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The Pros and Cons of a Hard or Soft-Phone System for Small Businesses

  • 16 August, 2018

Article, My Cloud Voice, Unified Collaboration

Choosing a hard-phone or soft-phone

If you’ve been looking for the right phone system for your small business then you’ve probably come over the debate of whether a tangible VoIP hard-phone system or a cloud-based soft-phone system is best. As with most technology debates, there are pros and cons on both sides.

Making the decision can be tough. It’s possible you’re not even 100% certain what the terms hard-phone and soft-phone even mean. Some businesses suit soft-phones perfectly whereas others would not be able to function properly without a tangible hard-phone system. In this article, we will delve into the advantages and disadvantages of both options and help you in making the decision for yourself.

What is a VoIP hard-phone system?

Out of the two options, this is likely the option you will be most comfortable with before today. A hard-phone refers to a tangible phone that sits on your desk. However, most modern systems do not connect you to other people as they did in the past. Instead of using an analogue telephone line, they now plug into your company IP network via an ethernet cable and your calls are connected through the internet with a VoIP service (Voiceover Internet Protocol).

With a VoIP hard-phone system you have the opportunity to choose a managed service, where a separate company can provide you with support and configure your system through a platform located in the cloud.

cisco hard-phone 8845

What is a soft-phone system?

Similarly to the hard-phone system, a soft-phone will also connect your calls using VoIP. What differentiates the two options is that a soft-phone is a program that is installed on your PC, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. There is no physical phone and instead, you can plug headphones in and use a window on your computer from where you can dial numbers and receive calls.

Why choose a hard-phone system?

Voice Clarity. As your phone is purely dedicated to making and receiving calls, voice-clarity is always high-quality. Soft-phones rely on sharing compute power with all the other programs your PC may be running. This can often affect call quality and cause issues when speaking with someone. Hard-phones are also great for background noise cancellation. It’s not fun trying to hear someone on a call when there are loud conversations going on in their background. A hard-phone system means your customers won’t have to deal with this.

Reliability. When it comes to reliability, it’s tough to beat a hard-phone. As long as your internet is running, you won’t run into many issues. With a soft-phone, there are more potential problems because the software runs on your PC. If your PC won’t turn on, has a virus, or is generally performing badly then receiving and making calls becomes impossible. Keeping your phone separate from your PC with a hard-phone is a safer option.

Lots Of Features. With a good hard-phone, you get a whole array of features that enable you to personalise your phone, create shortcuts, and increase your efficiency. Generally, soft-phones have far fewer additional features.

Cheaper Monthly Bills. With hard-phones, your monthly phone bills will be cheaper. Although you have to spend some money at the beginning on the actual phones, your phone bill that comes in every month will actually be less than if you were using a soft-phone.

man using hard-phone

Better Investment. A hard-phone system, in general, is a better investment. They last for up to ten years compared to around 3 years for smartphones, PCs, and laptops. Also, hard-phones have an inbuilt handset whereas a soft-phone requires headphones and a microphone to work. Both of these devices are notorious for breaking regularly and can end up costing more in the long run than investing in a hard-phone.

Meetings. Group meetings over the phone are everyday occurrences in the majority of small offices and you always want these to run as smoothly as possible. Soft-phones make this task quite difficult as they do not have a loudspeaker function like a hard-phone does. Most hard-phones are built to support these types of engagements, where multiple people are gathered around the same desk.

Why choose a soft-phone system?

Flexibility. Soft-phones are more flexible. Let’s say for some reason you need to reduce your user count by ten people. All you need to do is contact your provider and, depending on your contract, they should do this for you. With a hard-phone system, your hardware will not be used until you need it again.

Mobility. If you have very mobile staff who are never based in your office then a soft-phone installed on their laptop will probably suit them more as they are able to speak to people wherever they are. However, if your users work primarily from a static office then hard-phones are the better choice.

Good For Contact-Centres. Soft-phones are most effective in a contact centre environment. Users can log in to the PCs put on their headset and operate everything with their mouse. This is more cost-effective also because of the high number of staff in a contact centre; buying a hard-phone may be too expensive.

soft-phone hard-phone call centre contact center

Lower Setup Costs. One of the main benefits of softphones is the fact you do not have to spend money on buying a physical hard-phone. This reduces the setup costs. However, do not forget that you still need to buy headsets for all users and replace them when they inevitably break.

Faster Setup. If you need to get your phone system set up urgently then a soft-phone system may be the right choice. All you need to do is download the software onto all users computers and your basically ready to go.

So which one is for me?

As you can see, there are clear pros and cons of both options available. It’s important to weigh these up especially as a small or medium sized business as budgets are often tight and you want to make the decision that will benefit you the most. Every business is different, therefore every business has different requirements. Its impossible to say which of the options is the best as they are both great in their own way.

Our recommendation

If your employees are based in one location for the majority of the time and you do decide to choose to implement a new VoIP hard-phone system then you may want to have a look at a great solution provided by one of our partners, My Cloud Voice.

The My Cloud Voice website takes you through a short process where you can build a business phone system tailored especially for your organisation and its needs while offering affordable, transparent pricing along the way. If you go through the process today you can be up and running with your new system in just 2 weeks. Head to My Cloud Voice now for more information.

Read our article on one of the worlds best small business phone systems, the Cisco Business Edition 4000.

Want to know how to get your hands on a free Cisco Meraki Switch worth £500? Read this article.

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