VoIP Service Providers
Why Switch to VoIP?
- 1. Both business and residential users can see significant savings versus their traditional land line.
- 2. Unlimited Calling to USA and Canada (and a few other countries, depending on which service you choose to go with).
- 3. International calls are in general significantly cheaper when you call using a VoIP system.
- 4. Advanced phone system features come standard and are usually free
VoIP is a major buzzword in computer and internet circles but unlike most of these terms, it is not something that is esoteric or difficult to understand. It is simply a cost effective alternative to traditional telephony, and both home and business users can easily switch over to VoIP and enjoy reduced communications costs. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and is also often referred to as Internet Telephony or IP Telephony. When you use VoIP all you are doings replacing the services of your telephone company with the internet. That makes phone calling almost free.Almost free?
Most internet service providers offer a fixed free volume of traffic or bandwidth as part of the monthly subscription. What you use the volume / bandwidth for is up to you. So making phone calls over the internet, which uses little in the way of traffic volume or bandwidth, is almost free and will use up just a small part of the volume or bandwidth you are already paying for, assuming of course that you have a broadband connection.
You will have to sign up with a VoIP service provider to route your internet calls. There are many of these to be found and some of them offer a basic level of service for very low rates. For advanced services, such a video calls or making a VoIP call to a landline or cell phone, an extra charge may be levied. This is because the VoIP service providers have to pay the phone companies something when a call is downloaded from the internet to a telephone exchange from where it is transmitted to the landline or cell phone. And also, VoIP service providers have to make their money somewhere. But even with these charges, VoIP calls are far cheaper than standard telephone calls. With an internet enabled cell phone, VoIP calls can be initiated from the handset and these calls will not form part of the cell phone carriers’ bill. Only the internet charges will apply.
A normal home user of VoIP can expect to cut his phone bills by over 50%, at the minimum. For businesses where the volume of voice traffic can be huge, VoIP can cut phone bills significantly and make a major impact on reducing operating overhead. Many VoIP service providers offer special packages for commercial users and the cost reduction can be over 75% as compared to traditional voice calls. When using VoIP for long distance calls you don’t have to worry about the per minute costs and looking for reduced call charge timings. VoIP calls cost next to nothing irrespective of whether you are calling a neighbor or someone on the other end of the planet.You may already be using VoIP
VoIP is not a new technology; it has been around since 1973 when the Department of Defense experimented with using interconnected computers to carry voice calls in addition to data transfers. In fact, you may already be using VoIP without knowing it. Because of the reduction in equipment and service costs that VoIP offers, most telephone companies and cell phone service providers convert calls, at some stage of the journey, to VoIP and then download it to their exchanges, and the call is sent to its final destination from there. It is a seamless transition and the user never knows that VoIP is being used.What about special hardware?
Home and business users are often wary of hidden costs when trying something new, especially when it is related to computers and the internet. Everyone has had his fingers burnt at one time or another when trying “breakthrough technologies” that offer huge cost savings and increased efficiency and ease of use. This is not the case with VoIP, where existing technology and infrastructure are being used. All that is needed is a computer, an internet connection, a microphone and speakers or handset – and most users already have all this in place. At the most you may have to buy a mike and speakers but these will not burn a hole in your pocket. Alternatively, a user could go in for a VoIP phone that connects to the internet through the computer and works just like the phone instrument we are all used to and provides a level of familiarity and comfort that many users prefer. And even these are not expensive. Business users may sometimes have to make minor modifications to their LANs (Local Area Networks) to enable VoIP traffic, but once again, this is not hard or expensive.
A computer user with these minimal hardware requirements need only sign up with a VoIP service provider and within a few minutes can be good to go.What else does VoIP have to offer?
Using VoIP does not just save money – it offers a host of other benefits that traditional phone systems do not.
- Since VoIP is based on the Internet Protocol (IP) which is used for all internet traffic, it can be used to carry more than just audio signals. As long as the VoIP service providers offer the facilities, you can send images, video and text messages as part of your call. This can add a new dimension and additional clarity to conversations.
- Making conference calls – whether it is among widely scattered family members, friends or business associates. Often issues, personal and business, need to be discussed, argued, explained and settled in real time. A one to one phone call can achieve this. But when other people are involved and the discussions and agreements reached have to be passed on and explanations given to them, it can become a series of “Chinese whispers” where each repetition of what occurred during the previous call gets distorted till further down the chain, a completely wrong message is conveyed. Having all those involved in the discussion online at the same time prevents this. Being able to send images and video can add to the fun of a personal conference call and provide ease of explanation and presentation to business calls. Also, being able to send private text messages to just one person while the call is underway allows for private communication within the conference call.
- Easy setting up of conference calls – once the date and time of the call have been agreed on, one person acts as the host, initiates the call at the press of a button and then clicks on the other people in the address book to add them to the call. The exact procedure will vary according to the VoIP service provider, but with easy to understand displays and menus, it is easy.
- With wireless broadband connectivity available almost everywhere, VoIP calls can be made from just about any location as long as a laptop is available. This is a great boon for executives who are on the road and parents who are away from their families.
- With telecommuting growing in popularity, VoIP calls, with the added features they offer, makes working and communicating from home both easy and efficient.
- Many VoIP service providers offer a fax option which makes document transmission simple.
- Many VoIP service providers offer an automatic call history so that keeping track of the dates, times and duration of calls, and the people spoken to, is automatic.
- In the office, having all communications through one channel allows for simplified communications management and for the executive having one computer that holds all his data and handles all his communications needs makes for greater work efficiency.
- Check out all the costs – sign up and monthly subscription - before signing up for a paid service. Look out for hidden costs or free offers that you will need to pay for later. Be careful in your choice of fee-based additional services and options – its safer to start with basic service and upgrade when you feel the need. Opt for a VoIP service provider which offers a flat monthly subscription, irrespective of the number and duration of the calls.
- Check out the termination procedure carefully – you don’t want to pay large premature termination of service charges.
- Make sure that a 24/7 hotline or email help desk is available for when you have problems or initial start up difficulties.
- And check up on the VoIP service provider’s reputation – the longer a company has been in business and the bigger its subscriber base, the safer it is.
The growing popularity of VoIP is comparable to that of the internet 20 years ago. VoIP is here to stay and experts predict that it will soon replace conventional telephone technologies. It is simple to set up and use, both for the office and at home, requires little or no investment in additional hardware and offers features that landlines and cell phones do not. Any home or office that wants to cut costs and improve their communication abilities should not hesitate about switching over to VoIP.