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What equipment is needed for VoIP?

What do you need for VoIP?

We have all heard about the Voice Over IP service (VoIP for short). This new technology permits the delivery of voice communications and various multimedia features over the Internet Protocol (hence the name). But not all of us are familiarised with the kind of equipment we will need if we decide to opt-out for such Service.

VoIP is very different technology when compared to your regular phone system because it relies on the Internet to make communication possible.

So, first things first, you will need an Internet connection, preferably a high-speed (or broadband) one, like DSL, T1 or regular cable service. A fibre link connection is the best there is, but it may get expensive, so cable broadband or T-1 Service is the best low-cost alternative.

Now, with the Internet connection taken care of, the next best thing is to ask your VoIP provider about the equipment. Some of them don't require anything special, except for a PC and a pair of headphones with a microphone (if you are using a softphone) or a handset and premise if you want. In other cases, you will have to use their special adapters that will allow a VoIP connection over your high-speed modem and they will let you use their Service.

To place or receive calls using Voice-over-IP technology, you need a hardware setup that will allow you to speak and listen. You might need simply a headset with your PC or a complete set of network equipment, including routers and phone adapters. We've prepared a list of the equipment that you typically require for VoIP, but you won't need everything we mention. What you need depends on what you use and how you use it. 

If you're thinking about switching your business telephone service to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP, or phone service over the Internet), you might be wondering about the startup requirements. Will you need special hardware? What equipment will you need to make the switch?

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to setting up VoIP service. The primary need for any VoIP service is a high-speed Internet connection, which most companies already have in place. Typically, smaller businesses need only a minimal amount of additional equipment, especially for cloud-based VoIP, where the servers are located offsite. If your business requires a larger premises-based service (PBX), you may need more hardware, more servers and additional infrastructure. Let's look at a few of the more common scenarios.

Analog Telephone Adapters

An analog telephone adapter acts as a hardware interface between an analog PSTN telephone system and a digital VoIP line. You don't need an ATA if you are using PC-to-PC VoIP, but you will use it if you sign up for a monthly VoIP service to be deployed at home or in your office, and if you intend to use your existing phones.

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Telephone Sets

The phone set is essential for VoIP — it's both an input and an output device. Several types of phones can be used with VoIP, depending on the circumstances, your needs, and your choice.

Although you can use an analog telephone designed for PSTN networks, you might find more value in a dedicated VoIP phone or even a non-hardware softphone app.

PC Handsets

Handsets resemble telephones, but they connect to your computer through USB or a sound card. They work together with a softphone allowing you to use VoIP more comfortably. They can also be plugged into an IP phone to allow many users to use the same phone.

These devices are rarer than they used to be; most people now either use a PC headset or an ATA with a desk phone to communicate using VoIP.

PC Headsets

A PC headset is a standard multimedia device that allows you to hear audio from your computer and input your voice by using a microphone. Check out our list of the best USB headsets and the best Bluetooth headsets to help you pick the right device for you.

Basic Cloud-Based VoIP

If you're a small company looking to run VoIP off your existing Internet service, a simple cloud-based service will usually do the trick. You'll only need to purchase VoIP-enabled telephone handsets (to match the number of desks in your office), along with an appropriate number of VoIP routers. If you have existing phones, you may be able to keep them in Service by using analog telephone adapters (ATAs) to connect them to your VoIP service. If your company uses mobile phones, you can even configure virtual phone numbers to forward calls to them, skipping the handset entirely if you wish.

Softphone Software

Some businesses prefer to dispense with conventional phones entirely: They are running their VoIP service directly from their computers or mobile devices by way of a "softphone" app—a virtual telephone on their computer. For these configurations, you'd want to obtain an appropriate number of microphone/headset combinations to use in conjunction with the software.

Premises-Based (PBX) Service

For companies requiring a lot of telephone access, a cloud-based service might take up too much bandwidth for your Internet service to support. In such cases, we recommend installing a PBX VoIP service that runs from servers placed on premises—not entirely unlike setting up a conventional wired office phone system. If you have an existing LAN-server infrastructure, your VoIP service may be integrated into your current hardware.

When you're ready to make the switch to VoIP, Forum Group can provide a free evaluation to help you determine the configuration best suited to your needs. 

Many users may have been led to believe that voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) requires expensive and complicated equipment with phonetically dissonant names. In reality, this assessment could not be farther from the truth. While users will need the right equipment to take advantage of the full host of services and features of VoIP, the Service is completely scalable—meaning the system is able to grow or shrink to meet users' demands. Though there is a lot of hardware available, users don't typically need most of it. In response to the volume of products available versus the essential equipment needed, we have assembled the basic prerequisites needed for VoIP service.

The best place to start is with the basics– users can need as little as one item (aside from the Service), a phone. VoIP users typically need a phone for most functionality. Many providers offer a virtual number service, which forwards calls to your phone (typically a mobile phone). Additionally, these services establish a number and voicemail that are separate from your number. In doing this, users are also fitted with a number of features (exclusive to VoIP) such as auto attendant and voicemail transcription. In terms of appearance, these services can have a very positive effect on a users company. For example, a small business that utilises VoIP service is able to appear as a much larger organisation. Along with size, VoIP also fits companies with professionalism through its use of features and standardised operations.

As stated above, a service plan is the only necessity other than a phone. As the industry continues to experience substantial growth, more and more providers will appear. While each provider offers different pricing and different plans, users should always be aware of the basic needs of service, i.e. reliability, quality, features, pricing, accessibility, and customer support. Each of these will range from provider to provider (usually based on pricing and plan); however, each of these is essential to the operating of VoIP services.

While phone and Service can be considered core-essentials, the level of involvement dictates the need for additional hardware. For example, a residential user may only need a pc, softphone software, and a headset to make and receive VoIP calls (over the computer); however, a small business may need more. The majority of offices need only three things to get VoIP—an IP phone, a working high-speed internet connection, and a subscription to a business VoIP provider—because VoIP piggybacks on to an user's existing infrastructure. Therefore, assuming that users have the basic tools for business (i.e. electricity), they don't need more to start making VoIP calls. This holds for basic use of VoIP, but extended use may require more equipment. For example, users that sign up for a VoIP service deployed at home or in the office that uses the existing phones will need ATAs or Analog Telephone Adapters. These adapters act as an interface between an analog PSTN phone and a digital VoIP line.

As stated above, VoIP calls can be made with a computer using softphone software (separate from a phone). In pursuing this option, users will need a headset, or a microphone and set of speakers. Aside from these options, users can opt to use a webcam (as may have been done already with Skype, Yahoo, or another client); however, now the same network used to make video conferences is used to make calls. Therefore, with this method, users can make video conferences as well as calls. While this may sound underwhelming, it should be noted that VoIP video conferences have a higher picture and sound quality than they did in the past due to better encoding technology and higher bandwidth availability.

Additionally, VoIP video and audio conference calling makes it easy to distinguish who is speaking, which makes it easier on your ears and eyes to follow the action. Though conference calls allow users to have a number of different people communicate, each has to be using their phone, or you can buy an IP conference phone. Cosmetically, an IP conference phone looks very different from a regular phone. It lays flat on a table and has speakers and microphones that point in three different directions. The microphones pick up the different voices, and software inside makes it sound like it's coming from the proper direction, rather than have it sound flat. Conference IP phones also plug into Ethernet cables; however, some have wireless options.

In determining equipment needed, users need to know their intended use. As stated above, use dictates the need. Another example of this can be seen in users using an app on their smartphone or tablet device. This method of VoIP use sends the users voice over their device's data or Wi-Fi connection instead of using cellular technology, allowing users to save minutes, as well as access to features including reading e-faxes and use the features of your VoIP provider's web portal. In addition to this, mobile apps fit users with all the features and benefits of the virtual number service(s) previously mentioned.

In order to realise VoIP on the grandest scale, users can utilise immersive telepresence with giant screens and specially-placed speakers and microphones. With this level of use, users feel as if they are communicating with one another in person. With an advanced level of quality, these systems are very expensive and generally require a large amount of bandwidth. All VoIP service requires a high-speed internet connection; however, bandwidth is an expansion on this. Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transmitted at once. Users will need plenty of this to ensure the quality of their Service. A lack can result in latency effects like echo, as well as dropped calls.

The equipment needs/requirements of VoIP users span the full spectrum of little and cheap to large and expensive. Ultimately, the user's intended use of Service constitutes requirements; therefore, a prospective user must know what they are looking for in a service. Aside from the fluctuation of needs, users will require an internet connection, a phone or a computer, and a service to utilise VoIP. While there are an increasing amount of service options, there are just as many hardware options. Despite VoIP's conception as a complex and needy industry, actual requirements are very limited.

The Most Common Devices Used in Voice Over IP Services

  • ATA or Analog Telephone Adapters, these are used as the hardware interface between your "old school" analog PSTN telephone connection and the "high tech" VoIP line. This will be necessary only if you choose a monthly Voice over IP service, in the regular "PC to PC" VoIP you don't need the ATA.
  • Handset – The VoIP telephone sets may be required, depending on the type of service you have chosen. They are the hardware interface between you and the Service.
  • VoIP Routers are key elements which enable you to connect to the Internet. You will need an ADSL router if you're using a broadband connection, in your home or at your place of business.
  • PC Handsets look like regular telephones, but they are connected to your PC via USB ports or via your sound card. They are delivered with dedicated software which makes it easier for you to use the VoIP service.
  • PC Headsets are a pair of headphones with a microphone; this piece of hardware will enable you to receive audio input via the VoIP service and also to transmit your voice, via the microphone.
  • Data Switch, you will need a data switch which has Quality of Service (QoS) and Virtual LAN capabilities. This is very important to ensure you have a quality VOIP service experience.

Based on your needs, you don't have to be freaked out by these technicalities. Working with a qualified Installation partner will lead the way and ensure your VOIP Service experience is an excellent one.

Having a consistently reliable means of business communication with your customers is always assured, utilising our best-in-class VoIP phone systems and VoIP Services.

Necessary VoIP equipment can be extremely limited, allowing users willing to reap the benefits of voice over IP such as cheaper calls, mobile office, media blending to do so with a simple installation.

For a typical home-use installation, a router may or may not be needed. VoIP equipment consists of an IP phone or a traditional phone with an ATA adapter. A third option is a softphone, a program turning PCs into phones. A headset will be almost compulsory to keep conversations private.

An enterprise network requires additional components to this basic VoIP equipment. An Internet protocol private branch exchange (IP PBX) system consists of phones, a PBX server, a gateway, and several lines. The server is a computer, with or without a user interface, display and commands, and a large rack of switches to connect the wires. A "Quality of Service" modem can be added to set up priority rules so that the system and connection will always keep more bandwidth for VoIP calls, instead of prioritising other sources of data transfers within the company network.

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The need for all this VoIP equipment is eliminated with hosted IP PBX systems. With these systems, users have to connect their phones to the Internet, and the service provider will deploy all private telephone network features through the Internet and web-based applications and programs allowing users to set up their installation fully.

What all these installations need is a fast and reliable internet connection. Although most users will rely on the public Internet to connect their VoIP equipment, some service providers assign privatised channels through their Sip trunks.

Although additional equipment is often required to be purchased when upgrading to a VoIP solution, the overall benefits typically far outweigh this cost. Businesses should evaluate the annual cost savings that such a solution can offer while considering any upfront equipment expenses. In most cases, the overall cost savings and productivity increases that VoIP provides will easily justify any potential equipment upgrades.

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