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Can You Survive On VoIP Alone

Posted on 1.04.2006
VoIP - Viable Option for Internet Properties

If you are running or helping to run a successful online business, then you are most likely also racking up a pretty sizable phone bill. If you have not explored VOIP (Voice Over IP) communication solutions then it may be wise to start - it could save you time, and quite a bit of money. Thanks to its ease of implementation and the numerous advantages of its use, individuals, SMB's and even large corporations are jumping on the VoIP bandwagon.

Much to the dismay of the big phone companies VoIP is coming into its own. The promise of cost savings over traditional phone lines is driving this technology into the mainstream and it is simply too powerful of a call to avoid for many. Leveraging your existing broadband connection to save on your monthly phone expense at first glance makes sense so let's take a closer look into what it is, how it works and the advantages for enterprises of any size.

What is VoIP and How Does It Work?
VoIP is a relatively new technology that essentially routes voice conversations over the Web. This enables individual and business users alike to replace land lines with phone calls made over their broadband connection. The VoIP provider, Vonage for example, takes the regular analog voice conversations and converts that data into a digital signal which can then be sent across the Internet.  This data is converted back into an analog signal before the recipient picks up the call.

One interesting thing about VoIP is that there are three different ways to place a call that are in common use today:

- The simplest and most common way to set up VoIP is through the use of an ATA device (analog telephone adaptor) which converts analog signals (think traditional phone lines) to digital signals for transmission over the Internet. This means users can "plug and play" by connecting a standard phone to an Internet broadband connection. Providers like Vonage are bundling ATAs free with their service. There is typically some software associated with the host computer but it is usually as simple as downloading and installing software.

- IP Phones are specialized phones that look and act just like normal phones. Instead of having the standard phone connectors however, IP phones utilize an Ethernet connection which plugs directly in to your router. This means all necessary hardware, software and drivers are immediately available to make the IP call.  Pricing for individual IP phone system starts at around one hundred dollars while complete IP phone systems can run into the thousands of dollars.

-Arguably the most popular way to use VoIP is Computer-to-Computer. Several companies, such as Skype, are offering free or very low-cost software that you can use for this type of VoIP. Getting started is incredibly easy - all you need is the software, a microphone, speakers, a sound card and an Internet connection. Skype in fact has release their own Skype handset designed specifically for its users. Except for your normal monthly Internet charges, there is usually often no charge for computer-to-computer calls, regardless of the distance.

The Primary Advantages of VoIP

VoIP is Cost Efficient
Whether it is for your work at home business or Fortune 500 Company, VoIP is typically much less expensive than other telecommunication applications for both long distance and local  Why? Well for one, most VoIP service providers have plans that allow unlimited local and long distance calling. Another reason is that businesses grow and it is expensive to add to an existing traditional telecommunication system. Instead of installing additional phone jacks and wires, you just add on to your VoIP system.

VoIP - Comprehensive Communications

Unlike your traditional phone system, VoIP lets individuals and businesses to integrate phone communication needs with computer applications such as data (email) or conferencing (Web and Video) applications. The lower cost and additional freedom of utilizing a complete suite of products simultaneously is not just saving VoIP users money, it is making communication as a practice more efficient. Coupled with the additional features that often come bundled with VoIP calling plans such as voice mail, call forwarding and caller ID, it is no wonder that many are turning in that direction.

VoIP Provides Flexibility
Another reason people are choosing VoIP solutions is the flexibility it provides. For instance, when traveling on the road for business or vacation, I take my laptop and can connect and both make and take phone calls at any Wi-Fi hotspot. As you may have guessed, this pleases both my support staff and my superiors. With companies footing the bill for mobile employees cell phone bills, VoIP solutions offers some salvation.

Ready to VoIP?
Many businesses are flocking to VoIP for some of the reasons outlined above. There are some legal concerns however. The FCC is currently involved in the issues between VoIP providers and Internet access. providers. Enhanced 911 services are in many instances already mandated and additional steps are being made to bring this technology further into the mainstream. Make no mistake about VoIP. It has arrived and is here to stay.

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