Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) can save you money and provide features you can’t get from your traditional phone setup. Here’s how to take advantage of it, and how to avoid the pitfalls.
Voice over IP has been touted as the next generation in phone technology since the mid-90s, but only gained real traction for businesses in the past two years. Technically, sending voice packets over the Internet, instead of the phone lines, has been feasible since the early days of the Internet, but few hardware options and limited bandwidth meant early VoIP users were restricted to talking in front of their PCs via a microphone and headset, and struggled through poorly synchronised conversations and constant line drop outs.
Now, thanks to broadband and a variety of hardware hitting the market, VoIP is now real alternative to traditional phone systems, giving you extra savings and a new set of features. Unlike mobile telephony, which costs you more per call than an ordinary phone call, VoIP is fundamentally a cheaper technology. Because it essentially runs over the existing Internet, the voice conversation is treated simply as ‘data’, which means it can be transmitted across a digital network connection (billed in bulk), rather than routing through the relatively expensive phone network, where your usage is billed per connection.
In fact, if the phone call moves over the Internet entirely, that is both ends of the conversation are using a VoIP service, the call may even be free. The simplest example of this is the popular Skype softphone, where users simply click a name on their contact list, and the call is established to any location in the world at no cost.
This setup may work for home users, but businesses need a phone system that call anyone, regardless of whether they’re a VoIP user, on a mobile, or running off a traditional POTS line. Unfortunately, unlike end-to-end Internet connections, a VoIP call that crosses over into the mobile or traditional landline network, will need to play by their rules, and consequently incur a charge. The cost of the call can vary from plan to plan, but typically averages out cheaper than calling from a landline or mobile phone.