VoIP (Voice Over the Internet) is a modern telecommunication technology that has revolutionized the way people communicate. It uses the internet to make calls, it offers a plethora of smart features and it is significantly cheaper than traditional telephony.
What is VoIP and how does it work?
Voice over the internet protocol or voice over IP is a technology first introduced in 1996, when the Israeli company VocalTec offered for the first time internet phone services.
VoIP works by converting your voice signal, which is analog, into a digital signal, to be able to send it over the internet. The digital signal is broken down into several packets of data, in order to be sent faster and at a higher quality.
How many types of VoIP phones are there?
VoIP can work with several types of phones: desk phones, which look just like the ones used by the PSTN (public switched telephone network), wireless phones, which are cordless and have built-in WiFi and softphones, which are basically apps/software that you install on your computer so that you can make calls via the Internet. A good example of a well-known softphone is Skype.
The main benefit of using VoIP is the fact that it is much cheaper than traditional phone services. This is very important especially if you need to place a lot of international phone calls for instance. Hardware and maintenance are also more affordable when you switch to VoIP services.
VoIP are also more portable/flexible. With VoIP, you can move your system anywhere, you only have to have a reliable Internet connection and you are good to go. Traditional telephony is anything but flexible.
Another noteworthy advantage is the fact that VoIP services include a plethora of useful features such as video conferencing, audio conferencing, caller ID, call forward, call screening, voicemail, online faxing, music on hold, click to dial, call monitoring, call recording, virtual receptionist and more.
There are also some disadvantages to VoIP as well. The most common issues related to VoIP are: poor call quality that can manifest in a variety of ways (jitter, delay, echo, choppy calls), dropped calls, no dial tone and others. Usually, the first things to check when these issues appear are the bandwidth, your router’s configuration, your firmware, your cable, your phone. If you can’t figure out what causes the problem, you should contact your VoIP provider.
What to look for in a VoIP provider
There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a VoIP service provider. Here are the most important ones:
- VoIP services are by default more affordable than traditional telephony and with all the competition out there, providers struggle to stay in the game and come up with good offers. Do some research and choose an affordable provider
- Customer support. Customer support is important regardless of the product or service you want to purchase. The best thing is to opt for a service that offers 24/7 customer support
- Money back guarantee is also important, in case you are not satisfied with the service. Aim for a provider that offers at least a 30-money back guarantee, as this is the industry standard
- Look for a provider that offers the E911 (enhanced 911) service. With this service, the local dispatch center will receive your name and address, which is a smart move in case of any emergency
- Rich set of features. This is a complex topic and a subjective one, because not everyone needs the same features. Some important features to look for are call forwarding, call waiting, caller ID, conference calls and more.
What are the best VoIP providers on the market?
RingCentral. This cloud-based VoIP provider is reliable and includes a nice set of features:
- Team/conference calls
- SMS texting
- Fax messages
- App integration with MS Office 365, Dropbox, ZenDesk and others
- You can use their softphone or rent hardware IP phones
Phone.com offers services for both businesses and the residential market. It is affordable and includes around 50 features such as:
- call management
- the ability to port your phone number
- conference calls
- call routing\call screening\call recording
- IP phone leasing
- Music on hold
OnSIP. One of the biggest strengths of OnSIP is the fact that it offers a free plan where you only have to pay for the minutes you talk or the features you use. This way you are not required to sign long-term contracts.
OnSIP also offers an interesting set of features:
- Web phone app
- Intra-network calls
- Business hours rules
- Up to 100 users
- Chrome browser extensions
- Zendesk and Slack integrations
- Voicemail to email
- Hold music
Ooma. Ooma is a company based in Sillicon Valley and its services are especially tailored for small and medium businesses. Ooma Office is based on a Linux computer instead of an adapter, which is highly customizable and has a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor and 1GB NAND flash memory.
- Free number porting
- Caller ID
- Free unlimited calls within the US and Canada
- Virtual receptionist
- Auto attendant
- Hold music
- Virtual fax
- Call transferring
Vonage is a very popular and customizable VoIP service.
- Call attendant
- Caller ID/block
- Call waiting
- Custom hold music messages
- Virtual receptionist
- Add-on features such as call group, call monitoring, call recording
- Integrations with Office 365, JobDiva, Zoho CRM, ConnectWise and more