How VoIP Works and How It Differs from Traditional Phone Service
You’ve probably heard of VoIP before, but do you know exactly what it is?
If not, you’ve come to right place.
What is VoIP?
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. Essentially, VoIP comprises the technology needed to carry out voice calls over the Internet rather than via traditional telephone lines. VoIP calls can be made to other VoIP users or to traditional phone users, so making the switch to VoIP will never limit who you can call.
How does VoIP work?
When using VoIP, analog voice is converted into packets of data. These data packets travel between callers the same way as any other type of data between two users: through the Internet. VoIP calls can be made and answered from your computer (you can use your speakers or headphones and a microphone to carry out a conversation), a smartphone, a tablet, or an IP handset.
Because VoIP data is always transferred into analog voice at the other end of the line, you can send and receive calls to and from landlines or cell phones. You can even use many analog phones on a VoIP connection: you just have to plug the phone into a network outlet (for some older phones you might need an analog telephone adaptor, or ATA).
Traditional (analog) phone systems work by connecting calls using circuit switching. When one party calls another, the connection made is called a circuit. All of these ‘circuits’ are enabled by the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).
VoIP uses packet switching instead of circuit switching. This means that packets are sent from the speaker to the listener only when someone actually says something. With traditional phone systems, a two-way connection is constantly maintained. The packet-switching technique dramatically reduces the size of the data that needs to be transferred between parties and therefore minimizes the strain on your network.
Whereas traditional telephone service can only be accessed from fixed locations, VoIP calls can be made from anywhere with an Internet connection. That means that you can make VoIP calls over Wi-Fi as well. Essentially, VoIP is your traditional telephone system gone digital. You can make calls from pretty much any digital device (your desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone) as well as analog telephones and IP phones designed specifically for VoIP.
Another big difference between the two types of phone systems is how they handle long distance calls.
With VoIP, because all data is transferred via the Internet, there’s really no difference between making a local call and an international call. With traditional phone systems, long distance calls have to pass through various switching stations, which makes them more costly than local calls.
Most VoIP systems are subscription-based, and there are typically no restrictions on the number, length, or distance of the calls you can make. With traditional phone systems – and even cell phone plans – you’ll have to either pay more upfront or pay more by the minute for long-distance calls.
VoIP systems also come standard with several advanced calling features, including: caller ID, call waiting, call routing/forwarding, call returning, three-way calling, direct to voicemail, auto attendant, and more. You manage these features – and check your voicemail messages – from any Internet-connected device.
Since VoIP systems work over the Internet, there’s no need to invest in additional infrastructure.
Traditional telephone systems on the other hand require hardware updates and maintenance, and the installation of new equipment if you want to expand the number of phone lines at your office. VoIP systems are completely scalable. All you have to do to add new lines is ask your provider. You might need to subscribe to a higher bandwidth to handle the increased call volume, but you’ll never have to install new infrastructure.
For the reasons stated above, VoIP systems are less expensive than traditional phone systems.
Nevertheless, making a huge technology switch at the office can be daunting. The good news is that you don’t have to completely disconnect your traditional phone network to go with VoIP.
BullsEye Telecom is one of the only telephone system providers that lets you use your traditional phone systems and a new VoIP system simultaneously. You can even access both phone systems using the same business number.
This gives you the flexibility to add VoIP lines as your needs change or as you become more acquainted with VoIP services.
Want to learn more?
The next step for the connected office is to mobilize your workforce with unified communications (UC), which allows you to conduct video calls, web conferences, and instant messaging from any Internet-connected device.
Questions? Contact us today.
One last thing: If you’re seriously thinking about switching to VoIP, download our latest white paper: Your Guide to a Smooth Transition from Traditional Phones to VoIP.