Posted on October 27, 2011 by Paul Hammond
I am sure you have heard the term softphone recently with the huge growth of everything VoIP, but have you ever asked yourself; what is a softphone? Common sense will tell you that it is a phone but what kind of phone and how could it affect your business?
You’re not the only person who has asked us what is a softphone, which is why we’ve put together this guide. Basically, a softphone is a phone that lets you make calls over the internet from a computer or other smart device. As the name would imply, it is a piece of software that acts as a phone interface, allowing you to dial phone numbers and carry out other phone related functions via a screen (PDA or Computer) using your mouse, keypad or keyboard. Conversations usually take place through a headset or a microphone and computer speakers.
The softphone software or application can be downloaded from a variety of providers such as Counterpath or SNOM. These are sometimes also referred to as ‘clients’. Many of these applications are free although some have a modest cost. Softphone clients are available for Macintosh, Windows and Linux computers, and many smartphones, such Androids and iPhones.
In most cases you will find a softphone used in conjunction with VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol. This form of computer telephony uses an internet connection to deliver voice information over the internet. For more information regarding VoIP, please check out this blog. VoIP calls can go over a standard internet connection on your local network, wireless networking (WIFI) or even a cellular data network, such as 3G or 4G.
So, we have a softphone client and an internet connection. There is one more component needed to use a softphone and that is a provider. Although anyone can download and use the free softphone software, a VoIP service provider must provide the underlying VoIP phone service over which the calls are carried. A softphone is registered with the service provider, and often a phone number is assigned. Calls to and from the softphone are routed over the service provider’s network. The features and functionality of each softphone will vary somewhat from one softphone provider to another.
So who can benefit from using a softphone? Telecommuters and anyone who travels frequently for starters. For users on the go, especially those who travel overseas, softphone service allows them to conveniently make calls from their smartphones and laptops, saving them the hassle and expense of using a hotel phone or roaming on a cell phone. Also, softphones are well suited for small and medium size businesses that save money by cutting their ties with expensive traditional phone companies. Furthermore, softphones do not require expensive hardware which needs to be maintained. Softphones are inexpensive and easy to upgrade.
Thinking about trying out a softphone yet? If so, VirtualPBX would be happy to help you set up you softphone to best fit your needs. Every Virtual PBX system includes VoIP Anywhere technology, which can turn your cellular phone or computer into a Virtual PBX VoIP phone. With VoIP Anywhere and our award-winning open-systems approach, you can use any standard SIP softphone, from almost any vendor, to make and receive calls over your data connection. We’ve reduced the bandwidth requirement so that high quality calls can be made over 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi connections. You simply register your softphone as a VoIP device in our service, and open the softphone application to make calls.
Benefits of a Virtual PBX Softphone
Tons of Included Features
All standard Virtual PBX features that are available to a VoIP extension are available to all calls to and from a softphone, like call recording, or choosing your caller ID. And softphone calls are included in your Virtual PBX business reports so you’ll always have records of every call. You can make outbound calls from your cellular phone without giving up your personal phone number. And call-backs go to your company number, not to your personal phone. You protect yourself while looking more professional.
Little to No Cost
Our flat-rate plans include the ability to add softphones at no charge. And any extension in a usage-based plan can be enabled to use VoIP, for both VoIP phones and softphones, for just $5 per month per extension. Minutes used on a soft phone are part of your plan. Flat-rate plans have no per-minute fees for calls to a softphone or to a destination in the continental U.S. or Canada (within our fair-use policy), and calls through usage-based plans simply use plan minutes.
To put a softphone on your Virtual PBX account, you should first download a softphone from a good provider. Then, you add the softphone to your account starting from the VoIP Phones page of our vConsole web portal. For more information visit our VoIP support pages.