*I wrote this for another website and I was given permission to publish it here.*
What is it?
Voice over IP (VoIP) is a technology that enables the ability to communicate with either voice or multimedia capabilities. Essentially acting as a telephone using the internet. However it also enables faxing and SMS as well. The main difference between VoIP and an ordinary telephone is the type of transmission, specifically a telephone uses a circuit-switched network compared to a packet-switched network in IPs.
The first major network was Arpanet and that was back in the 70s. It was already hailed as a huge breakthrough but the major advancements for consumer and business needs came around 2004 when things became more streamlined and widespread.
The major VoIP that most people will know by name is Skype. We all remember the long buffer times in the beginning of each and every session, this was because the model was very basic. However, it did accomplish it’s goal of connecting the ordinary users to each other with free calls and the ability to easily communicate with each other. Meanwhile it charged for more intensive uses.
The next generation brought forth Google Talk and FaceTime from Apple. Now we have the ability to talk to each other over WiFi and from practically anywhere with a better calling service and not to mention more dependably.
These services were huge for the consumers and ordinary people. It enabled communication through free means as long as you had a computer or smartphone and a WiFi connection.
Needs For a Company
Companies need to communicate too and using a VoIP can be immensely beneficial for them to take advantage of.
Everyone has internet connection and access to some type of WiFi or broadband service. Utilizing the internet connection as a means of fast, dependable, and clear communication can help a business flourish. Whether it’s for voice calling, conferencing, or faxing VoIP is cheaper and more dependable than mobile phones and landlines.
Benefits of Using VoIP
The productivity will see a boost as documents, phone calls, and meetings can happen simultaneously. If your business partner needs a document than you can easily attach it during the meeting so they can receive it and discuss it right then and there, not at a meeting the following day or week.
VoIP is very easy to use. And in a high-paced office, user-friendly interfaces and services are very helpful when you mix older generations who have a hard time adjusting to new technology.
One very impressive feature is how voicemail can be turned into an email message and sent to you. Now every call can be recorded for contact details and important information without worrying about missing any specific details.
Conference calls don’t have to take place in a conference room anymore. In fact you can be driving, at a hotel, or in your own home and host a conference call on speaker phone while still having a reliable service. Multitasking and the ability to connect anywhere will benefit a fast paced company.
Small businesses and large business alike can both benefit from a good VoIP. The boost in productivity and a plethora of other features will come in handy when running a business and not having to deal with missing information, poor communication, and hard to use services.
So you need to ask yourself what you need. If you find that you need long distance calling, conference calling, and the ability to maximize productivity than you might want to consider looking into a VoIP service provider.
Current Service Providers
There are services that businesses will find more appealing than a user who just has occasional calls. There packages come at a price and offer a ton of services to cater to a business atmosphere. Companies like RingCentral, PhonePower, VoIP.com offer options like conference calling, international calls and business plans with pricing varying with each option you choose. And after you define your businesses specific needs it will help gauge the price you will be paying and what you need to ask for.
The costs of these services depends completely on your needs. For instance if you are a business that needs to communicate across different countries it will cost more than those dealing strictly in one. There could also accrue setup fees, unlimited plans and business plans. It all comes down to your needs but you could be looking at anywhere ranging from free to over $100.
Free Service Providers
If the word free grabbed your attention than there are free VoIP software providers out there for you. Skype and FaceTime are the first ones that comes to mind but some offer free demos for more intensive purposes. RingCentral, Vonage, and 8×8, Inc are all providing free demos to ensure you like the service before you have to pay for it.
There is one more option that could potentially benefit you. After you identify your needs and you find that one or two are more important than others you can dial into that need and exploit it with open source VoIP software.
If you are looking for your own customizable options than open source VoIP software might be your best bet. Companies like Asterisk enable you to build your own open source network in order to fully fit your needs, whether it’s collecting and maintaining voicemail, conference servers, what have you. The costs reflect the services you use instead of paying for services you’ll never use.
There are other considerations when looking into an open source VoIP. SIP Proxies, SIP clients and H.323 Clients are all examples of the amount of variation in different types of open source software. This is where you truly can customize your decisions. SIP stands for session initiation protocol and proxies/clients are making strides to overtake services like Skype with a better connection and more features for both home and business use. H.323 clients are trying to build better voice and video quality calls. They help with conferences and business specific needs.
The market for open source VoIP is ever-growing and has a ton of platforms to choose from. Going this route will take a certain measure of tech savvy but can potentially be more rewarding for your business and at home.
If your business would benefit by utilizing stronger communication lines, better productivity, and staying ahead of the competition than you need to look into VoIP software as the ideal route to take in achieving those goals.