The Ultimate Guide to VoIP

Making Sense of VoIP

Haven’t made the switch to a VOIP yet? You’re missing out on a great opportunity! Whether you’re considering VOIP for your residence, or run a small business or large enterprise, the benefits of VOIP can tremendously improve your business communications at an incredibly low cost.

Upgrading to VoIP is the best way to future-proof your telecom setup. That said, it helps to solidify your understanding of how VoIP works before making the switch. You’ll need to consider a couple of crucial questions before investing in the change, and our guide will help you settle most of these questions.

What is VoIP and How Does It Work?

Voice-Over-Internet Protocol (VOIP) is a service that uses the internet instead of the traditional telephone technology to process, handle and deliver voice calls. Rather than plugging your handset into the conventional analogue phone exchange, your phone connects to a broadband line, directly or through a computer.

Since VoIP systems rely on broadband lines to receive and send calls, you won’t incur an extra charge to make them. Your calls become part of your overall broadband service covered by a monthly bill from your broadband service supplier.

VoIP works by enabling traditional telephony services to operate over computer networks using packet-switched protocols. This phone system digitizes analogue voice signals, relaying them between the sender and receiver. VoIP systems can work in three ways:

  • IP telephones. IP telephones are almost similar to traditional phone systems, with the only difference being that they plug into your computer. These phones typically come with all the software and hardware required to connect to your server or router.
  • Computer-to-computer. This communication system requires a decent sound card and the appropriate software. You’ll need microphones and speakers or headsets to communicate.
  • Analog Telephone Adaptor (ATA). An analog telephone adaptor lets you plug your traditional telephone into the computer and make VoIP calls. The adaptor collects the analog signal from a conventional phone and converts it into digital data that’s transmitted over the internet.

A VoIP phone system is typically controlled through a dashboard within the selected control system or an app. This makes the entire communication system and its products secure and easy to use. The dashboard buttons also let you forward calls, add contacts and customize the standard delivery service to suit your needs.

VoIP solutions have now evolved into unified communication services that handle communications like faxes, phone calls, and web conferences as discrete units that can be delivered through any means and to any handset.

What Equipment Do I Need?

VoIP technology is different from your standard phone system, and so is the equipment required to facilitate communication. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach for setting up VoIP for your residence or a business, you’ll need high-speed internet at the bare minimum. You could choose a broadband connection or a regular cable service.

After taking care of the internet connection, you need to ask your VoIP provider about the equipment you need. Some providers won’t need anything special, except for a computer and a pair of headphones with a microphone. In other instances, you’ll need to use their special adapters that will allow the VoIP connection over your broadband connection.

Some of the equipment you need to commission a VoIP service successfully for a business include:

  • Phone headsets: Although most IP phones have excellent speakerphones, many people will probably prefer to use a headset for conversation privacy and respect for their work neighbours.
  • Analog telephone adaptors: If you continue using your existing analog phones, analog telephone adaptors will act as a hardware interface between your old telephone connection and the VoIP line. However, this may not work out as a worthy long-term goal because of the cost and productivity benefits.
  • Handset: You may need VoIP telephone sets depending on the type of service you choose. The handset is simply a hardware interface between the service and yourself.
  • VoIP routers: VoIP routers let you connect to the internet. They may also provide redundancy and packet prioritization.
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE) Switches: A Poe switch is the preferred method of powering IP phones to avoid the additional cost of power supplies. The pricing, however, will depend on the software features and port count.
  • Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS): Your network equipment should always have an uninterrupted power supply in case there are power outages. It also ensures system uptime.

Pros and Cons of VoIP

VoIP phone systems provide a host of beneficial features, most of which are significant improvements compared with traditional phone systems. Here are a few ways VoIP can enhance your overall telephone experience.

  • Cost-savings. There’s no doubt that VoIP can help you save on your monthly call charges. Since voice data travels as a digital signal via a broadband line, making a call becomes as easy as sending an email..
  • Improved convenience. It’s not only the handsets that will connect to your VoIP telephone exchange. VoIP calls are easy to send and receive using a computer or your smartphone.
  • Call handling. Some of the functions you’d typically associate with premium office telecommunication systems are more affordable and readily available to small businesses. Transferring calls to other lines, holding calls and routing calls to specific departments are a few call features handled without excess wiring.
  • Multimedia integration. Calls made through VoIP aren’t restricted to audio since greater bandwidth allows for video calls and conferencing with many callers. Communication tools like fax and email can be integrated with a VoIP system to create a unified communications service.

On the flip side, there can be several potential drawbacks you should consider before installing a VoIP system. Some of these disadvantages include:

Can I Keep My Old Phone Number?

Basically, yes. You can retain your existing phone number when you switch to a new VoIP service. Commonly referred to as number portability, this feature gives the ability to continue using your phone number from an old phone service provider with another — although it isn’t always free. Some VoIP providers offer number portability against a fee, typically as a one-time payment or a monthly charge payable as long as you keep the number.

Besides the charges, keeping your old phone number may also impose some restrictions, including not benefitting from some features available with the new service.

How Much Does It Cost?

The cost of your VoIP service will depend on the service provider. Packages typically have two types of costs: a monthly line fee and costs for your usage. This means that you’ll pay a monthly fee to access your provider’s service and may pay an additional charge for any outbound calls made. Some providers may also include call packages, providing a specific number of minutes or unlimited calls at a specific monthly fee.

Other cost factors of VoIP include:

  • Number of users. Your VoIP service provider may bill you based on the number of active users.
  • VoIP Features. Advanced features like in-depth reporting will increase the cost.
  • Contract length. You’re likely to get a lower service price if you commit to a longer contract, say 12–36 months.
  • VoIP equipment. Your VoIP costs will increase if you buy special VoIP equipment.
  • Hosting. Hosting equipment yourself will cost you more than provider hosting.

Low-end VoIP entry point costs typically range from $10–20 for starter packages and may rise to over $30 for top-tier packages.

Should I Get Rid of My Landline?

As much as you’d love to hold onto your landline, the benefits of a VoIP service will have you thinking otherwise—from flexibility and scalability to lower costs. And while adopting VoIP will future proof your communications, it’s always good to have a landline as a backup.

VoIP on Smartphones

Mobile Apps like Skype and Viber allow you to call other people who have the app installed on their smartphone. Skype, for instance, can let you call a regular mobile number or landline—though at a cost. VoIP on a smartphone enables you to call other people on any device through video or group calls. You must connect to Wi-Fi for this to work.