What Does VoIP Stand For?

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service allows you to access more affordable, high-tech phone service that uses the Internet instead of traditional phone lines. You can actually access phone features the are traditionally more expensive and perhaps only within-reach for larger businesses. As a result, VoIP services have increased in popularity over the years. Now, many small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and individuals are using VoIP service to access affordable phone features.

  • VoIP–This stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, a groundbreaking technology enabling the use of the Internet to transmit phone signals and other communications.

If you are interested in signing up for VoIP, you should consider shopping around for a vendor. VoIP phone services are provided by phone vendors who help subscribers with software, route phone service traffic, offer technical support and provide other services. You will need a vendor to start using VoIP for yourself or for your business.

In this article, we will help you learn more about VoIP, what it is and how to get started using a VoIP service at your home or business. We will also talk a bit about how to choose a VoIP service and what features to look for. Depending on your needs, you can find a high-quality VoIP vendor that can help you begin using the service quickly for phone calls, SMS text messaging, chat and more.

Article Contents:

  1. VoIP: Earth-Shattering Phone Tech for the Internet Age
  2. VoIP Features For Home and Business
  3. Launching Your VoIP Account
  4. Questions to Ask Your Vendor (and Yourself)

By the end of this post, you should have a fairly solid grasp of the basics of VoIP–how it works, why it works like it does and what it can do for you. If you have other questions, check out the other articles on our website for information on vendors, in-depth reviews and ideas for using VoIP to boost your business or communicate for personal reasons.

1. VoIP: Earth-Shattering Phone Tech for the Internet Age

VoIP service is important because of what it replaces. For decades, phone service was a significant expense for many SMBs, organizations and homes. Phone companies, traditionally-speaking, used phone lines made from copper wiring and cables extending under the oceans to transmit all telecommunications signals. These networks reach many people and allowed for dramatic improvements in the lives and businesses of millions and billions of people. They were also (and still are) enormously expensive to maintain. Costs for keeping these networks fully-functional were passed directly to subscribers. Much of the cost for operating a phone company and providing communications services was a direct result of the expense of keeping phone networks going.

By upending all of this, VoIP became an Earth-shattering, significant technology in the world of telecommunications. Phone service providers can simply use the Internet to route phone calls instead of relying on aging, costly infrastructure associated with phone lines. Truthfully, much of the Internet does run on cables anyway, but these networks are heavily-invested in and maintained by local communities, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and governments for the use of Internet subscribers. Internet service is inexpensive and widely-available now in many communities, so it makes sense to use online routing for phone calls, too.

Unsurprisingly, the advent of VoIP service dropped phone service pricing significantly. VoIP is much more affordable, in most cases, than traditional phone service. Some plans are as cheap as $50 a year or even less. Business phone plans usually cost more but have a rich list of features and deep functionality previously only available with expensive, traditional business phone plans. Since VoIP is so much cheaper than plain old telephone service (POTS) plans, many SMBs sign up for service and access features they did not believe were possible for small businesses before. Conference calling, phone queues, find me/follow me, multiple lines, autoresponder and other features are now relatively inexpensive.

2. VoIP Features for Home and Business

If you are looking for a phone service with a huge variety of features, then VoIP may be right for you. You can access advanced phone features such as large conference calls and phone queues. If you are planning to start a call center or communications center for your business, you will probably appreciate these features and others. For home use, it may be enough for you to get a simple and inexpensive phone plan offering local and international phone calls, depending on your needs. Think about what you plan to accomplish with your phone plan before you decide on a vendor. Then, begin shopping around for phone service.

3. Launching Your VoIP Account

Ready to get started with VoIP? Your vendor will guide you on choosing the correct equipment and can help you figure out how to implement your new phone system. You should probably avoid purchasing equipment until you choose a vendor, since they may have particular models to recommend and sometimes offer discounts that can help you get equipment at better pricing.

Typically, you will need:

  • Internet Connection–Since you are using a service that routes phone traffic via the Internet, you will need a reliable Internet connection. Generally, faster connections are better and the connection needs to have enough bandwidth to successfully connect and transmit calls. Voice data can be relatively bandwidth-heavy and really needs a strong connection. This will probably also improve the quality of your phone calls, so it is worth the investment to get a high-quality network connection for your home or business.
  • Phones–Your vendor can guide you on choosing the best phones for your needs, but generally speaking you can choose from traditional analog phones, soft phones via a software app or IP phones that are specifically-designed for VoIP service.
  • Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA)–You only need an ATA if you are planning to use analog telephones. ATAs allow your phone to understand the signals VoIP uses. They also allow your phone to communicate fully with the VoIP network.
  • Private Branch Exchange (PBX)–You may need a PBX, particularly if you are using a VoIP system with your business. This can be a software-based system or a physical box. If you own the box, you may have more control over your phone system, but this is generally a costly option for smaller businesses. A PBX can help you manage your connection to the network and route a large volume of calls to different extensions within your phone system.

4. Questions to Ask Your Vendor (and Yourself)

While you compare different vendors and shop around for phone service, it is important to begin thinking about the questions you have and what features you will need. Look at this list when making your own list of questions, and you can be better prepared for conversations with potential vendors. Some of these questions are designed to get you thinking more about your needs, too.

  1. What plan do I need?
  2. How many minutes do I need? Do I want unlimited or metered plans?
  3. Do I need international minutes? To which countries specifically?
  4. Why do I need VoIP service? For the phone? For other features?
  5. What equipment do I need to buy?
  6. Can I keep my old phone(s)?
  7. Do I receive technical support with my service plan?
  8. Who is responsible for implementing the system, me or the vendor?

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