SIP trunking allows any organization to upgrade its offline PBX to an internet-powered business phone system. Managers can use the technology to leverage VoIP’s power to consolidate business communication systems, improve call quality and save money.
Here are the basics of SIP trunking, how the technology works, and strategies for finding a SIP trunking provider that offers the services your business needs.
A Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunk is the digital version of an analog trunk line that lets users make outgoing and receive incoming calls. A SIP trunk allows a business to make local or long-distance calls over the internet without using traditional phone lines.
Businesses often adopt SIP trunking to reduce phone expenses or take advantage of cloud-exclusive features. For example, a digital phone system is much easier to monitor with analytics tools that can track critical information about business phone calls, including frequency, length, audio quality and the number of missed calls. This capability provides the company with important data about how it uses telephone systems in day-to-day work.
The technology behind SIP trunking makes it a good fit for businesses that want to reduce phone line costs and gain access to cloud-exclusive features.
In an analog system, physical trunk lines connect the business’s private branch exchange (PBX) to the public switched telephone network (PSTN).
A PBX is a private telephone network that allows the phones in your office to connect with each other and outside callers. A PBX system routes inbound and outbound calls and has advanced features like call blocking and call forwarding.
Using SIP trunks, a virtual version of analog trunks allows a SIP provider – typically called an “internet telephony service provider” – to take advantage of a business’s existing PBX hardware. It can effectively connect that PBX to the cloud rather than directly to the PSTN.
SIP trunking accomplishes this with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which digitizes a caller’s voice and transmits communications over an IP network. In almost all cases, this network will be the internet.
The technology supports a business’s phone systems, bringing the cloud’s scalability, cost benefits and analytics features to its landline. Switching from analog connections can also improve call quality.
Businesses can also use the computer hardware they’ve already invested in to make phone calls.
Businesses sometimes use the term “SIP trunking” interchangeably with “VoIP.” While the two are closely related, they are different, and investing in VoIP doesn’t necessarily mean investing in SIP.
VoIP technology lets users make phone calls via business broadband internet connection. This is also sometimes called “internet telephony” or “broadband telephony.” You can place calls via the cloud rather than directly through the PSTN.
>> Learn More: Optimize Your Business Network for VoIP
SIP trunking takes advantage of VoIP to allow businesses to place and receive calls via the cloud. VoIP can be used independently of SIP by using alternative signaling protocols like H.323 and MGCP.
Like SIP, these protocols are a set of rules that help VoIP determine how it will establish or disconnect calls over the internet.
H.323 and MGCP function slightly differently from SIP, but all three protocols have roughly the same goal: leveraging VoIP to connect and disconnect phone calls using the cloud.
VoIP can function using digital phones (IP phones) and analog phones. VoIP will use a separator box or similar device, called an “analog telephone adapter,” to convert an analog signal to a digital signal that can be sent over the internet.
>> Learn More: Non-Fixed VoIP
SIP trunking can be a worthwhile investment for businesses that want to digitize their phone lines, but the technology isn’t perfect. Consider these pros and cons when deciding whether to invest in a SIP trunk upgrade.
>> Learn More: VoIP Phone Numbers
Your SIP trunking provider will significantly impact your business’s SIP trunking benefits. Research providers before investing in a SIP trunking upgrade to ensure your choice offers the services and resources you need.
When you’re choosing a business phone system with SIP trunking, look for a provider that offers these key benefits:
The SIP provider’s network is its most important asset. Effective SIP providers can offer a high-quality and reliable network they fully control.
Most SIP providers are resellers – Tier 2 or Tier 3 providers – that buy their SIP service from a network owner or another reseller. Tier 1 providers directly own the network they sell.
When a SIP customer files a complaint or opens a support ticket with a Tier 2 or 3 provider, that company must open its own ticket with the company from which it resells services.
Only Tier 1 providers can be truly accountable to their customers. Owning the network enables them to be more transparent and quickly respond to issues.
You must ensure a provider can service the geographic areas where you operate. For example, a small business with exclusively local customers may not need extensive coverage from its provider. However, an e-commerce business with a large portion of its client base overseas would need a company that can handle frequent international calls.
Analog phone system owners don’t have to think too much about 911 service; the number is always available when needed. Digital phone systems can be more complicated because there’s no tie to a physical location.
A good SIP provider should offer enhanced 911 (E911) – rules that ensure your phone system can automatically provide the caller’s location to emergency dispatchers. E911 capabilities mean emergency services will know where to send first responders.
The SIP trunk market has grown steadily in recent years. Here are a few SIP trunking providers to consider:
RingCentral MVP is an excellent, practical, easy-to-use option for most companies, offering a range of features.
The service is designed from the ground up to make collaboration effortless. Features like instant messaging, document sharing and conference calling provide a single, centralized communications system for a business.
Prices start at $19.99 per user per month. However, the most affordable plan doesn’t offer audio or video conferencing capabilities. A 30-day free trial is available. Read our comprehensive RingCentral review for more information.
Vonage is a unified communications system that offers an array of features for businesses.
One of Vonage’s unique offerings is the Microsoft Teams integration. The service integrates with Teams by default, allowing employees to access the phone system directly from the Teams platform.
Vonage’s plans begin at $14.99 per user per month. The most affordable plan is not compatible with desktop phones, however. The company offers a 14-day free trial. Read our in-depth review of Vonage for more information.
8×8 is a unified communications system built with ease of use in mind. Features like mobile and desktop apps, video chatting and conferencing provide a centralized communication system for businesses that want to switch to SIP trunking.
The system is a great fit for small businesses needing an inexpensive service that still offers great flexibility and customization.
Plans begin at $12 per month per user. 8×8 offers a 30-day free trial of its Express plan. Read our comprehensive 8×8 review for more information.
SIP trunking is a powerful option for businesses interested in upgrading to a unified digital communication system. It allows you to leverage legacy PBX technology without relying on analog phone lines. This upgrade will mean cost savings for most businesses and access to cloud-exclusive communications management features.