Seven Things You Most Likely Didn’t Know About VoIP
If you are still using a traditional phone service plan with a phone that attaches to your wall and connects to the telephone poles along your street, keep reading. There is an alternative phone service that can help you save money on your phone bill, access advanced phone features and more.
We will show you how to start shopping for a plan, too. First, however, we will begin by teaching you seven things about VoIP–some of which you may not have known if you are new to VoIP service.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)–VoIP service uses the Internet instead of traditional phone lines to provide phone service to people all over the world.
In this article, we will introduce you to VoIP basics and teach you a few things about VoIP and how it works. By the end, you should have a decent beginner grasp of how VoIP works, why it is useful to many people, and how you can begin using it for yourself or your business.
Benefits of VoIP Service:
- Reduce phone costs
- Access telecommunications features for your small to medium-sized business (SMB)
- Establish a call center onsite (or offsite using a virtual distributed team)
- Call traditional phones, other VoIP phones, smartphones and softphones
- Call international phone numbers without paying high per-minute rates
- What is VoIP?
- How Can I Benefit from VoIP?
- How Does it Work?
- What Equipment Do I Need?
- What Are On-Net and Off-Net Calls?
- How Reliable is VoIP?
- Do I Need to Keep Traditional Phone Service?
1. What is VoIP?
VoIP service works differently from traditional phone service, so you can access reduced phone service rates and lower per-minute costs. You can also access features that are expensive or unavailable with traditional plain old telephone service (POTS). As a different kind of telephone service, VoIP allows you to do more and become more productive at your business. POTS service uses copper telephone line networks to transmit phone signals. These aging networks are costly to maintain and drive the cost of telephone service up as the phone company has to continually invest in maintaining the networks.
Since it uses the Internet, it is essential for you to have an Internet connection that is reliable and has the bandwidth you will need in order to make and receive your calls successfully. There may be equipment you need in addition to your phones, depending on what you need with your service and how you plan to use it.
2. How Can I Benefit from VoIP?
You can use VoIP services to create a call center, network phones together into an internal phone system, forward calls to smartphones, and more. Gaining advanced phone features is one significant benefit of VoIP, as it turns out. Besides the cost savings, this is one of the main reasons businesses choose to switch to a VoIP plan.
These VoIP plans have many practical purposes, such as:
- Using Conferencing–Conference calls can help you run large virtual meetings, seminars and classes. You can train customers in using your product, teach your staff or hold a business meeting virtually.
- Creating a Contact Center–Inbound and outbound calling, SMS text messaging, chat and video communications with customers, clients, the general public and others is possible through a business VoIP plan.
- Making Your Business Look Professional–You can use a VoIP plan with different extensions, employee and department phone numbers to improve your professional image and route calls effectively to the correct recipients.
3. How Does It Work?
VoIP vendors use computer servers to route your calls. If you have an onsite private branch exchange (PBX) system, then you have onsite routing of some of your call traffic, too. Servers ensure that your calls reach the correct recipients based on each phone number. Call traffic is merged into the public phone network through a process called Session Internet Protocol (SIP) trunking. VoIP vendors can provide this service directly, or you can use a PBX box onsite to help you connect.
The advantage of having your own PBX box is that you can use multiple VoIP vendors for different purposes and different types of calls, or switch when pricing changes moment by moment. This is more practical for large companies but small businesses may not want to make the usually significant investment in equipment costs. Buying your own PBX box is expensive, so you may be better off having your vendor provide this service to you.
4. What Equipment Do I Need?
For VoIP to work properly, you will of course need some type of phone. Other equipment may depend in part on your purpose for having VoIP service. You should probably wait to purchase or rent equipment until after you choose a vendor. Vendors may offer special pricing, discounts and advice on choosing the best equipment for their services. They can help guide you. There could be specific equipment brands that they do not provide technical support for, too, so it is a good idea to wait and ask.
Equipment you may need:
- Phones–There are different types of phones you can use with VoIP service, such as soft phones, smartphones, Internet Protocol (IP) phones and even analog phones or tablet computers.
- Analog Telephone Adapters (ATAs)–You need an ATA if you plan to use an analog phone with your VoIP system.
- Internet Connection–You will need a fast Internet connection with great bandwidth to handle high-quality VoIP communications. You may need to reduce your other Internet use if you have a high call volume, so keep that in mind.
- PBX–A PBX may be necessary for bigger phone systems with virtual extensions. A vendor can provide this function in the cloud, as well.
5. What Are On-Net and Off-Net Calls?
On-net phone calls never leave the Internet when they are routed between the caller and recipient. This is a completely VoIP call and is relatively inexpensive and easy for VoIP providers, so they generally provide these services for free or at a low cost.
Off-net calls, in contrast, leave the Internet at some point and are trunked into the public phone network. This is a more expensive service to offer, so your service may restrict these calls to a specific number of minutes.
6. How Reliable is VoIP?
VoIP phone service is fairly reliable, but it does depend on the Internet and if you have extensive functionality provided in-the-cloud by your VoIP provider, then you are relying on their service to work efficiently and effectively. Be sure to shop around for a reliable, highly-rated provider, particularly if phone service reliability is essential to your business operations.
Unlike traditional phone service, VoIP must have Internet access, and so it can be impacted by Internet outages. Having a back-up Internet source may be a good idea if your business relies heavily on your VoIP phones.
7. Do I Need to Keep Traditional Phone Service?
Not necessarily. VoIP is very reliable and effective, so many businesses use it as a full replacement for their traditional phone service. There are few circumstances where having a traditional phone plan is essential to business operations.
One notable disadvantage VoIP has is actually also an advantage–VoIP is very portable, so your phone number is not necessarily stuck to a single place, unlike with a traditional plan. As such, it can be difficult for emergency responders to automatically identify the source of a VoIP call. You should consider providing a location to your vendor, so that if an emergency occurs, responders can check the database and see where the phone number is registered.