Some of our business customers approach us with analog phones that they want to use on our VoIP Phone Plans, which are digital in nature. This is entirely possible with an analog to digital phone converter. We typically recommend the Cisco SPA112 Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA).
Customers can benefit from cost savings and simple plan setup when they choose to use their existing phones. When they use analog phones with an ATA, however, they also run into limitations that VoIP phones – built for use in digital systems – don’t have.
When should you use an analog to digital phone converter? When is it best to switch to a VoIP phone? We hope to make that clear in the discussion here.
How an Analog to Digital Phone Converter Gives New Life to Your Phones
An ATA like the Cisco SPA112 can connect your analog phone to the internet. It converts signals that would normally pass through a standard telephone system to one that works through your internet service.
A brief explanation of this process is that the ATA converts analog signals to digital packets of information, and completes that process in reverse when receiving information from a call participant. This type of data conversion involves packet switching (how the internet works) and circuit switching (how analog phone systems work). You can read more detail about packet switching vs. circuit switching in our What is VoIP? guide linked here.
VoIP networks, like those VirtualPBX Phone Plans use, are not built to handle analog information, so the ATA provides conversion for data the VoIP network does not natively understand.
Our customers who use an analog to digital phone converter get to keep their existing phones. They may choose this route for a number of reasons:
Although many entry-level desk phones are affordable even for small companies, conference phones can cost several hundred dollars.
When you are planning to add VoIP phones to your lineup, it’s smart to plan for the future and get phones that will serve you well. Try not to settle on the base model when you really need all the functions of the executive model.
The executive model can be pricey, however, so a good middle ground while you’re saving money can be using an analog to digital adapter with a phone you already own. You can also supplement your existing hardware with our software options like the VirtualPBX Web Phone that runs in your web browser on desktop and mobile.
Ease of Use
Businesses such as hotel chains may have an analog phone in every room for their own customers to use. Such customers may not need all the features of an IP phone, and other pieces of business collateral, such as information sheets, may already reference the existing phones and would be difficult to update on a large scale.
In these types of situations, it can make sense to use an ATA that easily attaches to the analog phones already present in each room. Customers will still have access to all the phone functions they need, and your business can depend on the adapter to keep those phones working for years to come.
Phones that are still working may not be seen as expendable. In fact, we support that attitude.
We want to see our customers use electronics recycling services and upgrade their devices when possible to save from the unnecessary creation of new materials.
Several phone models in our Online Store are refurbished to aid in the effort of conservation and keep working, pre-owned phones in circulation. Our refurbished VoIP phones work as well as when they were new but are available at significant price reductions.
Whatever your reasons for keeping existing phones, an ATA can make it possible to breathe new life into those older devices. Just be aware of their limitations before moving forward.
Switching to New VoIP Phones
The advantages of VoIP phones arise largely from their simple setup and ease of use.
When ordering a VoIP phone from VirtualPBX, it will automatically add itself to your VirtualPBX Phone Plan. You only need to plug the phone into an active broadband internet connection and plug in the phone’s power adapter.
The phone will find your phone plan and register itself as available for use. You can then add it to a user and begin making calls.
This process only takes a few minutes, and it saves you from having to mess with configuration files.
Analog phones don’t have this capability. If you’re setting up an ATA to work with your analog phone, it will require manual intervention during setup.
Many VoIP phones come with physical buttons for a range of features like call forwarding and transferring calls.
These buttons turn complex processes into one-touch actions that can save you time during your workday. Even entry-level phones like the Yealink SIP-T21P have a key for transferring calls. This makes that process as simple as pressing the button and entering a users’ extension.
ATAs often have support for these types of functions. However, they only support the transmission of system data. The functions will only work through the ATA if they already exist as buttons on your analog phone. An employee who regularly needs to transfer calls, participate in conferences, or place calls on hold is well served by a phone that has these functions available.
Busy Lamp Field / Programmable Keys
Busy Lamp Field (BLF), also known as Presence, is an important part of VoIP phone plans that many VoIP phones can use to instantly show you the status of a co-worker.
Is your superior on a call? Is the sales department out to lunch? Has your programming lead left for the day? A quick look at your VoIP phone’s screen can show you those individual and department statuses. Any extension on your VirtualPBX Plan that you program into your phone has the ability to show the status of the person(s) who use that device.
Moreover, many VoIP phones come with programmable keys – also called direct station selection (DSS) keys – that can be set to reach a specific device. For instance, a receptionist could program their sales and marketing departments and their CEO into DSS keys for simple call transferring and easy automatic dialing. BLF status may be shown in DSS keys so you can see the person/department availability before completing the transfer or call.
ATAs don’t usually have access to the type of system information necessary to show BLF or program a DSS. Even an advanced analog phone with these features would be hobbled by the limitations of the ATA.
Should You Keep or Switch?
In most cases, we recommend that our customers buy new phones when they begin using VoIP. The purpose-built phones are meant to interact well with the phone system, and they give you access to all the features that come with your VirtualPBX Plan.
However, there are circumstances where an ATA might work better, at least during a transitional period for your business where you want to save money, determine which phones work best for your business, find which system features you use most, etc.
Don’t hesitate to start a chat with our team to discuss your situation. We’re happy to share our recommendations on which phones best fit your company and offer expert advice on how you can make the best use of a VirtualPBX Business Phone Plan.