All things considered, when it comes to VoIP vs landline systems, VoIP is definitely the better all-round solution for businesses in 2023. There are five key differences between VoIP and landline phone systems you should know:
- VoIP is cheaper than landline to install
- Running costs for VoIP are lower than for landline
- VoIP is more reliable than landline
- VoIP is better for flexible, remote, and hybrid workers
- Landline has a slight edge on call quality, but it's very marginal
Simply defined, VoIP (voice-over IP) is a type of phone system that allows you to make telephone calls via the internet, whereas a landline is a traditional, established telephone system that transmits communications via physical wires and cables.
Landlines may still be the right choice for some, even if VoIP tends to be better and nowadays it's easy to get a free, custom quote for a VoIP system in minutes. In this VoIP vs landline services guide, we'll run through the main differences between the two systems, the costs involved, and which one will work best for your business. All in all, we cover:
What Is VoIP?
VoIP is a way of making a telephone call over the internet, rather than through a traditional landline setup. Many VoIP vendors will provide your company with the hardware to host the online system locally, using an IP-PBX. Alternatively, providers can host the entire setup in the cloud, which is becoming increasingly common in 2023.
Either way, VoIP removes a business's reliance on physical lines (or much additional hardware), making it easier and cheaper to increase the number of phones for your expanding workforce than with a landline.
What is a Landline Phone?
A landline phone is another term for the traditional phone system – it works through copper wires running from a local or national telecommunications company to the premises. It’s a tried and tested technology, but also an old one with very little advancement in recent years.
Given its dependence on hardware, it is also considerably more expensive than a VoIP setup. This is due to the fact you have to install a private branch exchange (PBX) to serve an office environment where multiple phone lines are required, as well as upkeep and maintain the physical components of the system.
How VoIP and Landline Differ
Now we've covered precisely what VoIP and landline systems are, we can look at the main differences between the two:
|VoIP is internet-based, whereas landlines are analog — All VoIP communication is transmitted via the internet, whereas landline phones use physical wires to transmit signals between devices.|
|VoIP systems are cheaper than landlines — Landlines come with installation, maintenance, and hardware costs, whereas VoIP maintenance is a lot less costly to get up and running.|
|VoIP is more secure — Because landline phones use the Public Switched Telephone Network (PTSN), they're not as secure as VoIP software, which will encrypt all of your communications.|
|VoIP calls can be made on any device — You could make a VoIP call through your laptop, computer, or mobile device. Landline systems require hard phones to make a call.|
VoIP Pros and Cons
The core benefits of adopting voice-over IP vastly outweigh the few minor drawbacks you may encounter while using a VoIP system – but still, it's good to be aware of them.
|Pros of VoIP||Cons of VoIP|
|Inexpensive — Typical VoIP setup for 12 staff costs about $800, compared to $2,500 for a comparable landline system.||Reliant on good internet connection — You won't be able to make calls if there's a power outage, which won't affect landlines.|
|Flexible — VoIP systems come with a host of features, and you'll be able to tailor your package to fit your business's needs.||Call location can't be tracked — Having an internet number that's not tied to a specific physical location can slow down emergency services like ambulances.|
|Low maintenance needs — You'll need to opt for cloud hosting rather than on-premises VoIP installation for this benefit, but it saves time and money.||Latency — VoIP products can fall victim to latency issues, and opting for a poor provider could mean significant lag issues.|
|You can contact customers from any device — VoIP systems let your agents place work calls from laptops and mobile devices rather than desk handsets.|
|Cheaper international calls — VoIP providers usually offer cheaper international call rates than landline phones.|
These downsides can be mitigated, depending on which features are offered by the VoIP vendor. Some VoIP providers deliver your location data to local emergency services, and any high-quality VoIP service offers a function that will automatically re-route a call to an alternate line if the internet at your location has dropped the call.
Every service on this table of our top VoIP providers offers call re-routing. Click under each provider column to learn more and get the chance to receive a free, custom quote.
The typical lowest starting price. The lowest price available for your business will depend on your needs.
Relative score out of 5
Overall, hospitality, retail, healthcare & customer service
Value for money
Great for scaling
Overall customer experience
Great for international businesses
Great customer satisfaction
Startups on tight budgets
Small businesses that prioritize security
Short term, low cost
Very easy to set up and scale as necessary.
Option of unlimited or global extensions
Staff improve on the job
Available through a proprietary, purpose-built cloud
No contracts, keep your number, and work from anywhere.
Unlimited Calls in U.S. & Canada
Integrates with Microsoft Office, Google and others
Great automation and analytics tools.
High customer satisfaction at low prices
Integration with the Google platform
Basic, affordable option for smallest businesses
Landline Pros and Cons
Landlines mean stability and reliability, from sound quality to the sheer length of time they've been in use. Here are the biggest benefits landlines have to offer when contrasted with VoIP.
|Pros of Landline||Cons of Landline|
|Excellent audio quality — Landlines convert your sound waves directly into electricity and back again, while VoIP converts the waves into packets of data, limiting the quality.||Installation is a must — VoIP services can skip installations, but all landlines will require physical lines, and installation will cost several thousand at the least.|
|Tried and tested technology — Landlines have remained essentially unchanged since the 19th century||Technology is outdated — A landline can handle phone calls, but it won't come with modern perks like video calling.|
|Not affected by power outages — Landlines do use a tiny amount of electricity, but it's so little that phone companies can easily keep them running on generators.||Scaling is costly — Once your business has grown, you'll need another phone line in order to handle more simultaneous calls, and that means more installation.|
|The system will be familiar to employees — You won't have to teach your employees how to operate a new system, so there's no learning curve.|
If you run a smaller operation that just needs to make phone calls and little else, landlines are a good fit. But they may not be perfect for everyone, as they also come with some downsides. The higher upfront cost of adapting a landline is a big concern, particularly for smaller businesses that landlines would otherwise be a better fit for.
In some cases, installation won't be needed, as the location's previous users may have left the landlines ready to go. Even then, though, you'll want to keep them maintained to address any deterioration over the decades.
VoIP vs Landline: Pricing and Costs
VoIP costs are considerably cheaper than a traditional landline setup. Smaller setup fees, smaller maintenance and hardware costs, lower call charges – almost every facet of your traditional landline bill can be slashed considerably with a VoIP setup.
On average, VoIP users spend between $10 and $30 per user, per month on their VoIP systems. Not only that, but as your business grows, it’s easier and more cost-effective to add more VoIP lines for new staff than it ever would be for a landline system. Plus, you'll get lots of useful features such as video calling that aren't generally available from a landline system straight out of the box.
As we've covered, the typical VoIP setup for 12 employees costs around $800, compared to around $2,500 for a comparable landline system, so it's around half the costs, all things considered. What's more, VoIP services generally provide significantly cheaper international call rates than landlines – VoIP call rates to other countries can be as cheap as $0.01 per minute.
VoIP vs landline: equipment
The big advantage of VoIP is that pretty much any device can be used as a VoIP phone, whether it's your laptop or mobile device. Hardware is effectively optional. For a VoIP system, additional hardware you might want to consider includes desk phones and conference phones designed for group meetings and calls.
However, the key piece of hardware you're likely to need if you purchase a VoIP system is headsets. Headsets plug into the devices your staff members use to make calls – which will result in better audio quality and smoother conversations. Prices for these headsets can range from $25 to $150.
But importantly, with VoIP, it's all optional – employees can still use mobile devices as softphones. If you have good quality mobile devices and your internet connection is strong, then you might not even need headsets.
Desk handsets, which you may opt for if you've purchased a VoIP system but you'll definitely need if you're using a traditional landline system, also vary greatly in price. They're available from as little as $20 for basic models, to around $100 for mid-range business IP phones, to over $500 for more advanced units with video-calling capabilities and other features that already come packaged within VoIP software.
If you're using a landline, you'll also need an on-site line switching Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system, which will let you switch calls between users on local lines, and allow calls to be distributed to different devices within an office. There may also be additional costs relating to phone cables you'll need to connect all your phones up to the PBX system.
VoIP vs Landline: Which is Better?
VoIP and landlines can both support your business's phone call needs, whether for customer sales or client support. But they come with different strengths.
VoIP systems are less expensive than a landline and offer a wider range of features, but landlines have slightly crisper call audio. Below, we've got the full rundown of the main differences between VoIP and landline systems.
VoIP business benefits
Before we go into our voice-over IP vs landline head-to-head, if you'd like a bit more detail on the benefits of voice-over IP over a landline, then check out the video below – Tech.co's Duncan Lambden will walk you through everything you need to know about VoIP and its benefits.
VoIP vs landline: sound quality
Traditional landlines hold the ace when it comes to sound quality, but VoIP systems are getting better by the day. While landlines may not offer the large suite of features available with VoIP, the technology has been honed over decades to ensure that voice calls are as clear as possible, rarely suffering from interference, dropped calls, or poor quality.
Unlike landlines, the internet isn’t a system that was designed solely with vocal communication in mind. Instead, it was intended to carry data. The road to getting voice calls to be a viable means of connecting hasn’t always been smooth, as anyone who used VoIP in the early days will be able to attest to.
The aim has always been that the caller shouldn’t even be aware that the call is taking place over VoIP, and nowadays, in the vast majority of cases, this is true. While there may be the occasional blip here and there, VoIP sound quality has been highly polished, and if you opt for a reliable VoIP provider, it should be indistinguishable from an actual landline.
Just remember, the quality and speed of your internet connection will have a large impact on VoIP call quality, and it is therefore essential that you have faith in your provider’s ability to deliver a robust and speedy connection.
VoIP vs landline: features
It’s easy to be dazzled by the range and novelty value of some of the features available when first appraising your phone system options. You likely don't need every bell and whistle, but a few core features to expect from VoIP are:
- Mobile device accessibility
- Automatic redirection
- Auto attendants
- Video calling
- Ring groups
- Spam prevention
Many of these features can also be attained through a landline system, but some of them require specialized equipment, compared to the VoIP system's one-stop shop. Another thing to consider in the voice-over IP system vs landline match-up is that modern VoIP systems now offer a range of management features, such as call recording, monitoring, and transcripts, which are useful for training staff.
A lot of top VoIP providers such as RingCentral also offer collaboration tools like a task manager and a team chat feature that you won't find in Landline packages. As we've alluded to above, if you want these sorts of tools and features, you'll probably have to pay hefty fees for add-ons.
Knowing which features will add massive value to your business, and which are appealing but not absolutely essential, is crucial. If a key feature on your wants list is not included as standard, see if the provider can add it. If there are features included that you know are of limited value to you, see if they can be removed to reduce the overall cost. Modern VoIP phone solutions have never been so flexible and customizable, so take advantage of this.
VoIP vs landline: security
Security is also an issue when it comes to internet-based services. While VoIP is more prone to certain security risk than landlines because it's connected to the internet, landlines are connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PTSN) – which isn't encrypted like VoIP is. In 2023, all the typical security protocols are adhered to by top VoIP providers. Commonly found features include:
- Strong passwords
- Two-factor authentication
- Updated firmware on all mobile devices
- Review call logs regularly, flagging any unusual activity
- Disable international calling if your business doesn't use it
- Get a firewall for your router
Safety is a related concern. 911 responders can find landlines, but for an internet number, responders must rely on the shaky location data recorded from wireless carriers: In one study, only 187 out of 1,000 emergency call centers reported a “great deal” of confidence in this data.
Check to see if the VoIP provider you're interested in offers a guarantee that emergency services will know your location — Ooma, one of our top picks, offers a “911 Emergency Services” feature which does just that.
VoIP vs landline: reliability
Traditional landlines have proven to be dependable over the years and can continue to operate in situations such as power outages. While they are not infallible, they are notoriously stable most of the time. Modern VoIP connections are also very reliable, with some providers boasting a 99% uptime, but they don't quite match up.
VoIP’s key weakness is also its main strength – the internet. Every facet of VoIP is entirely dependent on being able to get online. If your internet goes down, so does VoIP. Ditto your power connection. This shouldn’t be a major cause for concern, but if you are looking at a VoIP network, it’s essential that you have an excellent and dependable internet provider, as this will form the backbone of the service.
If you’re interested in VoIP but worried your office internet connection might let you down, look for a provider who offers automatic rerouting to mobile devices as a backup in case of poor connection or power cuts. As mentioned earlier, all leading providers, such as 8×8 and Vonage, now offer this service.
VoIP vs landline: scalability
Scalability is another aspect to consider, as you'll want to invest in a phone system that can grow with your business. All in all, scaling a VoIP system – which will just require you to upgrade your plan and add more users – is much easier than upscaling a landline system. Software updates can quickly be downloaded and maintenance completed within seconds.
Scaling up a landline system comes with significant challenges because you'll need more hardware like desk phones and probably more phone cables and wiring, although this will depend on the state of your office's landline infrastructure.
When it comes to voice-over IP vs landline, for scalability, there's a clear winner.
VoIP vs landline: installation
If you opt for either a landline or an on-premises VoIP system, you'll need to factor in the cost and time required for installation. A VoIP hosted over the cloud is far more simple to set up, with just a software installation and a training session on how the features work.
In any case, you'll want to check with your prospective service providers whether training for your employees and phone system users is included, if this training is also applicable for new employees who join the business after the phone system is set up, and in what form the training comes – a video series or in-person live workshops are the most common forms.
Keeping everything running smoothly is an ongoing process, so you'll want to budget for unexpected maintenance. It can be difficult to account for all the possible costs and overheads associated with a new phone system installation, so just keep a contingency fund available if possible for those unexpected fixes and bumps in the first few months of getting the system up and running.
Why You Might Want Landlines
Landline phones are best for smaller companies with no plans to expand their employee base. A static staff count ensures no need for the extra trouble of installing additional physical lines down the road.
They're also a fit for a location with no access to reliable internet, as this is the potential downside to relying on VoIP system.
Why You Might Want VoIP
VoIP phones are best for a wider range of companies: Small and medium-sized businesses are best for cloud-based VoIP, due to the low upfront costs and high flexibility, while large businesses might want to consider an on-site VoIP system installation. Expanding companies will want a VoIP setup, provided they also have a solid internet connection. in a voice-over IP vs landline head-to-head, in almost all cases, there's only one winner – VoIP.
Verdict: VoIP Beats Landlines
VoIP is an excellent and inexpensive way to grow your business and ensure that you are responding to your customers' needs effectively. The benefits over a traditional landline are many, as the thousands of companies that have already made the switch to VoIP will attest.
Ready to make modernize your business and make the move to VoIP? Our online VoIP comparison tool will get you there, generating bespoke quotes for your company.
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