Tech Tip: In VoIP implementations, what is a softphone?
By: Bob Lanier on Thursday, February 2, 2012

Q: I'm moving to VoIP soon. What is a softphone? Should I get one?

A: A softphone is a software-based phone client that greatly expands your ability to place or receive calls when working outside of the office. It can be installed on a smartphone, laptop or a desktop computer. When placing calls through your softphone, you appear to be calling from your office. Most softphones also display your contact list from your VoIP account, enabling quick contact availability for ease of dialing. Incoming calls to your office phone number ring simultaneously on your office phone and your softphone, wherever you may be.

Softphones installed on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Mobile smartphones greatly enhance your mobility. The phone-based client can be downloaded from the Apple App Store, Android Market, BlackBerry App World or Windows® Phone Marketplace for a nominal one-time fee. Once installed, the application presents familiar features, such as a dial pad, voicemail icon, and a "Contacts" section. The calls are received and transmitted as data through a wireless access point or the user's 3G/4G connection.

A PC-based softphone simulates a regular telephone by using the computer's audio system, microphone or an external headset and allows you to place and answer phone calls. A dial pad may appear which is used to enter phone numbers, along with call logs and point-and-client contact directories.

Calls being made from remote locations through a VoIP softphone are generally routed over the Internet, costing significantly less than toll calls made from a hotel landline or a cell phone with a "minutes"-based plan. Depending on your softphone vendor, the advanced features you've come to expect with VoIP are fully integrated into the softphone client. Additionally, a softphone client on a smartphone or laptop is far more convenient than having to transport an actual VoIP phone to one's home or while traveling.

As you can see, a softphone can be very useful to most organizations. If you are considering implementing a softphone for your business, these are the key selection criteria to keep in mind:

  • The connection. Be mindful of the fact that the quality of a call made over a softphone is dependent upon the connection it is traveling over and the traffic that is sharing that connection. Calls from wireless smartphones may be impacted by a weak wireless signal. Calls made through residential internet connections are generally very clear due the large amount of bandwidth available through these systems. Consult a softphone vendor you trust for recommended bandwidth requirements.
  • The laptop or PC. Factors such as speed, memory utilization, firewall settings and the presence of sound cards and microphones are things that need to be considered when planning for an enterprise softphone deployment. For this reason, consider an IT management services vendor which is versed in all aspects of IT to ensure seamless integration of your softphone.
  • The technology. Softphones are typically purchased directly from online sources by the user or in bulk by the provider. For consistency, consider purchasing softphones from a source that offers versions compatible with the range of devices used by your employees.

mindSHIFT can help you assess your VoIP needs and determine if your organization will benefit from softphone implementation.

Learn more about mindSHIFT's cloudSHIFTSM VoIP solutions or contact us.

Bob Lanier is mindSHIFT's Product Manager for VoIP, based in our Sterling, VA office.




IT security penetration testing pen testing vulnerability assessment vulnerability testing security audit Anti-virus malware ransomware Mobile device management MDM tablet security mobile phone security smartphone security Password security best practices E-rate E-rate Modernization Order K-12 schools Charter schools USAC Universal Service Administrative Company National Education Technology Plan Every Student Succeeds Act Trade associations IT support computer management cybersecurity business continuity disaster recovery data backup virtual desktop cloud desktop Cloud computing backup apps applications business growth Enterprise Web Protection Enterprise Threat Protection cybercrime spyware advanced persistent threats malvertising watering holes threat intelligence Nonprofit organizations charities Financial services secure desktop Wi-Fi data security phishing managed service provider MSP Computer support managed IT services computer consultant tech support Hybrid cloud public cloud private cloud classroom network PARCC Measures of Academic Progress APTs AWS Amazon Web Services Sitecore CMS content management systems personalization social engineering spear phishing cyber security cyber safety email security BYOD VDI desktop in the cloud Windows Server 2003 Hosted Exchange Office 365 IT outsourcing outsource IT IT services cloud services cloud hosting desktop managed services Law firm IT Legal IT LegalTech IT Services for Law Firms SharePoint SharePoint migration SharePoint 2013 SharePoint 2010 SharePoint 2007 professional services infopath managed services legal IT solutions Small Business IT SMB IT Windows Server 2003 EOL cloud servers WinShock Windows vulnerability disaster planning disaster preparedness hurricane season email backup server backup cloud backup email encryption data encryption data breach HIPAA Heartbleed OpenSSL website security Windows XP desktop as a service DaaS software application hosting ISV SaaS Bring your own device smartphone hacker smartphone malware IT consulting IT strategy VoIP IT Management Services desktop virtualization Education IT Solutions IT management IT staffing Intranet Office 15 migration Collaboration Business Intelligence Apple® iOS 7® operating system iPhone® 5s iPhone® 5c iPhone® 4g iPhone® 4s iPad® 2 iPad mini iPod® touch hosted cloud services security data center IT support healthcare IT ePHI enterprise mobility management tablet pc security app security smart phone compliance hosted mobile device management SaaS MDM mobile content management MCM cloud mobile device management mobile application management Sitecore CMS Content Management System Telligent social marketing social media communities desktop backup laptop backup IBMi Power Systems iSeries AS/400 System I Power 7+ AIX Maxava iTera Mimix Vision Solutions Sitecore CMS 6.5 Hosted Desktop encryption compliance Document Management Virtualization videos customer testiomonials Green IT cloudshift Protected Health Information regulatory compliance Desktop vitrualization EHR Electronic Health Records