Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) lets you make voice calls over the internet instead of a regular landline or mobile network. This technology goes by many names. The list includes broadband phone service, broadband telephony, internet telephony and IP telephony.

The term “VoIP” may seem unfamiliar. But chances are that you’ve made calls using this technology without knowing. Popular apps like Skype, Viber, LINE, FaceTime, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger all use VoIP to facilitate voice calls.

There has been an upsurge in the popularity of VoIP technology in the last couple of years. That’s because of its low cost, convenience and value-added benefits compared to regular phone service. VoIP gives users the ability to make video calls and other forms of digital communication. It’s no wonder it’s fast becoming the communications technology of choice.

How VoIP Works

You can make calls anytime, anywhere. To do that, you only need two things: an internet-enabled smart device (with microphone and speaker) and an internet connection. This means you can make calls from a special VoIP phone from your computer or using a traditional phone linked to a special adapter. You could also connect to a VoIP service through wireless hotspots in cafes, parks, airports and hotels.

VoIP technology takes and converts your analog voice signals into digital signals. These are then transmitted over your internet connection. Before they reach their destination, VoIP reconverts them into regular telephone signals. This is a more convenient means of making phone calls.

Once you’re set up and connected to a VoIP service, making voice calls is far cheaper than regular phone lines. Depending on your VoIP service, the cost of international or long-distance calls is the same as that of local calls.

The digital signals are transmitted over computer networks using packet-switched protocols. VoIP uses packets to send signals. So a lot more information can be transmitted to enhance your communication needs. VoIP provides access to voice communication and a wide array of advanced applications to boost productivity and business effectiveness.

This is why many VoIP services are evolving into full-featured unified communication hubs that handle all forms of business communication. These include voice calls, voice mail, web conferences, email, faxes and many more.

Different Types of VoIP

Generally, VoIP centers focus on digitally transmitting communications as data packets via the internet. There are several ways this process can occur. Each has its level of complexity that impacts the ease of deployment and maintenance. To help you determine the best fit for your business, let’s take a close look at the different types of VoIP technology.

Integrated Access

Integrated access functions like traditional phone lines. The only difference is the smooth integration between the VoIP software and your phone system. Integrated access lets businesses enjoy superior communications features using existing legacy phone systems.

This reduces the total cost of implementation. Meaning, you do not have to buy new hardware. You get to keep your old equipment and phone number while enjoying access to VoIP’s advanced telecommunications features.

Session Initial Protocol (SIP)

SIP trunks act as digital pathways for voice communication. They enable businesses to leverage existing phone hardware while enjoying the benefits of VoIP. SIP trunk flexibility allows for easy integration with private branch exchange (PBX) telephone systems and cloud technology.

This results in users increasing their communications flexibility. They can take advantage of shared lines by transmitting voice and video information across data networks. Since all communications data goes through a network, you can use SIP trunks as a replacement for analog phone networks. Or you can integrate your legacy phone systems with SIP trunking using a VoIP gateway.

This reduces the cost of implementing VoIP technology. That’s because there’s no need for physical phone lines and communications hardware. What also makes SIP trunks such an attractive option for business is its pay-as-you-go model. You only pay for minutes used, resulting in considerable cost savings on business communications.

Hosted IP Private Branch Exchange (PBX)

Hosted IP PBX is one of the more popular forms of VoIP technology. Vendors host and operate a private branch exchange. This enables them to offer unified communications solutions to businesses and individuals. To get access to the vendor’s VoIP service, all you need to do is connect to the cloud-based PBX network through the vendor’s IP network.

The vendor maintains all hardware needed for communications off-site. Also, the vendor takes care of hardware and software maintenance, upgrades and security. This removes the need for businesses to buy and deploy phone system hardware. It also reduces the cost of training and maintenance.

Hosted IP PBX vendors like 8x8 provide clients with access to a user-friendly control panel. This is where they can track and manage their phone systems. The panel usually comes with valuable add-on features such as auto attendants, call queueing, on-hold music or messaging and many more.

Managed IP PBX

This VoIP technology bears a lot of similarities with hosted IP PBX. A third-party provider manages and maintains the unified communications solution. But the business manages the phone hardware on-site. The PBX provider collects a monthly fee based on the number of phone lines to install, configure and update. The fee also includes the upgrade of needed equipment to facilitate VoIP communication.

After a thorough review of the different types of VoIP services, you can decide on the system that best suits your business needs. Managed IP PBX best fits businesses that are unable or unwilling to buy and operate on-premise VoIP systems themselves. Some enterprises want more control over their communications. If they have the wherewithal to install and manage the technology in-house, SIP trunks are a good fit.

The most suitable VoIP solution for small and medium businesses is the cloud-based hosted IP PBX system. This VoIP service frees you from the administrative headaches and cost of managing VoIP services on-premise. All you need to do is choose the hardware and software that works best for your use case. Then relegate the hassle of deploying and managing the underlying VoIP technology to your carrier.

Let’s take a close look at some VoIP advantages and disadvantages to see if it’s a good fit for your business needs.

VoIP Advantages

Reduced Cost

If you’re tired of expensive phone bills, VoIP is an awesome alternative. With the right VoIP service, you can slash your monthly phone bills by over 50%. This varies depending on the type of VoIP service you choose, the cost of hardware (if any), your provider and other ancillary costs. For instance, with cloud-based VoIP, no need to buy and install hardware before it runs. All you need is an internet connection and a compatible device.

Cloud-based VoIP solutions such as 8x8 Express allow you to subscribe to services that offer unlimited long-distance calling. They also support international calls to countries in Europe and North America. Further, they integrate with other channels such as video, instant messaging and screen sharing. They enable you to forward calls to anyone, anywhere.

What’s more, a robust VoIP solution such as 8x8's Unified Communications Suite delivers all you need to get started right away.

Ease of Accessibility

One of the major advantages of VoIP service is the ability to make calls anytime, anywhere as long as you have a decent internet connection. Such accessibility is valuable when you’re on the go, at a client site or traveling for business. Downloading your VoIP provider’s smartphone app lets you take your business line anywhere you go.

If you’re unable to answer calls, you can redirect them to another colleague or employee. You can also opt to have your voicemails emailed to you. As the mobile workforce continues to grow, remote accessibility keeps businesses flexible. Your employees can stay productive and connected regardless of their location.

Other VoIP advantages include:

  • Complete portability: VoIP numbers are completely portable. This allows you to keep the same phone number regardless of your location
  • Can grow with your business: With VoIP, you can scale your phone system as your business and communication needs grow. All this without having to own dedicated hardware or additional lines
  • Clear audio quality: VoIP calls are crisp and clear with a stable internet connection and good bandwidth
  • Multitasking: VoIP lets you send videos, images and documents while making traditional voice calls. This makes your online meetings with employees and clients more impactful

VoIP Disadvantages

Switching to VoIP communications comes with a lot of advantages. But there are some disadvantages of VoIP technology as well. These include:

Reliance on Internet Access

VoIP transmits communication signals over the internet. You can use different devices for VoIP communication, such as:

  • Mobile device
  • Laptop
  • Desk phone
  • Other compatible devices

Use your office’s fiber-optic network, 3G/4G/5G/LTE mobile broadband or a public Wi-Fi hotspot to connect these devices to the internet. Otherwise, you cannot access VoIP services. Also, unstable internet connection may disrupt communications.

Consumes Data Bandwidth

Using VoIP services, especially on smartphones, can consume a lot of internet bandwidth. This is problematic for individuals or businesses without unlimited data plans. To avoid hefty charges on your phone bill, use hardwired internet access or Wi-Fi before accessing VoIP services. You can also instruct employees to use instant messaging rather than video calls to reduce data consumption.

Devices Need Sustained Power Source

When accessing VoIP services, phones and VoIP-compatible devices need a sustained power source. Transmitting quality audio and HD videos on mobile consumes a lot of power. Businesses should see to it that their mobile devices have enough battery life at all times.

Analog phones receive some form of power through the phone line. In contrast, IP desk phones won’t work during a local power failure. To avoid this, use alternate sources of power for business continuity in the event of a power failure. Examples include power-over-ethernet switches and battery backups.

Voice Latency

Voice latency is one of the primary disadvantages of VoIP communication. Factors that cause periods of latency include:

  • Fluctuations in the throughput capacity
  • Reliability of your internet connection
  • The load on your internet connection

Microwaves can also interfere with the digital signals received and sent from your VoIP device. This then results in garbled conversations and static. Such uncontrolled audio lagging reduces call quality and may disrupt important business calls.

Security

Some VoIP services are susceptible to viruses, hacking and other forms of cybercrime. Avoid the negative impact of such exploits on your business activities. Use VoIP providers with the following credentials/certifications:

  • FISMA
  • HIPAA
  • Cyber Essentials
  • Privacy Shield Framework

VoIP providers with such certifications have robust security measures in place. But users should also apply cybersecurity best practices. These include single sign-on authentication, endpoint protection and strong device passwords.

Wrapping Up

With VoIP, you can reach global customers, improve call quality and lower cost. It's no wonder it’s becoming the communications technology of choice for businesses worldwide. To enjoy engaging multi channel interactions with your customers and employees, partner with a reliable and compliant VoIP provider.

Take advantage of 8x8’s cloud-based VoIP solution to get access to world-class communications technology. It has a range of add-on features that unify your organization’s communications. Plus, it’s built to fit your current and future communication needs.

Get the easiest and most affordable phone system for your small office or home-based business. 8x8 Express provides you with unlimited calling, HD audio and video conferencing, business SMS and more. Start your free 30-day trial today!

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