VoIP and VoIP Service Providers
What is VoIP?
VoIP is the acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol. To put it in absolutely simple terms, VoIP could be defined as the technology that helps you to make phone calls over the internet. Since the calls would basically be measured in bits and not in minutes, VoIP rates are much cheaper.
What makes VoIP More Cost Effective?
One of the biggest advantages of using VoIP is that you don’t need a lot of specific hardware to use VoIP. This could be compared to the analog mobile network, where you need to get a lot of specialized equipment. This reduces the cost of setting up the system. The cost of installation is also less compared to an analog telephone system. Some of the other things that make VoIP more cost-effective are.
Choosing the Right VoIP
There are four main varieties of VoIP services:
- Business VoIP
- Residential VoIP
- Mobile VoIP
- Wholesale VoIP
More Than Just Computers
When people think of VoIP, they generally think of computers due to the popularity of the numerous free communication services like FaceTime and Skype, but this is truly just one aspect of what VoIP can truly offer. It is true that VoIP technology transmits voice communication that’s been converted into digital data across a packet-switched network or the internet (what this means, in essence, is that a user making phone calls over high speed internet lines rather than phone lines). With that in mind, users are not confined to only using it on a computer. VoIP technology can connect through the internet using traditional telephone equipment just like a regular line. The phone itself is connected to the internet using an adaptor that’s plugged straight into a home or business’s internet network. Most major services offer a softphone option as well, which allows the user to use their computer directly as a telephone service. In addition to all that, VoIP providers will generally also offer mobile or tablet apps that allow their customers to make calls on the device (assuming it’s connected to Wi-Fi at the time).
It Saves a Ton of Money
Across the board, VoIP phone systems will save users significant amounts of money when switching over from a more conventional phone system by allowing much cheaper international and long distance rates as well as simply lowering the monthly bill. Aside from the money savings itself, VoIP based phones also give users a ton of additional features. VoIP phone services are ideal for both businesses and residences, but also home offices as well. Because it can be used on phones that are already owned, the setup costs are very minimal.
What to Look for in a VoIP Provider
The world is getting more and more interconnected with each year as we keep marching forward into this internet age. Because of that, international calling is going to continue becoming more important for all sorts of businesses. Every VoIP provider is going to have varied plans based on different needs such as countries allowed, the amount of minutes given in a month, and whether or not the customer is willing to sign a long term contract or not. Finding the right VoIP provider for your specific needs can be difficult, as you’ll need to look at a variety of different metrics. Let’s see specifically what to look at to determine if a VoIP provider is good for you.
One of the biggest deciding factors that you’re going to have when choosing the right VoIP service provider is the different type of packaging options they have for their product. There are many VoIP providers who will offer very competitive rates to customers willing to sign up for a one or two year contract plan but will charge quite a bit in the form of cancellation fees if you decide to stop using their service before the time fully expires. Users who get monthly plans are generally given the freedom to opt out whenever they want but will generally pay a bit more for the service.
One of the biggest advantages that VoIP services offer is their highly competitive long distance and international rates. If that’s one of your own big buying points, make sure to read the fine print closely on those particular features when comparing different providers. Some services will offer unlimited minutes for calling international locations while others will choose specific nations and have different rates for each one. Some providers offer plans that allow for very cheap domestic calls that only offer a limited amount of overall international minutes, which is a very good choice for businesses or individuals who don’t make that many calls to overseas areas. Another big bonus that VoIP providers offer and that a lot of people like is the fact that you can choose just about whichever area code you prefer, even if you’re away from home. Choosing an area code in a city that you have a lot of friends and family members in will actually allow their calls to you to be considered local rather than long distance.
The major VoIP providers that offer the best service almost always have the following basic features:
- Enhanced 911 dialing for emergency calls.
- Call return by using *69.
- The ability to make a block call list.
- The ability to forward calls to other numbers.
- Call waiting.
- Detailed caller identification.
- Free calls (which do not use up minutes) to other users that have the same service provider.
- The ability to keep your existing phone number.
- Long distance calling.
- Easy to use online account management.
- Voicemail options.
VoIP companies all provide the basic VoIP phone services, so the area where they truly stand out is going to be in the extra features they offer. Three way calling is standard in today’s world, but there are many providers who can offer conference calls that can handle even more people. Call transfer lets the user send a call to a different phone entirely, meaning that the different individual phones will each need extensions. Some services also offer a variety of local emergency or community lines, such as 411 for directory assistance.
There are some VoIP services that will give customers a second phone line for free for using the same service. While these do share the same phone number and will both ring when dialed, it will allow one person to dial a number and talk on the phone while another person can use the other phone to talk with somebody else entirely. There are also toll free or even virtual phone numbers that are offered by some providers that are great for home based businesses. These latter features are generally not standard and come with an additional charge.
While many of the VoIP service providers are similar at a quick glance and often offer some of the same basic features, the extra features they offer is where a savvy business can really increase the value of their investment.
There are a number of mobile apps that allow people to place VoIP calls on their phone or tablet as long as they have an internet connection. Desktop or laptop computers can even be used as phones (called softphones) with VoIP technology as well.
For customers looking to keep using their business phone while traveling, there are services that allow customers to take the service with them by using a small sized physical adaptor that’s very easy to travel with. Even if you’ve already invest in an adaptor from a previous service, many VoIP providers will still be able to use it.
Another big spot to look at when searching for a good VoIP service is technical support. Make sure to look around for reviews of the company and ensure that the service the provider gives is fast, reliant, and quick. Check the website to ensure that there is email, over the phone, and live chat support and see if there is a knowledge base set up to help customers work through issues on their own.
As we have seen, voice over IP phone systems are a great way to simultaneously reduce a business’s bottom line while also providing a ton of extra features that weren’t even possible with traditional phone lines. It’s one of the best and easiest investments to make for an across the board increase to a business’s success.
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Miscellaneous VOIP related services, including peer-to-peer services, are listed below.