The answer to this question is subjective, but your employees will have to work with you buy them. Depending on your business policies, you may already have a Bring Your Own Device policy in place. If so, you may want to consider softphones and phase out your existing desktop phones. If a large portion of your workforce telecommutes or works remotely, you won’t need desktop phones, anyway.
If your employees already use their mobile phones (company issued or personal), why bother with softphones? Softphones are software rather than hardware based, so there’s no hardware to maintain or store. You cannot purchase a softphone as a stand-alone piece of software—in fact, they are typically free. What you’re really paying for when you get a softphone is the service that comes with it. So, although you may not seek the softphones themselves, they are useful when needed. These applications allow you to use the same broadband connection as your computer to place and receive calls. The only real piece of hardware you may need is a headset, which can vary in price from a few dollars to $100, depending on the quality.
Think of softphones as end points that supplement desktop phones. In addition to inbound and outbound calls, you can use desktop phone features such as the caller ID, call transfer, and hold. In this scenario, you still use both a softphone and a desktop phone.
Mobile phones are great, but they have their own pros and cons. Sure, you can use them for your mobile workforce, who may spend more time on the road than in the office, but the devices are not connected to your phone system. Depending on your business, your customers may see mobile phone use as unprofessional.
Using mobile phones for day-to-day communications may work well depending on your environment. If your employees are on the road a lot, mobile phones might be the best solution. If you have dedicated workers who show up to your physical location everyday, however, they might not be optimal.
If you’re looking at this question from a cost perspective, the answer is also, “It depends.” It depends which solution is better. For small to mid-sized businesses, mobile solutions may work, or free voice over IP (VoIP) services such as Google Talk and Skype may be adequate for your needs through their softphone services.
If you host teleconferences or Web conferences, you may want to consider a teleconference phone and VoIP service and stick with desktop phones, because mobile phones can make for an administrative nightmare. If your employees can restrain themselves from depending on their mobile phones for business use or keep such use to a minimum, then softphones would be the way to go. Softphones also may have business-friendly features that you simply cannot get on mobile phones unless they already have those features built in. Mobile phones also introduce a level of complexity if you have to implement mobile device management to keep your workers’ device use for work separated from personal use.
About the Author
Anthony Ortega has extensive IT support and systems engineering experience in government environments. A solutions-focused professional, he has led staff; worked in network operations support, information assurance, and change management; managed project software and licenses; and provided quality assurance. He has also developed coursework for VoIP, unified communications, and cloud computing for online colleges. Anthony is working on his Ph.D. dissertation in Organizations and Management, with a specialty in IT Management. He is an analyst with Studio B.