Voice Over the Internet, or in short, VoIP, is not a new technology. The first Internet phone service was offered back in 1996, by VocalTec. The audio transceiver that made VoIP possible was invented in 1989. It just took time for the technology to be perfected and for the people to start recognizing the tremendous benefits of VoIP and the advantages it has over traditional telephony based on landlines.
VoIP uses internet protocols instead of the PSTN (public switched telephone networks) to make calls. The original signal is first converted from analog to digital. The digital packets of data are encrypted and then sent online to their recipients. An IP phone or an analog telephone and adapter are required for you to be able to make VoIP calls. VoIP lets you make calls to other VoIP users and to traditional phone line users as well.
Thanks to the fact that the signal is first converted to digital (it will be converted back to analog in the end), VoIP allows you to send various data over the internet, such as audio, video, images, text.
What are the biggest benefits of VoIP?
VoIP has benefits for both home users and businesses alike. Due to the high number of calls that need to be placed on a daily basis in corporations and all kinds of companies, the cost reduction will be felt much stronger in the business setting. VoIP are much more profitable for businesses than landlines, because they allow you to make international calls for free or for a very small cost, compared to traditional telephony.
But that doesn’t mean that home users can’t benefit from switching to VoIP. You probably have friends or relatives living outside the country or even in the same country, that you want to talk to on a regular basis, without breaking the bank. VoIP can help you with that, as there are a plethora of residential VoIP services available.
The setup costs of VoIP are basically inexistent, because it is a DIY process. Installing a VoIP system is a two-minute job and everyone can do it. You’ve got clear instructions delivered with the equipment and all reputable VoIP services also offer customer support, should you need it.
As we’ve mentioned above, VoIP comes with plenty of useful features: video conferencing is possible, you can send more than audio signals and the technology is overall more versatile and flexible. You can make VoIP calls no matter where you are in the world, if you have internet access and you are signed up for a VoIP service.
The first thing to consider when deciding on a VoIP provider is what are you going to use the service for and how much you need it. There are many types of VoIP providers out there: some of them offer hardware that allows you to use the VoIP service with still use your traditional landline setup, others offer mobile apps (some of which are free) and so on. Knowing exactly why you need the service will make your decision easier.
Price is another aspect to consider. There are a lot of free VoIP options to consider as well, so you might ask yourself why should you pay for such a service, if there are free alternatives available. There are a lot of VoIP apps out there, such as Skype, Google Hangouts and more. They are indeed free, but just for the users who have the app installed. But it is not free to use if you want to call mobile phones or landlines. In order to do that, you have to have money in your account.
If you do want to use a free VoIP service, some of the best apps on the market are: Skype (it can be used for both residential use and business purposes as well), Zoom, Google Hangout.
There are other reliable free VoIP services as well, such as 8X8 Virtual Office, RingCentral Office, Grasshopper, CloudTalk, to name just a few.
Paid VoIP services on the other hand are more widespread. The average monthly fee varies from $10 to approximately $50, depending on the provider and the features it offers.
Customer support is another important aspect to consider. While setting up a VoIP system at home is a simple job, you may still encounter problems. Try to choose a VoIP service that offers 24/7 customer support, to assist you in case of any issues.
VoIP providers usually offer several plans with their VoIP service. Depending on your needs, you can opt for a plan that includes international calls, unlimited calls in some areas and so on. Find the plan that best suits your needs.
Opt for a service that offers local area codes. This is an important aspect to consider, if you don’t want your friends/relatives calling you from an analog phone to be charged extra. If you don’t have a local area code, they will have to pay a long-distance call fee.
The included features are very important with any VoIP service. While a lot of the VoIP features offered by most providers are more important in the business setting, there are some that can still be useful to you as a residential user as well: call forwarding, call filter, E911 support, softphone support, call recording, caller ID, anonymous call rejection, video conferencing and more.
If you want to switch to VoIP to get all its benefits, but you still want to keep your old analog phone, here is what you need:
- Your analog phone
- A VoIP adapter; you can get it from your VoIP provider, when you sign up for the service; it usually comes with proper installation instructions
- An Ethernet cable
- An AC power adapter
- A fast and stable internet connection
- A router, in case you want to share the connection with someone
The Ethernet cable goes into the modem/router and the other end of the cable goes into the LAN port of the VoIP adapter.
You then connect the phone cable into the phone port of the adapter and you connect the AC adapter to the VoIP adapter.
You turn everything on and wait for a few seconds, until a connection is established.