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What is a VoIP Service?
Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP is a collection of different technologies working together to create a means of communication that allows for voice calls to be made over the Internet. Also called IP telephony, VoIP service was developed as a more affordable alternative to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) or regular landline phones, especially for costly long-distance and international calls.
Of course, what started as just an alternative grew into what many consider as a better option over regular analog phones because of its mobile and flexible nature. With a trusted business VoIP provider, companies and their employees are able to make and receive calls using their business phone number (toll-free or local) from anywhere, and on any device.
How does VoIP work?
VoIP works by breaking voice audio down into IP packets, then delivering it via the Internet through IP transmissions. Once the IP packet reaches the destination, it is converted back to audio data to be heard by the receiving party.
To achieve this, different sets of protocols are used to replicate the functions of regular phones.
This protocol is responsible for establishing a connection between two endpoints (the caller and the called party). SIP initiates the VoIP connection between the caller and called party (dials the number and receives the call), and also terminates the connection when the conversation is done (when either party ends the call).
The audio payload itself is carried by this transport protocol where it will be converted back to audio through a Codec. An example is RingCentral; it delivers HD voice by supporting G.7222 and the highly efficient OPUS codec.
The voice of both parties are broken down into IP packets and transported either through TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol), which prioritizes accuracy over speed or through UDP (User Datagram Protocol), which prioritizes speed over accuracy. All these happen in real-time and allow VoIP to facilitate voice calls over the internet.
How to use VoIP
There are two ways you can use VoIP to make and receive calls: through a softphone or through a hard phone.
Hard phones refer to the physical VoIP phones that resemble traditional telephones. However, while these IP phones look like good old desk phones, these are actually computing devices designed to facilitate VoIP calls. Other types of hard phones include receptionist phones for companies who prefer having a human receptionist to do manual call routing instead of an automated attendant and IP conference phones for audio conference calling.
Softphones, on the other hand, are software-based applications that can be installed on computers or mobile phones (iPhone or Android phones) so they can serve as a virtual phone. Some types of softphone also work more like unified communications platforms that not only let you make and receive calls from your computer or mobile device, but also let you send and receive internet fax and SMS, live chat, share links and files, and even join or host a video conference.
As an aside, you can technically use your old analog phones to make VoIP calls. To use your existing phone, you just need an analog telephone adapter (ATA) to convert analog audio to digital and vice-versa. This is not recommended, however, as you will be missing out on other advanced features like caller ID; and the call quality might not be on par with VoIP phones designed to make calls over IP transmissions.
Is VoIP better than landlines?
VoIP Call Quality of Service
There is a myth going around that the quality of service (QoS) of VoIP-based phone calls is inferior to that of calls made using traditional phone lines.
That may have been true in the past, especially in the early years of business VoIP and the infancy of broadband internet. However, in today's modern age, VoIP-made calls are as clear, if not clearer, than calls made through regular carriers.
HD Voice Quality of Call
Most top VoIP phone service providers offer HD Voice, but they usually only support it through the G.722 audio codec (Codecs are responsible for converting digital voice to analog voice for human hearing). But some industry leaders support HD Voice through state-of-the-art OPUS audio codec. In addition to supporting G.7222. Opus is widely recognized as a more efficient codec compared to other forms of codecs at any level.
This provides its customers with superior call clarity, even in limited bandwidth and network environments.
HD Voice for softphone and hard phones
If you are going to choose VoIP as the telephony component of your business communications system, it is important that you know which codecs are supported by the prospective provider. You also want to know if the top codecs that support HD voice like G.7222 and Opus are supported by the devices that you are going to use for VoIP calls.
For example, RingCentral Office makes HD Voice available to all customers subscribed to it and is enabled by default for the RingCentral App (desktop and mobile app) as well as for desk phones, giving users voice call quality that far exceeds that of traditional landline calls.
Advantages of VoIP
What are the Benefits of VoIP?
No need for expensive on-site hardware and equipment
A lot of traditional on-premise telephone systems require expensive hardware like servers and PBX boxes, which also take up valuable office space. The modern VoIP phone system is hosted in the cloud, so there is no need to build an IT infrastructure to support it.
No complex installations
Another disadvantage of relying on the traditional phone system is that it requires complex cabling within the premises of the office. These installations can take days and even weeks to complete, which can disrupt your operations terribly. Cloud-based VoIP systems, on the other hand, run through your own IT network and can be configured to your needs immediately.
Savings on long-distance and international calls
Most VoIP phone providers offer competitive rates on international calls compared to traditional carriers. For businesses that communicate a lot outside their state and even country, VoIP services provide their budget a big breather. In addition, calls that are considered long distance with traditional carriers are treated as local calls with many VoIP providers. As a result, businesses are getting unlimited calls over the US and Canada.
Inclusive of advanced communications and collaboration features
With traditional carriers that run through PSTN, you'll have to pay extra to get premium call features. VoIP phone services, in contrast, are inclusive of call forwarding, call screening with call blocking, caller ID, and other standard call features that are considered "premium" for traditional phone lines. Going beyond standard features, top providers offer complete unified communications solutions that typically include cloud PBX with auto-attendant, automatic call recording, hold music, business SMS, team messaging, and online meetings in one platform.
Scalable Business Communications Solution
The best part about cloud-based VoIP phone systems is that they grow as your company grows. Whether you are a growing business, or an established enterprise that wants to expand its coverage to other parts of the world, VoIP solutions can easily adjust to your new business needs without the need to buy new hardware, install new infrastructure, and generally spend large sums of capital investment.
Frequently Asked Questions about VoIP Services
The best VoIP phone service is not just about being able to connect phone calls over the internet. It has to be something more. Top VoIP providers have evolved from simply offering simple internet phone service to providing organizations a complete cloud-based business communications solution that combines VoIP telephony with virtual PBX and other communications tools.
The highest-rated VoIP providers take it a bit further by providing their customers a unified solution that allows management and employees to communicate and collaborate from anywhere on a single platform.
A cloud-hosted VoIP business phone system costs around $20 and $45$ monthly per user. Of course, the features and capabilities of each phone provider will not be the same so you have to consider that before making your choice.
You can check the plans and pricing of each service provider to see which packages will fit the needs of your organization. Whether you have a growing small business, a thriving mid-sized business, or a big enterprise that wants to run its own call center, you're bound to find a solution that can seamlessly fit into how your company operates.
Besides unlimited calling across North America (US and Canada), some of the industry's leaders also provide businesses with a unified communications solution. More than just a simple VoIP calling plan, your business gets a central working hub that not only promotes team communication but team collaboration as well.
The top VoIP phone service for businesses with telecommuting or home-based employees is the one that allows remote workers to stay connected to the company even if they are not within the premises of the physical office.
Most modern business VoIP services, which can be run through computers and mobile devices, do just that. Aside from no longer having to use home phones, their cell phone plan, or a separate residential VoiP service for work, this VoIP phone service also provides a platform for all employees to communicate and collaborate even if they are in different locations.
With the right combination of VoIP technology and manpower, any company can technically implement their own VoIP phone service. The question that anyone would want to consider, though, is: is it worth it?
The capital investment needed to take on such a project can put a significant dent on any company's budget. Top VoIP companies are able to build secure and reliable data centers by offering their VoIP phone service and cloud communications solution to multiple business customers on a subscription basis.
Instead of spending too much money on your own solution, you can instead subscribe to a VoIP plan that is better than any communications solution you can come up with on your own. This frees up your budget on other profit-generating projects like campaigns that can improve customer relationships.
WhatsApp, Viber, and Facebook Messenger are direct-to-consumer mobile VoIP apps that can be used for free. These, however, are not suited for business use. First, there is the limitation of being only supported through smartphones. Businesses will not have the option of using IP desk phones and conference phones that are specifically designed for optimized VoIP calls. Also, voice quality is highly dependent on high internet bandwidth. While business VoIP also uses internet bandwidth, it is optimized through efficient codec usage, which means high-quality voice calls using less bandwidth. Last, these apps do not really provide your organization with a business phone number that lets people using a regular landline contact you, which limits its use to VoIP to VoIP.
Modern VoIP phone systems also include hosted PBX capabilities that are designed to not only provide companies with a means to make and receive phone calls, but also the call management software to properly route and direct calls to the right extension or department for more cohesive and more streamlined business communications.
Aside from business phone systems, contact centers and call centers also use VoIP as the telephony component of their systems due to its more affordable prices compared to a traditional phone company's regular rates.
Web conferencing and audio conference calls also use VoIP as the audio component of the technology. While there are other technologies at work to facilitate other facets like video conferencing, chat, and screen sharing, VoIP is generally the one used to facilitate conversations while video calling.
The technologies are similar, but it is not exactly VoIP that is responsible for online faxing and sending business SMS without the need for traditional cell phone plans. Virtual fax and business SMS use IP transmissions to send copies of a document and text messages respectively instead of voice data. Both used IP transmission for sending data over internet connections but the output is different.
This shows how much Voice over IP has influenced modern technology. Even smart home security systems now use IP transmissions to transmit videos from home security cameras straight to the user's cell phone and other streaming devices.
Expect more creative uses of IP transmissions for delivering data in the future for businesses.
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