Everything you need to know about VoIP
VoIP allows people to make cheap or even free calls right from their computers or phones. All you really need is internet.
The biggest reason why businesses are making the switch to VoIP is the cost. Hands down. You're able to bypass additional charges from phone companies and pay no more than what you are already paying for your Internet access. It is much cheaper and easier overall to maintain and update VoIP than traditional PSTN services and equipment. Additionally, companies benefit immensely from having a single consolidated communications system. Since voice data is sent in a digital form, this allows VoIP to offer callers more features. People can now make voice and video calls or send instant messages around the world for free by only having a standard Internet connection.
VoIP in a nutshell
There is a technological advancement that has revolutionized the world of communication but, surprisingly, not that many people are familiar with it. It is a technology that enables voice communication to be transmitted over the Internet . Pronounced by its acronym "voyp" or by its initials V-o-I-P, Voice-over-Internet-Protocol offers an alternative to the traditional phone line or public switched telephone network (PSTN) . VoIP is also sometimes called IP Telephony or Internet Telephony. With the introduction of the Internet and the development of smartphones, VoIP presents an attractive telecommunications option for businesses. Large companies like Microsoft and Facebook have already jumped on the trend by creating messaging apps like Skype and Facebook Messenger.
Before I go into how this newer technology works, I would like to clarify some terms that are commonly brought up when discussing VoIP: PSTN, PBX, packet-switched, and circuit-switched. These words can be a little confusing so the following explanations will hopefully help you understand better.
As mentioned earlier, PSTN stands for public switched telephone network. It is a circuit-switched mode of telecommunication that is limited to a dedicated channel per call (7). This large, interconnected system encompasses thousands and thousands of telephone lines, cellular networks, circuits, and more. The PSTN forms the basis for all public telecommunications, allowing almost every and any phone in the world to make a call. A variety of telecommunications providers operate within the PSTN, such as Verizon and AT&T (10).
Instead of a PSTN, many businesses use private branch exchange (PBX), which is a telephone system that carries calls over local lines and is localized to the company building (9). These local lines are connected together, allowing the enterprise to bypass the necessity of having a separate line for each employee. If you make a call from inside of the PBX, you only have to dial a three or four-digit number in order to make a call to someone else in the network. However, when you're outside of the PBX, you must dial the full business number with a specific extension.
A packet-switched network (PSN) is a type of digital network where data (e.g. a voice call) is transformed and sent in the form of small packets. No dedicated connection is required and the packets have multiple paths that they could take to get to their destination . This avoids the risk of being dependent on only one network life and also allows multiple users to access the data.
On the other hand, a circuit-switched network (CSN) is a type of network where the digital information moves along a closed connection between the sender and the receiver. The transfer of data occurs only after a circuit has been established while a PSN is connectionless and has various routes.
How VoIP Works
So, now that you know a little more about these complex terms, you must be wondering how exactly voice-over-internet protocol works. VoIP functions by using codecs (coders/decoders) to compress data into small units called data packets. These packets can then travel over the Internet to its intended party. Once the data packets arrive at their destination, they are decompressed before the receiver can access the digital information.
Through the PSN process previously described, VoIP allows people to make cheap or even free calls right from their computers or phones. All you really need is a broadband (high speed Internet connection) and a phone, computer, or adaptor. Some VoIP services can be used through a regular phone connected to a VoIP adaptor. Other services can be used through a special VoIP phone or a computer. In order to use voice-over-internet-protocol on your computer, you must download certain software and equip yourself with a microphone.
The fact that companies have been switching to VoIP comes as no surprise, considering all the advantages it provides. The biggest reason why businesses are making the switch to VoIP is the cost. Hands down. You're able to bypass additional charges from phone companies and pay no more than what you are already paying for your Internet access. It is much cheaper and easier overall to maintain and update VoIP than traditional PSTN services and equipment. Additionally, companies benefit immensely from having a single consolidated communications system. Since voice data is sent in a digital form, this allows VoIP to offer callers more features. People can now make voice and video calls or send instant messages around the world for free by only having a standard Internet connection. Because VoIP relies on the Internet, which is accessible almost anywhere, it offers flexibility and portability for users.
It's also important to take the disadvantages of using VoIP into consideration. For example, because the technology relies on Internet connection and power, it won't work whenever the Internet is down or during power outages. Connecting to emergency services by dialing 9-1-1 does not smoothly function on all VoIP services (1). Voice call quality can greatly vary due to the fact that there are multiple routes that a data packet can traverse. Security is also a huge issue as the Internet is quite insecure. Data packets can be delayed, corrupted, or even lost during transmission over the IP network. More needs to be done to ensure the security of VoIP usage.
Whether you're simply interested in finding out more about this exciting technology or your business is looking to cut down costs, there's no shortage of information about VoIP on the Web. Check out the websites for the big VoIP providers (e.g. Ring Central, Nextiva, and Jive) and compare their different prices and benefits. Keep in mind the features that you want and see what works best for you!