VoIP Hardware: What Devices Do I Need if I Get a Cloud Phone System?

by Paul Johnson     Thursday, February 16th, 2017.

When you evaluate the pros and cons of different phone systems, including the possibility of switching to Hosted VoIP, hardware is always a serious consideration. What kind of devices will you need? How much does it cost? Can you use your existing phones?

The good news is that Hosted VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), or a cloud phone system, calls for very little hardware to get the job done, meaning less capital outlay for you. With Hosted VoIP, the provider manages the hardware and software infrastructure, freeing you from equipment troubles and maintenance costs. You can even use your existing hardware, including mobile devices.

The Three Essentials of VoIP Hardware

For many customers, you only need the big three to get your cloud phone system up and running:

1. Business-Class Router

VoIP Hardware - Router

Many small businesses make do with consumer-class routers. On the high-end, these can support up to a dozen computers and come with a few ethernet ports to hard-wire computers (or phones) into the network. The next step up is a business-class router, which can handle more computers, as well as the additional traffic of combined voice and data streams. It’s the business-class routers that are necessary for quality voice service.

2. IP Phones

VoIP Hardware - Phone

These look like ordinary phones, but you plug them into the router or into your desktop computer instead of a phone jack.

3. Internet Connection

A broadband connection with sufficient bandwidth is necessary to handle a Hosted VoIP service. If you’re wondering how much bandwidth that is, just figure that each call needs approximately 85 kbps of synchronous bandwidth. You can easily find out the speed of your current Internet connection, and here’s a chart to give you an idea of what speeds your organization might require:

VoIP Hardware - Internet Connection

However, there will are some situations where additional equipment might be required. Those are:

“But I Want to Keep My Analog Phones, Not Buy New Ones.”

That’s fine. In most cases, Hosted VoIP replaces your old analog system, but you can use your analog phones with a digital system. This will require an additional device, an Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA), which convert the analog signals into digital traffic. The only drawback is that an analog phone usually won’t give you access to the complete feature set Hosted VoIP providers usually offer.

“Can I Use My Computer or Mobile Device Instead of a Phone?”

Absolutely. This normally only requires that you download an application, called a softphone or a desktop client, which allows you to use your computer or mobile device as a phone.

“What if I need specialized phones, like conference or cordless phones?”

Hosted VoIP service is compatible with many types of conference, cordless, and handsfree phones, as well as headsets. Leaders in phone hardware—like Panasonic, Cisco, Polycom, VTech, and Yealink—all support Hosted VoIP-friendly devices.

“Should I hang on to my fax machine?”

Chuck that baby. You won’t be needing it. Hosted VoIP services generally offer virtual fax functionality. Faxes can be sent and received along your normal extensions, without requiring a separate phone line, and they’re delivered directly to your email inbox.