You may have heard about VoIP and wondered what in the world it was. You may even have VoIP at work but now want to know more about it. It is a fairly simple concept when you break it down. Voice Over Internet Protocol or VoIP for short is a communication method designed to transmit voice over a medium. In this case, the medium is the Internet.
The Internet is known as a very cheap way to communicate because it utilizes existing networks that don’t have to be physically available. In other words, you can connect to people from all over the world without worrying about broken circuits or roaming charges. You can also use a number of Internet connected devices to connect with others instead of relying on the traditional phone.
In fact, VoIP phones can be used anywhere and at any time. This is a rapid departure from traditional phones which need a wired connection to work properly. The beauty of the VoIP phone is that the fact that it can provide you with many unique features that an ordinary phone just can’t provide.
What is VoIP?
In layman’s terms, it is an improved way to communicate that processes a variety of information over the Internet. That communication can be in the form of voice communication but can also include video and data transfer.
The fact is that VoIP utilizes different technology to deliver the same clear and understandable voice messages as the traditional phone systems deliver. The biggest difference is that VoIP provides better features at a lower cost. It is important to understand that the flexibility of the VoIP in its ability to connect with various devices has a downside in the fact that it isn’t a stable source of communication. For example, if your Internet goes down, your VoIP phone is likely to go down too.
Services VoIP Can Offer
The flexibility and versatility of an Internet-based phone is probably one of the biggest selling points for buying a VoIP system. And because you’re not tied to your landline, you have the added functionality of using a laptop or computer while also taking a call.
The VoIP phone system can perform many of the traditional phone features like call waiting and call forwarding at less cost than traditional phone systems. It is important to note that traditional landlines offer stability and reliability that many VoIP systems can’t match now. There are a few VoIP systems that have proven their reliability to work in adverse conditions.
The one thing you need to remember when researching VoIP providers is how reliable their Internet connections are. There is nothing more frustrating than losing your signal or having dropped calls. You should also have a good understanding of any hidden fees.
Both traditional and VoIP phone systems have some hidden fees. Unlike traditional phone service, VoIP phone services perform a wide variety of functions that traditional phone systems just can’t perform. There are however some drawbacks.
All VoIP phone systems need:
- At least 3Mbps of upload speed and bandwidth
- Reliable Internet connections on your computer
- IP Phone or a VoIP Adapter (ATA)
- Modem or router
- Backup power source
You can make a number of connections using Ethernet jacks or using wireless connections. You may even opt to add mobile applications through your home’s WIFI connection.
The features that you can get with a VoIP provider can vary dramatically. For instance, support for technical issues can vary from 24/7 service to Monday through Friday service at specific times. You may not want all the bells and whistles of a sophisticated VoIP phone system but end up paying for them anyway. Understanding what you are getting into before you commit to a VoIP system is a wise decision. VoIP systems do allow you to customize the system to fit your needs unlike the traditional phone system.
Costs and Savings over Alternatives
You can realize some cost savings with a VoIP phone system. The costs you usually associate with maintaining a landline are eliminated with a VoIP phone system. However, some of these costs are not absorbed, such as the cost of an IP phone, or a VoIP adapter for your existing analog phones.
The ease of installation is a key factor in deciding to make the switch from traditional POTS systems to VoIP systems. Traditional POTS systems require telephone wires to be strung on telephone poles which could require expensive costs in installing telephone poles and wires. VoIP systems eliminate those costs because they utilize pre-existing Internet networks.
Traditional POTS systems also charge their customers a certain rate for international calls. Some POTS systems have limited range in their reception. Internet based VoIP systems rarely run into those issues so the costs of placing international calls or not being able to place those calls are eliminated.
There are however some residual fees included with both traditional and VoIP systems. Like traditional POTS system providers, VoIP system providers offer options for you to select monthly or yearly contracts. POTS system providers however don’t provide any flexibility regarding cancellation. You are virtually “stuck” with the telephone service for the life of the contract unless you pay cancellation fees.
There are some VoIP providers that have contracts that don’t allow you to break the contract without incurring a cancellation fees. This is rare because most customers prefer the freedom to choose the provider that suits them without worrying about being locked in to a plan.
Comparisons & Competition
There is no contest when you compare traditional to VoIP phone systems. The competition comes when you start comparing VoIP providers. It can get overwhelming at times because many VoIP providers have similar set-ups and features. The difference comes when you start comparing coverage and support features.
You also need to look for how adaptable the phone system is to adding applications and mobile phones. Since VoIP phone systems allow you to do so much more than just calling for less money, you really need to consider what features you need for your phone system and what you can’t do without in a phone system.
All VoIP providers have the basic features that their customers have come to expect with their phone systems. Many providers also offer enhanced features such as video chat and email support for their customers. All VoIP systems provide unlimited worldwide calls and data through secure Internet connections. It is prudent to research the features that you want in a VoIP system before purchasing one.