Introduction to Voice Over IP (VOIP)
Voice over IP (VOIP) is one of those things that many people will have heard of but may not have had any experience of. VOIP is essentially internet based telephone services where the two sides of a phone call are transmitted through the users broadband.
You can either use a software phone on your PC or buy an IP phone which you can set up with the details of your VOIP provider. There are a huge range of VOIP providers all with their own levels of customer service and price structure.
Most people think of VOIP as being a way to save money but this is only one of the benefits VOIP can bring. The savings over standard telephone calls can be considerable but there can be other charges (depending what you require) which can make the overall saving comparatively nominal.
The big advantage with VOIP is that it can give you an incredibly powerful and flexible telephone system without the need for large investment in additional lines or equipment. With a VOIP system you can have multiple conversations going out of one internet connection and what's more those lines can be moved as easily as a laptop.
Unlike a standard telephone line where your number is linked to the physical line going into a building a VOIP number is linked to the phone via the VOIP provider, move the phone and the number moves with it. This offers a huge amount of flexibility in terms of working remotely, in the extreme it makes it incredibly easy to completely up sticks and move your whole office.
The main limiting factor with VOIP is the bandwidth it requires. If you have a slower connection with little spare bandwidth you may find VOIP very problematic. There are things you can do to improve matters (employing QoS with VOIP is very common) but there is no comparison to having a fast internet connection with plenty of spare bandwidth. Some business may choose to get a second internet connection just for their VOIP.
Software phones that you can run on your PC are very cheap (in some cases free) but these have the big disadvantage of being highly dependent on the available resources of your PC. The cost of getting a physical IP phone is well worth it. It is also worth remembering this if you are ever using a software phone to test a VOIP service.
VOIP can also offer a whole host of other advantages such as ring groups (where one number rings all phones where as a second number only rings 3 specific phones) and call recording but the extent of these additional benefits can vary dependant on your VOIP provider. Some VOIP providers can even transfer your existing telephone number.
If you are finding your single phone line is becoming quite limiting for your business and your internet connection is up to the challenge VOIP could vastly improve your telephony.