We’re often asked: what’s the difference between hardphones and softphones, or which constitutes the better choice for my company.
There is no simple answer, of course. Whilst the trend in the installed base shows relative increases in soft phone deployments, we don’t think it’s time to discount the hard phone just yet.
Before we compare pros and cons, here’s a very brief description of both solutions.
A hardphone – usually referred to as an IP phone or a VoIP phone – looks pretty much like a “normal conventional” phone. The main visible difference is that the IP phone has an ethernet jack and is plugged into an internet connection. Conventional phones have a phone jack, and plug into the telephone network or into a PBX.
IP Phones are basically specialised computers, running specialised software. And as specialists, they are perfectly suited to the task.
VoIP Softphones on the other hand are apps that run on notebooks, PCs or on smartphones. Just like a hard phone, they communicate via the internet.
- Reliable Service. Dedicated specialised hardware usually offers higher quality.
- High user acceptance, no training required – they handle like a conventional phone.
- Highest Audio Quality. The Audio and other subsystems are perfectly matched on a quality phone.
- Echo and noise suppression are generally superior on specialised hardware.
- Desk phones are “always on”. Software updates and configuration changes can be done outside office hours. Additionally telgo.PRO (our virtual PBX) handles all configuration from the cloud. This eliminates manual installation and update tasks.
- Better security – updates are handled by the virtual PBX – a user can’t bypass important updates.
- Generally slightly higher cost.
- Tied to the desk – not a mobile solution.
- Low cost, run on existing hardware.
- Often a practical home office solution.
- Very mobile – Softphones run on notebooks and smartphones.
- Additional features like video or chat are often available. Often these are not interoperable with other software however.
- The software needs to be started to work. Calls are interrupted if the host computer needs to be rebooted.
- Hidden costs related to PC upgrades, downtime or security issues.
- Mic / Headset required.
- The audio subsystem must be manually tuned to the software for good results. Generally, the overall acoustic quality of a hard phone is not easily achieved.
The comparison shows that the decision really depends on your requirements. If perfect audio quality is paramount, for example in sales and customer care situations, hard phones should be looked into. Perfect acoustic quality and HD audio are hard to achieve without hard phones.
On the other hand, particularly large contact centre deployments can save considerably by using soft phones and headsets. Research and test optimal headset, software and setting combinations if you take this route. There are huge gains (and losses) to be made with the right (or wrong) combinations. Virtual PBX deployments in contact centers often cater to a large number of seats, and the cost per seat plays a major role.
Our opinion is that most organisations will benefit from a mix of both approaches, Using hard phones in desk-based and quality conscious situations, and softphones wherever mobility or high seat density come into play.
You can use both with telgo.PRO – our virtual PBX. We recommend Snom phones and Gigaset cordless devices, and can set up both remotely. Remote provisioning means that the devices just need to be plugged in – everything else is done by our virtual PBX. Even phone books and company directories can be provisioned remotely.
Info and specifications for these phones can be found here:
We’ll be featuring some more of the functionality we offer with Snom phones in conjunction with our cloud based phone system in a future post.
If you’re interested in soft phones, we recommend BRIA for Android, iPhone and notebooks. Consider buying the G.729 codec for your mobile users – it reduces bandwidth requirements, and can improve quality on congested internet connections. And yes, our virtual PBX supports the G.729 codec too.
Pricing and specs are here:
We’re already preparing a post on cloud based virtual PBX systems – so stay tuned!
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