This guide will run you through everything you need to know about VoIP services.
You’ll learn how they work. What common terminology means. The different ways to get set up. And how to find the best VoIP service provider for your business — but as the saying goes: let’s start at the beginning.
First, we’ll answer the question, ‘What is VoIP?’
What Is VoIP?
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP, for short) is an internet-based phone line.
It routes connections through the world wide web, enabling lower cost, often higher quality telephone calls. You may hear people call it ‘internet telephony’ or ‘broadband phone service’ — but VoIP is the standard industry term, especially among IT consultants.
VoIP solutions let you dial anywhere in the world, as well as allowing anyone, anywhere, to phone you. But while most VoIP services look similar on the surface, how they work under the hood depends on the method they use.
Typically, there are three options:
- IP Telephones: these devices work like traditional telephones. They just plug into your computer. And most devices come with both the software and hardware required to connect to your router.
- Computer-to-Computer: this approach uses software only, so you’ll need to source your own sound card, headset, and microphone to enjoy it.
- Analog Telephone Adaptor (ATA): much as the name suggests, ATAs let you plug a standard phone into your computer to make calls over the internet.
Now you know the methods, it’s time to walk through the two service types.
On-premises Or Hosted VoIP Service
There are two types of VoIP service: on-premises and hosted.
They both use a Private Branch Exchange (PBX, for short). But hosted services are typically cloud-based (whereas on-premises services base everything in your place of work). Each has its own benefits, so the one to choose depends on your precise business needs.
On-premises VoIP puts all the equipment and hardware required to make internet-based calls in a designated room in your office.
The setup gives you total control over how your system works and makes it easy to add custom features. However, installation and maintenance costs will be higher. You’ll need on-site or on-call support. And a power cut could interrupt your service.
Hosted (or cloud-based) VOIP services rely on a third party to handle the PBX’s hardware, set up, and ongoing maintenance.
As a result, installation costs should all-but-disappear, as should concerns around downtime. However, the service quality will depend on your VoIP service provider, while you may not be able to get all the features you want at a price you can afford.
Common VoIP Terminology
Now you’ve got a grip on the basics, let’s shift gear and look at some technical terminology. These definitions will help you research VoIP solutions and choose which system is right for your organization.
- Session Initiation Protocol: the SIP initiates VoIP calls, allowing you to maintain, modify, and end a connection.
- SIP Trunking: service providers use SIP Trunking to connect a PBX to standard phone networks, retrofitting an existing phone line with a VoIP service.
- Public Switched Telephone Network: a PSTN is a global collection of voice-call focused devices, operating at both a local and international level — simply put, it’s the entire infrastructure that enables telecommunication.
- Codec: these critical devices and programs compress data to save bandwidth and improve connection speeds.
- Jitter: if the jitter is high, you’ll find a lag on the call.
- Latency: similarly, if latency is high, there may be a delay between you talking — and the other person hearing what you said.
How To Choose A VoIP Service Provider
There is no magic bullet for choosing the best VoIP service provider.
As with many products, it comes down to the features you need and what you can afford. However, there are five crucial features every reliable solution should have:
- Voicemail: there will be times you can’t get to your office phone. Voicemail is there to help — even better, call-forwarding can reroute the call to your mobile.
- Call recording: regulated industries need call records, customer service staff benefit from training — call recording has many uses across roles and sectors.
- Auto-attendant: imagine a warm welcome every time a customer calls, even if you’re busy — with call-routing to the most appropriate line (‘Press 1 for Sales,’ for example).
- Do not disturb: sometimes, you don’t want distractions — ‘DND’ sends calls to voicemail, letting you focus for as long as you need.
- Conferencing: conferencing means more than talking to more than one person — always look for services that can transfer files and host video calls.
Every solution will offer different features. The selection above is arguably the most important. And the best VoIP providers should try to understand your requirements and suggest which subscriptions suit you best.
But it will help to understand the options before you start a conversation.
Benefits Of Switching To VoIP
Most business leaders want an economical, reliable, and simple way to make local and international calls. Voice over Internet Protocol offers precisely that, alongside several other benefits.
A Cisco report suggests businesses can save over $1,500 per month using VoIP, helped out by the fact you can call anywhere in the world for as little as $0.01 per minute. You can also take your phone line with you, making calls from the same number from any device.
VoIP lines even integrate into CRM software, email marketing solutions, and eCommerce platforms, with every channel linking back into a single dashboard to deliver a unified communications system.
Even if you hadn’t heard of VoIP until today, maybe now’s the time to consider a switch.
If you’re considering a switch to VoIP services, feel free to call Mid-coast Tech on 207-223-7594 for some free, no-obligation advice.