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Updated Apr 09, 2024

VoIP vs. Landlines

Mark Fairlie
Mark Fairlie, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership

Table of Contents

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When you’re selecting your company’s business phone system, you will likely be offered one of two choices: a business VoIP system or a traditional landline-based system, also known as a plain old telephone service (POTS).

Here’s an overview of business VoIP and traditional landline telephones, including the pros and cons of each, to help you determine which type of business phone system is best for your organization. 

What is VoIP?

A Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system uses a broadband internet connection to make calls. By contrast, traditional, land-based phone lines require a physical connection to a telephone network, which needs switches to transmit analog audio to other phones worldwide. 

As working from home becomes more common, more people are switching to VoIP because they can use it over a business broadband internet connection. A VoIP phone number is virtually identical to a traditional phone number, so you can still call friends, family or colleagues using traditional phone services.

There are free VoIP services, such as Google Voice, in which long-distance calls may be limited or have reduced audio fidelity. There are also paid VoIP services (we’ll review some later) that can handle multiple phone numbers and allow you to run inbound and outbound contact centers, communicate with customers via text message and more.

What’s the difference between VoIP and a landline?

The most significant difference between VoIP and a landline is the VoIP’s flexibility. Traditional, land-based phone lines require a physical connection to a telephone network, which needs switches to transmit analog audio to other phones worldwide. VoIP, by contrast, relies on a broadband internet connection. 

Editor’s note: Looking for the right business phone system? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

VoIP has three key advantages over traditional copper-wire-based landlines:

  • Cost: Because VoIP relies on your existing internet connection, you don’t need to buy additional hardware, like handsets or a private branch exchange (PBX) system.
  • Scalability: With VoIP, you can add a new number to your corporate plan in just a few clicks. It’s much more complicated with landlines. A technician must physically attach a new connection to the network, which can be costly. Physical lines also need regular maintenance to ensure nothing is eroding and everything is running exactly as it should.
  • Capabilities: A VoIP phone line is much better equipped to handle different forms of communication, like text messages and video conferencing. It also offers access to features such as call recording and archiving. However, if there’s ever a power or internet outage, you’ll lose your ability to communicate with the outside world. 
FYIDid you know

VoIP could be your answer if you need a business phone number but don’t necessarily want to install business phones.

What are the pros and cons of VoIP?

VoIP technology is an excellent business phone system option, but it isn’t suitable for every organization. Here are its pros and cons.

Pros

Cons

Lower cost

Dependence on a broadband connection

Rich functionality

Limited emergency services

Portability

Audio and latency issues

Scalability

Ideal solution for global teams

VoIP pros 

  • Lower cost: Because they’re compatible with multiple devices, VoIP phone lines tend to have a lower total cost of ownership than landlines do. An employee is usually assigned a corporate computer so they can easily access a dedicated VoIP phone line without needing extra hardware. VoIP phone lines start at just $10 per user per month, making it easy to add lines as your business expands and your workforce grows. 
  • Rich functionality: VoIP lines can send text messages, images, videos and faxes. They often also provide access to professional business phone system features such as caller ID, conference calling and video conferencing. A VoIP number can easily forward calls to remote teams or employees working from home so you can provide constant support for your customers.
  • Portability: VoIP phone lines are completely independent of specific devices or locations. You can tether your VoIP number to a mobile device or laptop to receive calls from clients and colleagues wherever you go. 
  • Scalability: Cloud-based VoIP platforms are easily scalable for teams and growing businesses. In fact, they are designed to be multiline phone systems, so it’s easy for users to add or delete new lines within seconds without contacting a service provider. Once a new VoIP line is created, a new team member can make and receive calls on PCs and cellphones, so you don’t have to purchase extra equipment. [Learn more about cloud PBX and other cloud-based phone systems]
  • Ideal solution for global teams: Thanks to its flexibility and scalability, VoIP is an ideal solution for remote teams. You can create VoIP phone lines for specific regions or countries to provide local support without long-distance charges. Alternatively, your business could use a VoIP line to forward calls to the proper team members and ensure consistent customer support.
Did You Know?Did you know

Many VoIP systems integrate with apps such as Slack to enhance workplace communication with in-office and remote staff.

VoIP cons

  • Dependence on broadband connection: VoIP’s biggest drawback is its reliance on a stable broadband internet connection. A VoIP phone line transmits data packets through a broadband connection to another line. Without a consistent connection, you could lose audio quality or drop a call entirely. In an internet or power service outage, a VoIP line won’t work.
  • Limited emergency services: When someone places a 911 call, emergency service providers track the phone number to find a home address or GPS location so they can send help. This is a problem with VoIP numbers. Because a VoIP phone line appears as an IP address, it’s challenging for emergency services to pinpoint someone’s physical location. A delay can be catastrophic in a situation where every second counts.
  • Audio and latency issues: If there’s a bandwidth or latency issue, like an unstable connection or multiple simultaneous users on a single network, problems could ensue. Without the proper connection, the call quality on a VoIP line could suffer, resulting in stuttering audio or lags in teleconferences.

What are the pros and cons of landlines?

Many businesses use traditional landline phone systems. Here’s a look at their pros and cons.

Pros

Cons

Reliability in emergencies

Higher cost

Good audio quality

Limited functionality

Ease of use

Stationary devices

 

Landline pros

  • Reliability in emergencies: Traditional landlines run on their own source of power, independent of the power that connects to a home or an office. If the electricity goes out in your neighborhood, you can still dial 911 and connect to an operator. Because a landline is tied to a physical location and device, emergency services can quickly and easily locate an address and send help.
  • Good audio quality: A land-based phone line uses a tried-and-tested network of physical copper lines that may still be operational for years. With a landline’s strong connection, you’ll get fewer dropped calls, and every call you make will deliver clean, clear audio.
  • Ease of use: Traditional phone line hardware is easy to learn and use. These devices usually have a handset or a receiver and a keypad. All you have to do is enter the correct number and your call will go through. Landlines are usually stationary within a business or home (unless you have a wireless receiver), so they’re easy to access when someone calls.

Landline cons

  • Higher cost: Traditional landlines cost more, and the more numbers you add, the more that cost increases. For example, if you have a business with 100 people and pay $25 per month for each number, you’re looking at $2,500 per month. 
  • Limited functionality: A landline is best for audio calls. Because they were created before text messaging, video conferencing or image sharing, traditional phone lines cannot perform many of the tasks that VoIP can.
  • Stationary devices: When someone calls your landline number, they’re not calling you; they’re calling your desk or whatever surface your phone is mounted on. If you’re away from your desk, you miss the call if you don’t have voicemail. You could miss a sale or an important call.
Did You Know?Did you know

Many VoIP platforms make the best business phone systems for restaurants. Auto-attendants can direct incoming calls, and eateries can integrate their VoIP system to target the right customers for promotions by email and text messaging, all from one screen.

How to choose between a VoIP service and a landline

There are a few important questions you should ask when you’re deciding between a VoIP phone service and a traditional landline: 

  • How big is your team? VoIP may be the right choice if you have a large team that works from home or employees who are scattered across different regions. Because of VoIP’s inherent scaling and portability, it’s an ideal, reasonably priced option for teams that don’t work in the same location. On the other hand, if you have a small, local team that needs just a few no-frills phone lines, a landline phone service may be the best route.
TipBottom line

One great way for companies with outbound telemarketing teams to squeeze more value out of their phone system, whether VoIP or a landline, is to add an auto-dialer. An auto-dialer predicts when a call is about to end and starts dialing the next number, thereby reducing downtime and increasing productivity.

  • What are your equipment concerns? Consider VoIP if you want to avoid the extra costs of buying a new phone for each employee. However, if you account for the cost of hardware in a new phone system, a landline option may be within your budget.
  • Which features do you need? A landline is a good option if you only need to make short local calls. However, VoIP is far more suitable if you want to transfer files from the field, send videos to employees or colleagues, or hold video conferences with an entire workforce.

Best business phone systems for VoIP

We’ve shown how VoIP is a lot more flexible and capable than POTS lines because of the technical architecture that supports it.

Many of the best business phone systems offer improved functionality and scalability because they run on VoIP. Below, we’ve highlighted some of the most popular services. 

Zoom

Zoom, probably best known as a video conferencing app, is also a capable and scalable VoIP platform that’s ideal for businesses of all sizes. Prices start at $10 per user per month. For that price, you get access to a wide range of features, including SMS integration, free extension-to-extension calling, unlimited outbound calls and direct-dial numbers for over 40 countries. 

Read our in-depth Zoom review.

Vonage

Vonage is an attractive option for companies that are investing in their first phone system or upgrading their current one. It has over 30 built-in switchboard features, like call groups, multilevel auto-attendants, call monitoring and HD voice quality. It’s easy to set up, and you can add or remove new lines instantly when needed. Pricing starts at $17.99 per user per month.

Read our comprehensive Vonage review.

RingCentral

RingCentral is a powerhouse. This scalable and easy-to-use system supports internet faxing, voicemail (and voicemail-to-text and voicemail-to-email), automatic call recording, team messaging, call recording, call queueing and much more. The support for SMS, video conferencing, social media messaging and other communication channels is excellent. Pricing starts at $20 per user per month. 

Read our latest RingCentral review.

Ooma Office

We love that Ooma’s comprehensive VoIP system makes it easy to operate the platform. The Express Setup Assistant makes it easy to launch and configure your system. You then connect devices by downloading the softphone app. The platform’s features include SMS, video conferencing, message analytics, hunt and ring groups, virtual faxing, call routing and more. Pricing starts at $19.95 per user per month.

Read our up-to-date Ooma Office review.

NextivaONE

Nextiva offers an impressive array of valuable VoIP features, including SMS/MMS, unlimited audio conference calls, online faxing, auto-attendants, call popping (on-screen notifications of incoming calls) and video conferencing. The online dashboard makes system configuration simple, and it’s easy to add and delete users, lines and numbers. Prices start at $23.95 per user per month.

Read our in-depth review of NextivaONE.

GoTo Connect

The GoTo Connect platform is popular with small and midsize businesses thanks to features such as unmetered calling to more than 50 countries, advanced analytics for monitoring call quality, video conferencing, SMS and call queueing, and intelligent call routing. Priced from $27 per user per month, the platform offers superb native integrations with Oracle Sales Cloud, Microsoft Teams, Salesforce CRM, Zendesk, HubSpot, Salesforce Service Cloud and more. 

Read our comprehensive review of GoTo Connect.

Dialpad

Dialpad is a feature-packed and competitively priced option that starts at just $15 per user per month. This artificial intelligence (AI)-powered platform provides a broad range of capabilities, including SMS, video conferencing, advanced call routing, self-service chatbots, social media messaging, outbound dialing and call transcription. The AI integration is excellent and delivers meaningful insights about company performance by monitoring call and contact metrics.

Read our up-to-date review of Dialpad.

8×8

8×8’s impressive unified communications platform offers a great range of features, including call routing, call queueing, advanced call routing and multilevel auto-attendants. This flexible platform offers options to interact with customers by video, mobile, web, text message and other channels so they can contact you easily. Pricing starts at $24 per user per month.

Read our latest review of 8×8.

Eduardo Vasconcellos contributed to this article.

Mark Fairlie
Mark Fairlie, Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Mark Fairlie has written extensively on business finance, business development, M&A, accounting, tax, cybersecurity, sales and marketing, SEO, investments, and more for clients across the world for the past five years. Prior to that, Mark owned one of the largest independent managed B2B email and telephone outsourcing companies in the UK prior to selling up in 2015.
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