The evolution of cell phones is something we’ve all experienced in this day and age. Our mobile devices (and the quality of our selfies 🤳) have come a long way since the days of chunky, indestructible Nokias and the iconic Razr phone. 

And just like our personal devices, business phones have gone through a massive glow-up, too. Say goodbye to landlines and hello to the era of the internet phone.

Here’s what you need to know about using internet phone services for your small business or startup.

What’s an internet phone service?

An internet phone service is a system that allows you to manage calls just by using the internet. No need to set up wiring or add a bulky telephone to your desk. All you need is an internet connection and your device of choice to connect with clients, team members, partners, and more in real time.

You may know the internet phone as a cloud phone or by its more technical name, the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone. But no matter what you call it, it’s giving business phone systems a long-awaited model makeover even Tyra Banks would approve of and offers a ton of advantages.

The best part is, internet phone services let you do far more than make, receive, and route WiFi phone calls. They’re adapted to the modern small business landscape, just like you.

VoIP phones can do a lot more than you may think. After all, they’re connected to the internet — the same place where you can post Instagram Stories with face filters, order coffee to your door, and go viral on TikTok all at once. The possibilities are endless.

VoIP service providers like OpenPhone are constantly coming up with new features to make small business owners’ lives easier. For now, here are five advanced features that internet phone services commonly offer, beyond your typical call management needs.

1. International calling

More small businesses than ever are scattered around the world, which means traditional landline phones just don’t work for modern teams. Rather than tethering you to a specific place, internet phones make it easier than ever to build remote teams and reach new markets.

Internet phone services often offer unlimited calling to anywhere within the United States and Canada. Or, when you need to reach people elsewhere in the world, they can help you hop those borders for a small long-distance calling fee.

2. Text messaging

Internet phone: Screenshots of OpenPhone's mobile and desktop app interfaces

Have you ever been in the middle of a crowded street or a silent library when an incoming call pops up on your screen? Phone calls can be disruptive (or even awkward) in some settings — both to make and to receive. 

Having the ability to use text messaging, or SMS, gives you more flexibility in these situations. Most people have already adopted texting for business, and many prefer it.

Internet phone services often make it easy to offer text message options to customers and team members by including SMS directly on their platforms.

OpenPhone also allows you to send group messages, so you can keep everyone on the same page without jumping off-platform. And feel free to send your favorite memes to lighten up the work day because MMS is supported too. Finally, group texts you’ll actually want to be a part of.

3. Voicemail to text

Odds are, you’re not answering your phone 24/7. And if you miss a call, you may not be in a place where you can listen to voicemails either. Luckily, internet phone systems are smarter than your average landline and transcribe your voicemails, so you can read or listen — your choice.

You’ll no longer need to jump back into your voicemail box just to catch the bit you missed. Just make sure you’re on WiFi, and you can use your internet phone service to view the transcription as many times as you’d like.

4. Auto-attendant

Phone menu: Screenshot of OpenPhone's greeting message options

If you’ve ever had to “press two for the billing department,” then you’ve experienced the magic of auto-attendants. Internet phones allow you to set up a directory that pops up when customers call, so they can route their own call to the right place.

This functionality isn’t exclusive to internet phone systems, but it sure is a perk when you have a small team. Instead of having a team member manually route all your calls, the little helper inside the app will instantly send callers to the right person once a number is selected. You’ll no longer irritate callers by putting them on hold and transferring them multiple times.

5. Integrations

Integrations are a huge reason why small businesses are adopting internet services for all their needs. Internet phones enable you to connect all your favorite business tools together, so your operations run seamlessly.

OpenPhone specifically plays well with popular tools like Slack, HubSpot, Zapier, and your business email. As your tools communicate with each other automatically, you’ll have more time to perfect your sales, customer service, and internal communications strategies.

If this is how easy business can be once robots take over the world, we’re all for it. 🤖

Internet phone systems vs traditional phone systems

So now that you know what an internet phone system is and what it can do, let’s take a quick glance at traditional telephone services and how they stack up.

First, let’s take a look at the differences in setup. Traditional business phones are connected to a landline or an on-premises server. Even if you use cordless phones for your office, you’ll get pretty limited mobility, since there’s a lot more hardware and wiring going on behind the scenes.

Internet phones simplify your setup and offer much more flexibility. The device you’re using can be anything from an Android or iPhone to a PC or Mac. Or if you want, you can stick to traditional phones for phone calls and just get VoIP adapters to reap the benefits of cloud phones.

Compared to traditional phones, internet phones also offer benefits like:

  • Easier updates: No tech upgrades needed. Just update your system (for free!) like you would an app.
  • Better call tracking: Easily access your call history and even record calls as needed.
  • Faster scalability: Team members just need to download an app to access a new or shared phone number. You don’t need to purchase or install new hardware or wiring. With just a slight adjustment to your per-month pricing (if any), you’re all set.
  • Stronger reliability: As long as you have high-speed internet, you’ll get little to no downtime, great voice quality, and often faster connections.

The only caveat of internet phone systems: You really need good internet. You can run into trouble if you have an internet outage.

Of course, you could say the same about traditional phone lines. With landlines, you’re one snip away from entering a horror movie trope and being unable to call 911 — or worse, dozens of impatient clients.

What to consider when shopping for an internet phone service

If you’re convinced that an internet phone system is for you, it’s time to get shopping — wisely. As you’re gauging your options, keep your budget and your needs in mind to make sure you’re selecting the best fit.

For example, you may want to consider:

  • Whether or not your provider offers local or toll-free numbers
  • How much international call and text message rates are
  • Whether or not the system is compatible with your devices
  • How your data is handled and secured

Take the modern leap

When you sign up for an internet phone service, you can finally welcome your small business to the 21st century. Landlines are old news, and internet phones are here to stay. With endless features and simpler updates and scalability, VoIP solutions are the perfect match for a variety of small business needs. Try out a modern internet phone for yourself by taking advantage of a free trial of OpenPhone.

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Emily is a freelance business and marketing writer based in the desert, though her writing is anything but dry. Her passion is writing compelling, human-friendly content that helps growing businesses perform better.

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