Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) lets you make voice calls over the internet instead of a regular landline or mobile network. This technology goes by many names. The list includes broadband phone service, broadband telephony, internet telephony and IP telephony.
The term "VoIP" may seem unfamiliar. But the chances are that you've made calls using this technology without knowing. Popular apps like Skype, Viber, LINE, FaceTime, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger all use VoIP to facilitate voice calls.
There has been an upsurge in the popularity of VoIP technology in the last couple of years. That's because of its low cost, convenience and value-added benefits compared to regular phone service. VoIP gives users the ability to make video calls and other forms of digital communication. It's no wonder it's fast becoming the communications technology of choice.
The technology enables people to make and receive calls over the internet instead of using more traditional phone systems. The biggest advantage is the ability to make calls anywhere in the world, regardless of what phone systems are in place, or the quality of available phone signals. In this new world of coronavirus-related lockdowns and restrictions, such versatility advantage and ease of communications is more important than ever.
There are, however, disadvantages to using VoIP, as with any system of this kind. It's all about weighing these drawbacks up and comparing them to the benefits to decide whether it is the right system for your specific business or individual circumstances.
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.
They 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.
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 8x8 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.
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.
This technology leads to greater financial savings. This happens because there exists only one network carrying the voice and data provided by only one supplier. If you have a broadband Internet connection (DSL or cable), you can make PC-to-PC phone calls anywhere in the world for free. If you wish to make a PC-to-phone connection, there's usually a charge for this but probably much cheaper than your regular phone service.
The first piece of good news when it comes to comparing VoIP advantages and disadvantages is the costs involved. Where data used to be very expensive in the early days of internet communications, the costs have plummeted as it became more and more ubiquitous. Once the system has been set up and installed, calls between two or more VoIP set-ups are free. There can be costs involved in calling between VoIP and a landline, but these are normally much lower than between two landlines.
Additionally, there is also no separate line rental that you would need to pay with a traditional phone, as the VoIP system links to your existing internet connection as part of your contract. You have one account and one bill for your internet services.
Some comparisons put the potential cost-savings you could achieve as high as more than half an existing landline or private branch exchange (PBX) phone system invoice.
VoIP offers a great deal of flexibility. The only limit is your available bandwidth when it comes to the length and frequency of your calls. You can also add far more phones to the system to connect an entire business and its employees easily through a private internal phone network.
For organisations that need to stay connected, such as call centres and other businesses that speak to the public on a regular basis, having this flexibility is essential for ongoing financial viability, agility and growth.
The versatility continues when you come to consider office layouts and the physical expansion of your workforce. If they are all connected to a cloud-based VoIP system, they no longer need to be tied to a landline at a desk - remote working, hot-desking and operating from home suddenly become far more viable.
As long as your internet connection so reliable and your bandwidth is decent, you can more or less guarantee high quality of sound and connectivity. It should be at least the same, but most likely better than the traditional telephony equivalent.
Gone are the days of long-distance calls sounding crackly or muffled - VoIP is not affected by the geographical distance between two people making a call when they are both using VoIP to do so. You can also make and receive multiple simultaneous calls without compromising on sound quality with VoIP.
The portability of VoIP also helps your own performance to improve - you can use the same number wherever you are to give clients essential continuity and reassurance, and you can rely on the fact that you can contact people exactly when you need to, no matter where you are or what the local provision is for telephone services. If your business changes location, even to a different country, you can keep the same number too.
As already mentioned, a huge benefit to installing VoIP for voice calls is its accessibility. You are no longer restricted geographically to where there is an existing phone signal. Distance and location make no difference to performance or cost, so long as both ends of the voice call have and are using an internet connection for the VoIP connection.
You don't have to arrange for extra copper wiring to be installed, or any of the rigmarole that can accompany expanding a PBX or landline phone set-up. All you need is a single Ethernet connection that links your business to the VoIP system.
To get started on a VoIP call, simply log into your broadband account, enter the number you need, and the conversation can begin. This ease of use and lack of complicated hardware also helps when you are travelling or based away from home and don't have easy access to a phone line.
Many traditional or alternative telephony business models are built on upselling additional functionality to customers who are seeking a better experience with their voice calls. This can soon add up the costs of connectivity. Extras such as video conferencing, call forwarding, caller-ID services, call waiting, and three-way calling are all extremely useful for both small and large businesses but often come at a higher price.
VoIP also offers a whole raft of additional features like these in with the standard rate and call provision. You don't have to add everything at the start. You can pick and choose what features you will need and add more as you go on.
Making the system extremely scalable and an attractive proposition for businesses seeking to grow. It enables users to send data such as documents and images at the same time as speaking, making collaborative working at a distance much easier for everyone involved.
As coronavirus has brought remote and home working to the fore, these types of features will remain or paramount importance for a long time to come when it comes to staying in touch with employees, colleagues and clients around the world.
Everything that has an advantage has its disadvantages. VoIP telephony is not exempt from this rule.
Here are the downsides associated with the VoIP service you need to be aware of:
For starters, your VoIP service is only as good as your internet connection. If your network bandwidth is low, the service is bound to suffer.
VoIP doesn't use as much bandwidth as you might expect. It's essential that VoIP devices receive low latency on your network. Each device should have at least 100 kbps upload speed available. A good connection has less than 70ms ping and jitter, which measures the latency and stability of your internet connection.
The bandwidth your business needs will depend on the number of concurrent calls you plan on making. The best way to determine this is to run a bandwidth test on your current network.
Aside from speed, there are other connection issues any internet-based technology can face: latency and jitter.
When communicating online each message (whether it be email, video, or audio) is broken into bits of data called "data packets." These packets are then reassembled at their intended destination to create the original message.
Latency and jitter are when these data packets either hit delays in transmission or get improperly re-assembled. These issues might not even be with your network; major internet backbones modify data routes to deliver traffic reliably, fastest path to a destination. These changes happen automatically with no involvement on your part.
Why latency and jitter occur
How to fix latency and jitter issues
Location tracking is the final con of VoIP. Because of VoIP's portability and accessibility, it's difficult for third parties to pinpoint where a call originates.
The calls come from an IP address with no GPS data or cell tower information to track. While 99% of callers don't need this information, this does create an issue for emergency services like 911. You'll need to communicate where you are in an emergency.