Session Initiation Protocol: The Basics of SIP Phone Software
With so many options available, finding the best SIP phone software for your business may seem challenging initially. However, after learning what features to look for and a few basic concepts, you should be able to decide on the ideal solution to enhance your business communications.
First off, let’s explain what SIP is. SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol. According to Gartner, it is “A communication protocol specified by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). It’s the first real-time communication protocol to enable multiuser sessions, regardless of media content. SIP enables a new generation of communication services across the internet, as well as over fixed and mobile IP networks. SIP enables communications to be initiated and managed, and its key channels include voice, video and instant messaging (IM).”
SIP works with SIP trunks. Customers who have SIP-enabled private branch exchange (IP-PBX) solutions can utilize these pathways to receive telephone and other unified communications services over the internet. Combined with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), SIP replaces traditional telephone lines or PRIs (Primary Rate Interfaces).
Businesses traditionally use two main components to communicate:
- The PBX, which provides auto-attendants, voicemail and call management.
- The PRI lines, which connect calls to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) and then route them to the recipient’s telephone.
A SIP trunk allows PBXs to connect to the data network instead of PRI lines and enables voice traffic to travel via the internet to make calls. As a result, SIP costs are typically much lower than PRI lines.
SIP phone software supports these processes, generally with a control panel that gives users direct access to their network. Instead of relying on telecom technicians to add and remove physical lines at an office location, SIP phone software allows you to make and receive calls and manage your account online.
Related: SIP Trunking 101: The Fundamentals
How to Place a Call with SIP Phone Software
Although the technical background behind how SIP works can be complex, you can easily place a call with this technology by using SIP phone software. Here’s a generic step-by-step breakdown:
- Find a softphone, such as Xlite or Zoiper.
- Configure a SIP trunk from your trusted provider directly in the softphone.
- Dial the country code, the area code and then the phone number.
- When calling other countries, enter the country code, the city code and then the phone number.
Ease of use is just one of the many advantages of the SIP trunk approach. However, the primary drivers are cost and flexibility.
SIP trunking eliminates the need for PRI lines, and thus their price, as we mentioned above. In addition, you can purchase SIP trunks by the channel, or by one concurrent call, as opposed to PRI lines, which contain 23 channels. This allows your business to buy and pay only for what you need and easily scale your operations as your requirements change.
The Best SIP Phone Software Checklist
Only the best SIP phone software providers will fulfill your needs and go beyond them by offering a series of unique features. Use the following checklist as a guide to finding the ideal SIP partner.
User-friendly control panel
Usability is key. You want to be able to easily manage your account with an easy-to-use control panel that puts everything you need in one place. Processes such as purchasing and managing phone numbers, adding, changing or discontinuing your service, viewing and exporting real-time data records and changing your billing preferences should be simple and easily accessible.
Dialer traffic welcome
The vast majority of SIP trunking providers do not permit outbound dialers or telemarketing traffic. However, leading SIP providers have special arrangements with upstream carriers that are comfortable with this kind of traffic and will accommodate this requirement if you need it.
Call data records in real-time
In addition to providing you with a view of your business activities, Call Data Records (CDRs) help you understand your communication needs. A leading SIP phone software provider will make sure that all of your CDRs are available in the Control Panel in near real-time. You want to be able to search for calls from today or a year ago easily.
If your business requires Direct Inward Dialing (DID), top SIP phone software providers should be able to offer an extensive database of US-based phone numbers at varied rates. Check if they offer International DIDs in multiple countries around the world, and if you can search their database, order and obtain numbers instantly, and if you can use backorder numbers if they are not available.
Make sure your broadband provider gives you the option to select your internet connection from your carrier of choice. Some SIP trunking providers require you to purchase your data connectivity through them, often at a higher rate, but the top providers let you choose.
International toll fraud protection
The leading systems in the industry monitor for international call fraud in real-time and take immediate action to terminate unauthorized international calls, shutdown your trunk and alert both your customers and their Network Operations Centers. By implementing these processes, you will receive the highest level of protection.
Find out if you can use “nomadic” e911 for any US DID. Having this feature will allow any valid USPS address to be associated with a telephone number in the US. If someone dials 911 from that number, the emergency services operator would see it. If you often travel or use different phones in different geographical locations, nomadic e911 is essential.
Adaptability to work with other open-source solutions
An ideal SIP phone software service should be a perfect fit with open source phone systems like Asterisk, FreeSwitch, Elastix and others. You will be able to immediately start using our service once they provide you with detailed ‘cut-and-paste’ trunk configuration details.
Tier-1 redundant network
Does your provider use Tier-1 upstream carriers to route traffic? If not, you may miss out on the best sound quality as well as a redundant network platform with high performance. Also, find out if they have multiple gateways around the US to eliminate any single points of failure.
Fault-tolerant DID routing
Top provider systems have the unique advantage of routing an inbound DID to both a primary and secondary IP PBX. If there is a failure on the primary PBX, they will send the inbound call to a secondary PBX if you have dual PBXs for redundancy. If a routing failure occurs, they should also offer the ability to forward the call to a backup PSTN number. The Control Panel allows you to set all of this up in a seamless way.
Simple SIP pricing and no contract
Setting up your SIP phone software and paying for it should be easy. The best companies offer a prepaid service with no contract and a fixed monthly cost per unlimited SIP trunk channel. The Control Panel allows you to add channels, DIDs, cancel at any time and upgrade channels conveniently online.
No obligation free trial
SIP trunking companies with free trial accounts are the most recommended. To test their service before you invest, the best companies will give you a block of outbound calling minutes you can use immediately to make calls.
You can activate SIP.us services instantly. Business owners looking to improve their communications and reduce costs can choose from various SIP trunking options at SIP.us. With SIP.us, any company can easily upgrade to SIP phone software and deploy SIP trunking according to their needs. Get started now.