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What are the pros and cons of using VoIP?

The “goods” and “bad” of VoIP

There’s no doubt that technology has radically changed our lives over the past few decades. Nowhere is this truer than in the area of telephones. Not so long ago, the only way you could make a phone call from home was by using a phone that was hardwired into your wall and allowed you to move away from it while talking only as far as its coiled cord would stretch. All that has changed. Now you likely use a cellphone that lets you talk or text on it anywhere in your home, your office, even unfortunately in your car. But are you getting the best value on your current cell phone? Should you switch to business VoIP telephone systems?

VoIP is an acronym that stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. What this means is that phone calls you make or receive on a VoIP phone rely on the Internet to convert your voice and that of the person(s) with whom you’re speaking into little data packets that go back and forth over the Internet before being converted back to voice by your phone. This makes for faster transmission of both voice and data while probably saving you considerable money in the process.

VoIP services have been taking the business world by storm recently. Businesses are finding that utilizing VoIP technology enables them to save time and money while also improving the overall efficiency of their phone system and staff. Besides, single users are also finding them to be an effective and affordable option.

There are, however, also some disadvantages when it comes to using VoIP phone services. The purpose of this article is to provide you with a deeper look into the many pros and cons of VoIP. Let’s take a look at what they are.

What is VoIP, and how does it work?

VoIP is short for Voice over Internet Protocol. It is a technology that allows you to make calls using the Internet, rather than a regular phone line. VoIP is also commonly referred to as internet telephony, IP telephony or Voice over IP.

VoIP works by converting analogue voice calls into digital data that travels over the public Internet or a private internet protocol (IP) network. Using VoIP, you can make phone calls over the Internet to landlines, mobile phones and even computer-to-computer anywhere in the world where an internet connection is available.

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As well as audio calls, you can use VoIP for services such as video calls, instant messaging and file sharing. Many VoIP ap

What is a VoIP phone?

A VoIP phone is a telephone system that uses the Internet to complete the phone call. Delivery can either be complete via the Internet, such as phone calls from one VoIP customer to another (especially in the case of two customers using the same service) or handed off to the traditional phone system at some point, like calls to landline or cellular numbers from a VoIP phone.

Voice Over Internet Protocol Technology

What does VoIP stand for? VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, and its name describes what happens in the process of placing a VoIP call. While you may still use a traditional phone in the VoIP calling process, your voice is transmitted from the phone to some device that digitizes it to be sent as a data packet over the Internet.

Typically at some point, the data packet is reconverted into a protocol transmittable over the regular telephone line to complete the call. A VoIP call may not start over a regular telephone; it may instead start within an app on a smartphone, a program on your computer or a special VoIP phone. In that last case, your voice is captured digitally instantaneously.

VoIP Requirements

You’ll need a special adapter to connect to your phone or a special VoIP phone to place a VoIP call. The adapter may connect to your computer, directly to the Internet via your router or both. Placing calls directly from your computer or a mobile device requires the installation of your provider’s specific application.

Using Your VoIP Phone

You can use your VoIP phone in most cases to call just as you had with a traditional phone. There are some differences in how you might be billed, however. While your traditional phone service provider may charge you extra above your monthly service charge to call outside your local area, most VoIP providers give you free or deeply discounted calling within your home country (and sometimes elsewhere) and to numbers also using your VoIP provider’s service.

International calling is also typically possible, and at rates that are a fraction of your traditional telephone providers. For either domestic or international numbers, you’ll hear a dial tone when dialling, and dialling the phone number itself is no different.

Emergency Calls Through VoIP

Early critics of VoIP pointed to the issues the service had when it came to making emergency calls. This was because, before 2005, there were no regulations on how VoIP calls should be handled. Now, you’ll be asked to enter emergency contact, and home address information to ensure this information is transferred to the 911 call centre in the event of an emergency — so in most cases, emergency calls are not an issue. 

Keep in mind that if you’re travelling with your VoIP phone, you’ll need to update this information to ensure the right address is transferred to the call centre. In the event of a power or Internet outage, be aware that your 911 service will not work unless it has a backup battery source, such as a UPS or generator. 

VoIP is a great option for just about everyone, with an attractive list of features and a price that’s hard to beat. That said, we wouldn’t be telling the truth if we claimed that a VoIP phone system isn’t without its own set of drawbacks. In this article, we’ll take a look at both the advantages and disadvantages of VoIP so you can make the best decision based on your own needs.

Different Types of VoIP

Generally, VoIP centres focus on digitally transmitting communications as data packets via the Internet. There are several ways this process can occur. Each has its level of complexity that impacts the ease of deployment and maintenance. To help you determine the best fit for your business, let’s take a close look at the different types of VoIP technology.

Integrated Access

Integrated access functions like traditional phone lines. The only difference is the smooth integration between the VoIP software and your phone system. Integrated access lets businesses enjoy superior communications features using existing legacy phone systems.

This reduces the total cost of implementation. Meaning, you do not have to buy new hardware. You get to keep your old equipment and phone number while enjoying access to VoIP’s advanced telecommunications features.

Session Initial Protocol (SIP)

SIP trunks act as digital pathways for voice communication. They enable businesses to leverage existing phone hardware while enjoying the benefits of VoIP. SIP trunk flexibility allows for easy integration with private branch exchange (PBX) telephone systems and cloud technology.

This results in users increasing their communications flexibility. They can take advantage of shared lines by transmitting voice and video information across data networks. Since all communications data goes through a network, you can use SIP trunks as a replacement for analog phone networks. Or you can integrate your legacy phone systems with SIP trunking using a VoIP gateway.

This reduces the cost of implementing VoIP technology. That’s because there’s no need for physical phone lines and communications hardware. What also makes SIP trunks such an attractive option for business is its pay-as-you-go model. You only pay for minutes used, resulting in considerable cost savings on business communications.

Hosted IP Private Branch Exchange (PBX)

Hosted IP PBX is one of the more popular forms of VoIP technology. Vendors host and operate a private branch exchange. This enables them to offer unified communications solutions to businesses and individuals. To get access to the vendor’s VoIP service, all you need to do is connect to the cloud-based PBX network through the vendor’s IP network.

The vendor maintains all hardware needed for communications off-site. Also, the vendor takes care of hardware and software maintenance, upgrades and security. This removes the need for businesses to buy and deploy phone system hardware. It also reduces the cost of training and maintenance.

Hosted IP PBX vendors like 8×8 provide clients with access to a user-friendly control panel. This is where they can track and manage their phone systems. The panel usually comes with valuable add-on features such as auto attendants, call queueing, on-hold music or messaging and many more.

Managed IP PBX

This VoIP technology bears a lot of similarities with hosted IP PBX. A third-party provider manages and maintains a unified communications solution. But the business manages the phone hardware on-site. The PBX provider collects a monthly fee based on the number of phone lines to install, configure and update. The fee also includes the upgrade of needed equipment to facilitate VoIP communication.

After a thorough review of the different types of VoIP services, you can decide on the system that best suits your business needs. Managed IP PBX best fits businesses that are unable or unwilling to buy and operate on-premise VoIP systems themselves. Some enterprises want more control over their communications. If they have the wherewithal to install and manage the technology in-house, SIP trunks are a good fit.

The most suitable VoIP solution for small and medium businesses is the cloud-based hosted IP PBX system. This VoIP service frees you from the administrative headaches and cost of managing VoIP services on-premise. All you need to do is choose the hardware and software that works best for your use case. Then relegate the hassle of deploying and managing the underlying VoIP technology to your carrier.

Let’s take a close look at some VoIP advantages and disadvantages to see if it’s a good fit for your business needs.

Advantages

Cost

The initial setup and ongoing costs are generally less for operating a VoIP system than a more traditional phone system. As VoIP works off your internet connection, there is no need for a traditional phone line. This means that you only need to deal with one account, one bill, for both the Internet and phone.

Calls from PC to PC over the Internet are free. Calls from PC to landline usually have a cost attached, but the rates are significantly less than with a traditional phone line. 

Accessibility

A VoIP phone system is distinctly different from a traditional phone system. Distance or location makes no difference to a VoIP system, whether you are calling your head office on the other side of the country or making a call to the other side of the world. As long as you both have an internet connection, communication is possible. 

All that is necessary is that you sign in to your broadband account. If you are frequently on the road, or away from the office but wish to remain connected, you can do so at a minimal cost. VoIP is much more convenient than a traditional phone line.

Flexibility

Unlike a PBX (Private Box Exchange), a VoIP network has a great deal of flexibility. With a private, internal phone network, you are limited to how many phones can be added to the system by the number of lines available within the system. With a VoIP network, you are limited only by bandwidth, so thousands of connections can conceivably be made. 

Voice Quality

If you have a reliable internet connection with good bandwidth, you should experience voice quality that is the equal of, if not better than, a traditional phone connection. If you are in a rural area without a strong connection, your qualities will suffer. 

Extra /Less Expensive Features

Traditional phone services have a selection of extra features for which you usually pay more. VoIP is different. It comes with a wide selection of extra features like call forwarding, call waiting, voicemail, caller ID, three-way calling and more. You can also send data like documents and pictures while you are engaging in conversation.

VoIP also has the advantage of allowing you, your staff, and your clients to hold video conversations, access and exchange data files, and more, while the conversation is ongoing. This allows for more integrated and flexible meetings that can seamlessly include people from multiple office locations throughout the world.

Disadvantages

Internet Connection A Must

You cannot operate a VoIP phone system unless you have a reliable internet connection with sufficient bandwidth.

Power Outages/Emergencies

If you operate a VoIP network and the power goes out, you no longer have an internet connection, so you no longer have access to your phone system. While this may be a minor irritation if it happens rarely and the outage is short, it can be a major headache if your power is out for a longer period.  

Emergency services can find it difficult to trace calls to a VoIP system. 

For these two reasons, many businesses will maintain at least one traditional phone line in order to maintain communications in power outages and emergencies.

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Latency

Due to bandwidth requirements, some calls may appear to lag, delay, or disappear altogether. This is because the packets of information need time to reassemble in order for an effective call to be made. This problem is becoming less of an issue as newer, more sophisticated data algorithms come into use.

How a VoIP Call Is Placed

There are three common ways a VoIP call is initiated.

ATA 

Short for analog telephone adapter, an ATA is one of the most common ways to connect to a VoIP network. Here, a traditional telephone is connected to a device. What the ATA does is take the analog voice signal created by your telephone and convert it into digital packets that are sent over the Internet, much like an email or software download.

IP (or VoIP) Phones

You can think of an IP phone as a phone with the technology to digitize your voice built right into the device itself. No conversion is needed because the process is done right away, and these either connect to the VoIP service directly through your router or a Wi-Fi connection. The IP phone doesn’t need to be a traditional phone; there are software-based systems that place calls, like ones you’ll find in computer and portable device applications.

Computer to Computer

The final type of VoIP call requires no traditional phone service to place the call. Skype is a good example. The call is placed through software, and the data packets are transmitted to the person you’re calling directly through the VoIP service’s servers.

How a VoIP Call Is Routed

To understand how VoIP works, we first need to understand how traditional phone calls work.

With a traditional phone call, when you pick up the receiver, you’ll hear that familiar dial tone. In technical terms, that dial tone is an auditory confirmation that you have opened up an electric circuit to the telephone exchange, which is the central location where calls are routed. When you dial the number, the exchange opens up an electric circuit to the receiving phone, which makes it ring. When the person you’re calling picks up the phone, the circuit is opened, and voice is transmitted across this open circuit.

VoIP calls work differently. The Internet serves as your exchange, and picking up your receiver will only start the process of sending data packets to the VoIP server. You still hear a dial tone, but this is now a confirmation that you have a connection to the VoIP server.

This VoIP server then tries to locate the person you’re trying to call. If it is another VoIP number, the VoIP server may direct the call completely over the Internet. If it finds it’s a traditional number, it will take the necessary steps to create that electric circuit like two traditional phones to route the call successfully.

The list of pros almost overwhelmingly outweighs the list of cons – the benefits of using VoIP are numerous. To significantly reduce telephone charges by switching to VoIP makes perfect business sense.

While there are several advantages to VoIP technology, there are also some issues that you should be aware of when investing in the system. Getting used to the technology can take a bit of time, but overall it is a convenient, quality option that can save you quite a bit of money over the long term.

 

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