In today’s digital world, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) has become an increasingly attractive alternative to traditional phone systems. With the ability to unify everything from voice phone calls to fax and instant messaging under one system, VoIP benefits from lower costs, greater flexibility and lessened downtime when compared to traditional phone systems.
What is VOIP?
Fundamentally, VOIP is a system that replaces the traditional wired phone network with a system that makes use of the Internet and similar networks to place phone calls. A fully-realized VOIP phones system can network everything from cell phones to VOIP enabled fax machines, allowing a business or home to dispense with their traditional phone connection.
Connecting to a VOIP Network
A VOIP system requires a connection to the Internet, a VOIP provider and phones or other connections that are enabled to handle VOIP data packets. Because the information is carried digitally, unlike traditional analog phone systems, a normal phone must be hooked up to an adapter that will connect the phone to the network, whether using a wired or wireless connection, while converting the phone’s analog output into a digital format.
A dedicated VOIP phone is a phone that has been designed from the start to use VOIP services, and so it includes the adapter as an integral part of the phone. Many of these phones have the ability to work over wireless networks, making them useful wherever there is an available Wi-Fi network.
Computers and VOIP Services
Most VOIP services can be installed as software on any computer that can accept a microphone and speaker system. This allows the user to enjoy a VOIP connection without the added cost of purchasing new hardware. In addition, it makes upgrading the system a simple process of downloading the newest VOIP software, a process that is often handled by the provider.
Cell Phones and VOIP
A growing number of cell phones have integral Wi-Fi functionality and can thus install VOIP software that allows them to operate as a VOIP phone both using their data plans and any available Wi-Fi network. This has the advantage that when accessing a local wireless network, the phone user can continue to make calls and receive data without making use of his or her own data plan. This can radically reduce the cost of phone calls, especially for individuals who commonly travel beyond their covered areas.
Other Benefits of VOIP
VOIP systems have a wide range of advantages over traditional phone systems that have made them increasingly attractive. Some of the most important advantages include the following:
- The ability to conduct video conferences at no additional cost.
- The ability to communicate with several individuals at once makes holding remote conferences quite easy.
- VOIP calls often have higher audio quality than traditional phone lines.
- A VOIP system can free a business from worrying about physical phone connections when setting up an office.
Costs of VOIP Systems
Most VOIP systems are provided by a separate business. In many cases, the basic VOIP service to other VOIP users is free, with a small charge for users who wish to have a phone number that is accessible to regular phone users. Because VOIP providers do not enjoy a monopoly in the same way a local phone company does, they often compete with each other in order to attract clients, further lowering the cost of a VOIP service.
In addition, because VOIP systems are handled from a remote server via client software installed on the user’s phones and computers, the cost of repair and maintenance is dramatically reduced. In fact, for software VOIP systems installed on computers, tablets, and cell phones, there may be no discrete maintenance costs associated with using or upgrading the VOIP system.
Ultimately, VOIP is another example of how the Internet has started to bring many formerly separate services together. Because of this, VOIP users enjoy improved flexibility, reduced costs, and a higher quality phone experience.