What is a softphone and why your business needs one

Softphones are feature-rich phone systems that work over the internet. But what do they actually do for businesses? Our blog post is full of answers.


Right now, we’re in the midst of a revolution.

Business operations are evolving rapidly in response to changing customer needs, extreme fluctuations in demand, and the ongoing remote working transformation.

Understandably, companies are taking a close look at how they function, and how to continue to provide the best service to their customers.

And amidst all the upheaval, the use of softphones is becoming widespread.

But what on earth are they?

It’s time we gave you some answers. So, we’re going to take you through:

  • How they differ from traditional phone setups
  • Why you might want one
  • How useful they are


What is a softphone?

In short, a softphone is a phone system that operates over the internet. It’s a software application that runs with the aid of VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). Voice over IP is the fundamental translation tool that allows phone calls to be connected over the internet, providing the basic platform that makes softphones possible. It forms part of the larger telephony technology, which is unified communication systems.

Also, it is embellished with several other functionalities including seamless integration with third-party applications like helpdesk, CRM software, eCommerce platforms, etc.

Voice over IP is the fundamental translation tool that allows phone calls to be connected over the internet, providing the basic platform that makes softphones possible.

As a software application rather than hardware, a business softphone can be installed on desktops, laptops, and Android or iOS mobile phones, or accessed via an internet connection. As a result, they are fully portable wherever an internet connection is available. They also tend to be feature-rich, offering functions that traditional phone services cannot match.

How are they used in practice?

Customer service agents might for example take advantage of deep integrations with CRM software, allowing employees to provide an enhanced customer service experience from a computer terminal.

How does a softphone differ from an ‘on-prem’ phone?

For decades, ‘On-prem’ (or on-premises) phones have remained the default choice of the business phone system.

Are you picturing a classic office desk phone? Then you’re in the right ballpark.

But things are changing. We live in a world where phones don’t need to be solid to exist, where flexibility has become king, and where many workers don’t even have permanent desks.

So how are they actually different?

On-prem phones traditionally work through a Private Branch Exchange (PBX). Essentially, it’s a mini telephone exchange built just for your business’s use, and it comes with all the complex installation needs you’d expect. Copper cables, network carrier connections, central server systems. Even before we get to the actual desk phones themselves.

As you can imagine, setting one up requires extensive investment in hardware and infrastructure, and it also requires regular maintenance and hands-on intervention for any upgrades or additions.

In reality, they can pose several challenges in running telephony operations, especially to a small business with shoestring resources.

  • Need to add a new hard phone extension? That will mean programming it into every existing phone.
  • Want to replace the entire phone line? That might take down your whole PBX network in one fell swoop, so it’s best to have a staff member dedicated to protecting uptime.
  • Want to add upgrades or integrations to augment telephony productivity? Here comes new hardware and tricky problem-solving to make everything work together.

Softphones means for business usage, on the other hand, do all of this over the internet, with the help of a VoIP service. the VoIP service provider uses VoIP codecs to transmit audio signals across the internet to the intended destination. more or less how the typical email works.

To orchestrate all of this an intelligent system is required, which is the PBX (Private Branch Exchange). The PBX is the system that will take care of taking inbound and outbound calls, forwarding them, managing call recording, conference calls, call transfers, and doing much more.

All the other features you’d find in a traditional on-prem phone system are coded into the software, which can directly interface controls with other computer programs and systems.

And don’t worry, you can still have a hard phone and its accompanying headset.

The table below points out the prerequisites you need for using a softphone compared to an on-premise phone system.

Softphone‘On-prem’ phone
Existing computer/mobile devicePBX boxes
Stable internet connectionPSTN cables
Headset for hands-free use (Optional)Network carrier connections
Desk phones and supporting hardware

Portability, functionality, and more: what are softphones better at?

Like with any technological advancement, softphones are designed to surpass the functionality of traditional on-prem systems, whilst also overcoming many of the challenges of a physical PBX.

Softphones are envisioned to bring the facility of business phone systems to mobile devices in the form of mobile apps. They simplify unified communications which have been long considered to be complex and involving technical intervention. Also, they are renowned for superior quality voice calls with little or no glitches.


There’s no doubt that softphones provide real-time connectivity and offering unprecedented flexibility. Also, it is possible to port in existing phone numbers from the same carriers to the new VoIP provider thus preventing a disruption in business communications.


Calls from a softphone can be made via a web browser or even or even through the softphone app. it does not need dedicated landlines. Also, staff can easily see how to put telephone calls on hold, transfer, send to voicemail, and more, without confusing buttons.

Scalability and upgrades

Softphones install upgrades over an internet connection. Also, adding new agents and admins is a breeze since there is no phone line or any other telephony hardware dependency.

Automated call routing

You can quickly see who’s online and easily set up complex scheduling to forward telephone calls to available staff members. In fact, you can forward an incoming call to a voicemail if the call is arriving after working hours or when agents are offline to handle calls.


You can keep a firm eye on customer service standards in one place, tracking interactions and managing business communications that happen in your call center.

Additional telephony features

Softphones are capable of doing everything that traditional phones have been doing, including call forwarding, call recording, speed dialing, and much more. In fact, modern softphone features also include automating call routing, call queue callback, voice bots, and so on.

Improved voicemail

With a VoIP phone, you can send voicemails, offer canned responses through IVR, or even configure advanced call flows automation to deliver better customer service.

Low setup costs

Unlike on-prem systems, installation costs are minimal, with clear monthly rates charged on a rolling basis. Also, the pricing can be easily forecasted since it is based on fixed agent licenses charged on a monthly or annual basis.

Virtual phone numbers

You can purchase and use local phone numbers in countries all over the world without the need for a physical office. Also, you don’t require a SIM or anything similar to what a mobile device requires.

Softphones, decoded

Whatever choice you make for your business, it’s clear that in a world of possibilities, there will certainly be technology out there that can help make your operations seamless.
With enhanced processes and greater efficiencies, you’ll be providing an even better service to your customers, giving you space and time to focus on serving them.
After all, isn’t that the most important thing?

Illustrations by Mahalakshmi Anantharaman

Animation by Yuvaraj Linganathan

About Freshdesk Contact Center

Freshdesk Contact Center is a business phone service for customer support, sales, and remote working teams. With its cloud-based architecture, Freshdesk Contact Center brings together the best of legacy features like IVR and advanced call routing capabilities like Smart Escalations, Customizable Performance Reporting to help you set up state-of-the-art phone operations. Freshdesk Contact Center offers phone numbers in 90+ countries, requires zero phone hardware, and is extremely easy to use.

Visit the Freshdesk Contact Center website for more information.