, you need to consider your internet speed at home. VOIP phones work over the internet, typically very well on fibre-broadband type connections – but what else you are using will also make a difference. Most home routers don’t have any voice prioritisation on them, so someone using X-Box Live or streaming Amazon Prime or Netflix may use up all of the speed, rendering phone calls unusable – typically sounding like you or your caller are either underwater or have turned into daleks. We strongly recommend if you are needing to use your home broadband for voice, that you consider who else is using the broadband and how much they are using.

 

Feature Availability / Summary:

Feature \ Method Call Forwarding Take Phone Home Mobile App Softphone
Answer Incoming Calls Yes Yes Yes – but phone must not be asleep Yes
Transfer calls Untested Yes Yes Yes
Make outgoing calls on company Caller ID No Yes Yes Yes
Choose other Caller ID No Yes but cumbersome Yes – Easy Yes – Easy
Instant Conference Calls No Yes Yes – Easy Yes – Easy
Cost Typically 5ppm ~£10 for PSU £1.50 per month £2 per month + @£40+ for Headset