The Best Office Phones for Small Business

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 24, 2023 9:45:00 AM

Office phone technology has advanced significantly over the past decade. Long gone are the days when businesses needed to purchase a stand-alone phone system and connect to analog lines provided by the telephone company. VoIP technology offers a cloud-based phone system, providing small businesses with features that will enhance their business communications more than ever before. 

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Tags: small business phone service, VoIP Phone

Is a SIP Phone the Same as a VoIP Phone?

Posted by Mark Greim on Sep 26, 2023 9:45:00 AM

The SIP and VoIP terminology have been used interchangeably in reference to business phone service over the internet. Technically, this is incorrect. SIP, or Session Initiation Protocol, is the underlying protocol that enables communication to occur over the internet from a variety of sources, like video, data, and voice. VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, only represents voice packets being sent between endpoints over the internet.

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Tags: VoIP Phone

Review of the Polycom VVX Models of VoIP Phones

Posted by Mark Greim on Dec 19, 2014 8:20:00 AM

During our certification for sale process, sipVine had the opportunity to conduct extensive user testing of several of the Polycom VVX models of VoIP phones.  The VVX300 and VVX400 models are the base and mid-range phones in the line-up, and will prove to be easy to use and solid workhorses for the heavy phone users in small to medium-sized businesses.  The VVX500 and VVX600 models are higher-end phones in the line-up and represent the cutting edge in VoIP phone technology.  These phones are sharp looking, high tech, and are reflective of Polycom's leadership in the marketplace.  This series of Polycom phones will serve businesses well and take advantage of everything business VoIP has to offer.

Standard Features:

They come with all of the standard, hardware-driven features you would expect from a Polycom VoIP phone, such as: call forwarding, call transferring, three-way conferencing, do not disturb, directories, and voicemail.  All phones come with Polycom's best-in-class speakerphone and HD voice clarity. 

Additionally, the stand for the Polycom VVX series will allow for 3 different angles.  You can select a new angle with ease, a vast improvement over the stand of the previous Polycom models.  Compared to a Cisco SPA series model where you have only one angle, these Polycom VVX's are superior in this regard.



  • VVX300 - Backlit, grayscale screen with 6 lines
  • VVX400 - Backlit, color screen with 12 lines
  • VVX500 - Backlit, color touch screen with 12 lines
  • VVX600 - Backlit, color touch screen with 16 lines

Compared to the previous Polycom IP phone series, one upgrade is in the number of lines/favorites that appear on the screen.  The lower end models in the IP series had two to three lines, versus the six to 12 lines with the VVX300 and 400 models.  The VVX500 and 600 provide for 12 to 16 lines, respectively.  If you provision two lines for inbound/outbound calling, you'll have four to 14 "favorites" that are effectively speed dials.  If the favorite is in your organization and on the VoIP service, you can enable a busy lamp field (BLF), so you will know if that person is on the phone or not.

The VVX400, 500, and 600 all have color screens, which adds to their elegance.  The two higher-end models have touch screens, which resonate well with tablet and smart-phone users.  Additionally, the higher-end models allow you to personalize the screen saver and background via a USB port or through the web configuration utility.  


The VVX300 and 400 models have dual 100mb ports, so your phone can share an ethernet connection with your computer.  You can upgrade the lower models to a VVX310 and 410 to have dual gigabit ports so your phone will not be a bottleneck when passing large files over your network.  The VVX500 and 600 come with standard, dual gigabit ports.  Finally, the VVX600 model will allow for a Blue Tooth headset pairing.

Cool Stuff:

Of course, if you're not already familiar with the functionality of VoIP phones, then the features above will all seem pretty cool!  However, these new Polycom phones have functionality that will really delight even the experienced VoIP users!  For example, with the USB port on the VVX500 and 600, you can attach a zip drive and record calls.  The display will show you how many hours of recording you have available on the drive.  All models allow you to integrate the phone with your computer's mouse and keyboard, allowing for a mouse over and click to dial from your favorites or directory.  Additionally, these models will integrate with your Outlook Exchange calendars, providing you a view of your calendar from your phone, and dialing from the calendar for conference calls. 

Polycom also has a "My Info Portal", which allows access to stocks, news, sports, weather and other streamlined content to the phone's screen.  Finally, both the VVX500 and VVX600 have optional cameras that will allow for Desktop Video Conferencing from phone to phone or interact with video conference bridges right from the phone.

sipVine Review:

During our certification of the VVX models on the sipVine service, we reviewed all models and functions of the phones.  The VVX500 and VVX600 truly are the "Cadillacs" of the series, both in terms of functionality and price.  With the exception of standard gigabit ports, the touch screens, USB ports, and the video conference options, VVX400 has all of the same features as the VVX500 and VVX600.  However, the VVX500 and VVX600 will retail 48% and 82% higher than the VVX400, respectively.  The VVX300 has a grayscale screen and has even a greater price advantage.

Focusing first on the differences between the high-end models and the standard models, the color touch screens in the higher-end models are very nice.  It takes a little getting used to when compared with physical line buttons or softkeys on VoIP phones, but you'll catch on quickly.  Smudges are not noticeable, and clean up with a soft cloth will keep the phone clean and free from scratches.  Due to the cost of the phones, we didn't dare attempt to clean with a paper towel, so we cannot comment on the screen's ultimate durability!  The phone screens can pick up a glare, so the angle options are not just nice, but a necessity.

The other benefit over the lower models is the USB port, allowing for recording of calls right from the phone as well as personalized screen savers and background pictures.  Where recording of calls may have a specific benefit to various organizations and users, the screen saver "benefit" is not a driver toward purchasing these upper-end models versus the standard models.

That takes us to the video conferencing.  First, the optional camera will add $135 to the purchase price.  The screen sizes are adequate.  Being able to call into a video conference bridge is a great advantage for those who interact that way routinely, as phone to phone video interaction is only beneficial to those who really see the need.  It is only usable for personal video conference interaction, as a group huddling around the phone for the conference is not a viable option.  There are some even higher-end VVX phone options with larger screens (VVX1500 and VVX1500D), but we did not review those phones.

The VVX300 and VVX400 phones are easy to use and intuitive for the user who may be new to VoIP.  Compared to the Cisco SPA models of phones, they have superior speakerphones and a larger number of Lines/BLFs on the phone itself, however, the Cisco models win the ease of use battle.  The VVX300 has 6 lines, versus the 4 line Cisco SPA504.  The VVX400 has 12 lines and a color screen, versus the 8 line, grayscale SPA508.

Both the VVX300 and 400 models have hard buttons next to the line appearance/BLF that change color when in use.  These present a similar user experience to other VoIP phones.  We found it easier to transfer / dial utilizing the hard buttons versus the touch screens of the higher end models, likely due to our previous familiarity with physical buttons.  The menu scroll/select button is slightly cumbersome, and the touch screens of the higher-end models are superior in the scrolling/selecting functionality.

The backlit, grayscale screen of the VVX300 is clear and readable, but doesn't blow you away with clarity.  The color screen of the VVX400 is much better than the grayscale.

I will make one comment on a feature of all models tested.  The integration of the computer keyboard and mouse with the phone is cool, but a little distracting.  There are a few times during the day where I've scrolled over and clicked on a favorite to dial.  The keyboard was nice when entering contacts into my directory, but, honestly, that was a one-time effort.  Searching directory listings is aided by this functionality to some extent.  All things considered, I found myself scrolling my mouse over to the phone on accident quite routinely during the day.  You basically program the setting to indicate what side of the computer the phone resides, and it opens up that border of the screen to scroll to the phone.  I didn't realize how often I scroll to the max end of the screen to exit from programs or scroll up and down until I no longer had a side border to stop my mouse.  So, I will likely turn that option off.

Suffice it to say, the higher-end models will likely be a luxury alternative for sipVine business VoIP customers in the small to medium-sized market space.  Most will select the VVX300 and VVX400 phones for their general office deployment.  Some executives may select the higher-end models, as they really are nice.  I'm using the VVX500 now, and don't want to give it up!

Overall, these models of phones by Polycom will become one of sipVine's lead products.  Our previously lead product was the Cisco SPA500 series, which possesses many great features and flexibility.  However, these Polycom models surpass the Cisco models in many ways, and we're looking forward to sharing these advantages with our current and future customers!


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of VoIP phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

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Tags: VoIP Phone

sipVine vs. National VoIP Providers

Posted by Mark Greim on Apr 24, 2014 10:35:00 AM

While VoIP phone service is rapidly becoming the industry leader in features, affordability, and overall performance, not all VoIP providers are created equal. As more businesses turn to hosted VoIP to fulfill their communications needs, that means more providers are jumping on the VoIP bandwagon, but many of them don't have the focus on call quality and dependability that your business really needs in a VoIP phone system.

That's where sipVine comes in. At sipVine, VoIP is what we do. While many national providers have started offering VoIP services to take advantage of its boom in popularity, they aren't always able to offer the same kinds of call quality and dependability that we can. Since VoIP service is delivered over your Internet bandwidth, it doesn't work quite the same way as a traditional phone system, which can pose unique challenges in terms of call quality that many national providers may not be prepared to handle.

sipVine's cutting-edge Quality of Service (QoS) technology ensures that you get the best possible quality on voice calls. By prioritizing voice traffic over other Internet bandwidth, our QoS technology can eliminate voice issues such as echoes, jitter, or lack of clarity, without sacrificing the efficiency of your data traffic. Also, instead of just dumping your voice traffic into your normal Internet bandwidth, our technicians evaluate your bandwidth to ensure that there is enough available capacity for voice traffic, and help you make any needed adjustments for best quality.

Because we specialize in VoIP phone service, sipVine can offer other advantages that national providers can't. Our technicians and engineers are all VoIP specialists who place customer service first. We prize our business clients, and want all of our associates to get to know each and every one of our customers firsthand. Furthermore, we're so confident in our VoIP service that we don't require any term contracts. We believe that our day-to-day service is so good that it will keep you coming back.

And because VoIP is what we do, we can offer you the best service around, not merely in call quality, but also in customization and features. We customize every VoIP service install to your needs, installing our VoIP phones and feature sets around the way that you do business. After all, your phone system is a tool, and a tool is only useful if it helps you to get the job done. You can choose from a robust feature set of the kind that you'd typically only find in more expensive VoIP systems, but at a fraction of the price. That's just part of the sipVine difference!

At the end of the day, though, the biggest advantage of VoIP phone service from sipVine is that you'll have a communications partner in your corner who understands the important role that good communication plays in running a business. It's our job to make sure that our customers can stay in touch with their customers, and it's a role that we take very seriously.

About the author: Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of hosted VoIP phone systems and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments.

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Tags: VoIP Phone Service, business, VoIP Phone

10 Ways to Spot a sipVine Customer

Posted by Mark Greim on Dec 23, 2013 1:06:00 PM

Who are sipVine's customers? Anyone who needs a good, affordable, flexible solution for their organization's phone system. But there's more to it than that. There are many ways you can spot a sipVine VoIP customer. While they come from all walks of life, and all types of business, they've always got a few things in common. sipVine customers are:

Happy – There are few things in life more satisfying than when something works exactly as it's supposed to, and with sipVine's VoIP service, our customers have a lot to be happy about. Our commitment to customer service ensures that anything that goes wrong is handled quickly, efficiently, and with a minimal disruption to our client's business, so that our customers can keep that smile on their face.

Secure – At sipVine, nothing is more important to us than the security and privacy of our customers. Our hosted platform features fully-redundant servers in a secure data center, and our customizable built-in disaster recovery program lets our customers maintain control even in the event of an interruption of service.

Well-connected to their customers – VoIP phone service from sipVine ensures that our customers are always in touch with their customers clearly, easily, and efficiently. It's our business to make sure that our customers can do business.

Flexible – sipVine customers are highly adaptable entrepreneurs and business leaders, riding the wave of new technology, and they expect us to be just as flexible. That's why we offer customizable deployment packages to ensure that our VoIP plans fit the specific needs of our customers.

Efficient – There's a reason that customers choose VoIP phone solutions. They want to get more done, and they don't want an outdated phone system getting in the way. Our customers have a lot to do, and they need solutions that will help them get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Cutting-edge – Hosted VoIP phone service allows our customers to future-proof the phone system at their business. sipVine stays on top of new technology, and helps implement it seamlessly into their VoIP system, with no more need to worry about old phone systems becoming obsolete. Plus, our custom-tailored feature deployment means that our customers can add their own personal touches to their phone systems.

Confident – Our customers need to be able to have confidence in themselves and their business, which means they need to be able to feel confident about the performance of their phone systems. That's why they rely on sipVine. Our round-the-clock observation, maintenance, and support of our hosted VoIP systems give our customers the peace of mind they need to run their business.

Savvy – Our customers want the best from their phone systems, but they also don't have money to burn. They want a good return on their investment, and they know that VoIP phone systems can save money not just on installation, but also down the road in monthly service charges, maintenance, and administrative costs.

Forward-thinking – VoIP customers are looking to the future, not just in terms of riding the crest of new technology, but also in terms of business growth and cost savings. Hosted VoIP from sipVine allows our customers the flexibility to easily adjust their phone systems to changing business needs and new challenges, while also offering them cost-saving benefits in the long term.

Satisfied – Above all else, sipVine customers are satisfied. We consider it our duty to ensure that our customers receive the best possible service, and we're so committed to it that we require no long term contracts. We believe that our service speaks for itself, and that our customers will be so satisfied that they'll be happy to keep coming back to us month after month.

If you think you've got the makings of a sipVine customer, give us a call today to learn more about our VoIP phone solutions!

About the author: Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of hosted VoIP phone systems and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and has a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments.

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Tags: voip business phone system, Business Digital Phone Service, small business phone service, VoIP Phone

Review of Cisco SPA525G VoIP Phone for Hosted Phone Service

Posted by Mark Greim on Dec 14, 2012 2:37:00 PM

The Cisco SPA525G VoIP phone is the top end phone in the Cisco small business series.  The series is commonly used by Hosted VoIP companies in their phone selections.  Consistent with the entire line up of phones, the SPA525 model is very user friendly from both the system administrator and the end user standpoint. Being a top end phone, you would expect some nice additional features for the approximately $100 in additional cost.

The Great:

  • This phone has a very crisp color screen.  You can upload a picture or company logo to the screen’s background for a nice personalized touch.  The screen is larger than the other, monochrome backlit phones in the series.
  • With the SPA525, you can connect a blue tooth headset to use as a wireless option.  This is a more elegant approach for a cordless headset for these models of phones.  The other phones in the line up only provide for a corded headset to work with the headset control on the phone.  If you were to attach a cordless headset to the other phones, you have to loop it with the handset and apply a lifter to the phone.  So, the blue tooth option is awesome with the SPA525.

The Good:

  • The SPA525 is also WiFi capable, thus a corded Ethernet connection is not necessary for this phone.  Although the phone’s performance will be subject to the WiFi strength, potential interference, and access point capacity, it does offer a good alternative to Ethernet wiring to current unwired workstations. 
  • A very cool feature of the SPA525 is that it can record calls on-demand to a jump drive that can be plugged into the USB port on the phone.  You can listen to the calls after recording or safe the files to your computer from the jump drive.  The only reason why this isn’t a “great” feature is that it may be duplicative to the recording service many hosted VoIP providers already provide.  However, if your hosted VoIP provider charges extra for recordings, this will allow you to take control of the recording yourself and eliminate the extra charge.

The Not So Good:

  • This phone has 5 lines, which is an upgrade from the 4 line base model, SPA504, but less than the 8 line SPA508.  In my mind, with the bigger screen, they could have easily made this a ten line phone.  Some hosted providers can program the lines to be speed dials to other users and set it so you can see when they are currently on the phone.  You only need two to three “lines” for Direct Dials or main line rings, so having more buttons available to speed dial or see the status of other associates.
  • There is a definite premium for the top of the line phone.  Generally speaking, these cost about $100 more than the base phone.  If the dollars don’t seem too bad, the percentage of increase would – 83%!  Ouch!

At sipVine, the majority of phones we utilize in our installations are the Cisco SPA500 series.  Perhaps a sign of economic turnaround is that more companies have been willing to pay the premium for the nicer desk phones.  When compared to the desk phones attached to popular on-site systems, they still are very affordable. 


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of digital phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 


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Tags: VoIP Phone

Use of Soft Phones in Hosted VoIP Deployments

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 30, 2012 9:56:00 AM

Phone technology in the business environment continues to improve as more companies shift to hosted VoIP services.  Many companies have incorporated desk phone alternatives in their office environment, such as soft phones that operate on their computers.

Check with your current or potential hosted VoIP provider to see if they support soft phone products.  sipVine, as an example, supports the soft phone line up from Counterpath.  Full featured soft phones range in price from $34 to $45, making it extremely economical to deploy in the office environments.  One key is to have a quality headset to utilize in conjunction with these phones.

Applications – Use of soft phones range from a full deployment among all associates to selected or complimentary assignment.  Companies may select associates who work from home or travel frequently to have soft phones set up on their lap top computers.  Similar to having an office desk phone at home, a benefit of the hosted VoIP phone systems is that these individuals will have the appearance of being on the in-house phone system, with the ability to include them in ring groups and to extension dial or transfer calls internally.  Additionally, some employees may have soft phones set up as a compliment to their office desk phone.  In these cases, the soft phone is set up to ring at the same time as the desk phone.  Associates only turn the soft phone on when they are working remotely.

Other Alternatives – Soft phones are also available for the Apple iPad or iPhone, allowing those devices to be utilized as an extension of the office phone.  For the iPad, there are available headsets to allow for better ease of use.  It is not recommended that these devices be utilized as a primary office phone, as they are dependent upon a solid WiFi or 3G/4G signal.  We would not recommend use of this version of soft phone while driving or moving around.  However, when traveling internationally, this is a great alternative to paying international minutes on your cell phone!

Soft phones are just another example of how a hosted VoIP service can transform your business, making associates more efficient and accessible to your customers.  Contact a hosted VoIP provider today to learn more about the benefits of moving to a hosted phone system.


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of digital phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 

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Tags: VoIP Phone

Why sipVine Promotes Cisco and Polycom for VoIP Phone Selection

Posted by Mark Greim on Oct 2, 2012 9:06:00 AM

There are a number of VoIP phone models and manufacturers, and choosing the right ones can make or break hosted VoIP phone service providers.  sipVine, a nationwide provider of hosted phone service, chooses to promote Cisco and Polycom models for its VoIP phone line-up for a variety of reasons.  

Best of Breed – Certainly, there’s an element of name recognition in these phones that provides credibility to a privately held provider such as sipVine.  Selecting Cisco and Polycom, both best of breed manufacturers, provides obvious advantages to companies in this segment.  Quality manufacturing, product warrantees, and overall reliability are extremely important, and the benefits are felt by end user customers.

Ease of Use – When end user customers are transitioning to new technology, delivering phones that allow for the vast VoIP feature set to be intuitive and easy to use is paramount to the success of a hosted phone service provider.  sipVine has found that both of these manufacturers have crafted their phones to be easy to use and adapt to a variety of VoIP software platforms.

Flexibility in Programming – End user customers are not interested in how easy a phone is to configure with the software, but they do benefit in the outcomes of flexible, adaptable phones.  As an example, sipVine is able to keep the phone system affordable to the end user by virtue of the ability to devise configuration scripts which can mass configure large numbers of phones.  Setting up small and large businesses is quick and easy, which keeps installation charges low.  Additionally, sipVine has been able to add several features and custom design the customer configuration in large part due to the phone line-up selected.

Phone Line Up is Not Proprietary – With the Polycom phones and the Cisco Small Business series, the phones are not proprietary to a manufacturer base system.  This allows hosted companies to adapt the phones to its particular VoIP software.  It also fits well with providers such as sipVine, which does not hold their customers to term contracts.  sipVine recognizes that companies are making decisions both on the technology and the provider and wants to allow customers the flexibility to move their phones to another hosted provider if sipVine doesn’t meet all expectations.  Fortunately, this flexibility has produced very infrequent movement away, but is a compelling message nonetheless.

Additional Benefits Specific to Cisco – Simply put, sipVine and end user customers love
these phones.  They are very easy to use and provide a number of custom approaches in deployment.  The screens and menu options are very easy to understand and follow, and the line appearance buttons allow for a variety of use, such as speed dials with user presence indicators, park placement and retrieval, and direct dial and main line delivery.

Additional Benefits Specific to Polycom – Hands down, Polycom speaker phone technology is the best in the business.  For end users who utilize the speaker phone feature routinely, they cannot go wrong with a Polycom phone.  Certainly, most people are very familiar with the conference room phones offered by Polycom.  Because of the quality of the speaker on the desk phones, many customers deploy a desk phone in smaller conference rooms to save on the expense of the more traditional conference room phone.  Polycom phones are also easy to use and, if it matters, they are just darned good looking as well!

A quality line up of VoIP phones is an important criterion for hosted phone service provider selection.  You cannot go wrong with Cisco and Polycom phones in a provider’s line up!


About the author:  Mark Greim is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at sipVine, a provider of a variety of digital phone solutions and services. Mark has extensive experience working for start-up or entrepreneurial organizations and a passion for affordable, reliable, and purposeful technology solutions in those environments. 


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Tags: voip service provider selection, VoIP Phone

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