Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), also called IP telephony, is a method and group of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, such as the Internet. The terms Internet telephony, broadband telephony, and broadband phone service specifically refer to the provisioning of communications services (voice, fax, SMS, voice-messaging) over the public Internet, rather than via the public switched telephone network (PSTN), also known as plain old telephone service (POTS).
If that all is starting to sound more complex than it's worth, remember that turning your PBX into a software solution means significant opportunity for flexibility and integration that you simply can't get any other way. After all, programmers can now treat your phone like an app. Where that's taken us is to the fast-changing UCaaS paradigm (more on that below). Here, traditional VoIP providers, like the ones we review as part of this review roundup, provide additional software capabilities that are all implemented and managed from a single, unified console.
Few things in life are set in stone, and the same should be true of your VoIP plan. It’s wise to find a plan that is scalable and which you can easily expand if need be. You’ll want to know if you can break your contract early if you find a better deal elsewhere, or if you can easily switch plans with the same company in order to take advantage of more features, or to get rid of some you don’t need.
Businesses working remotely should keep in mind, though, that Ooma doesn’t offer any videoconferencing tools. Instead, you get a conference line that lets at-home employees collaborate over the phone. That puts Ooma a pace behind some of the other providers on our list, but with providers like Nextiva currently offering their video collaboration tool to businesses for free, it shouldn’t be a major issue.
Because of the bandwidth efficiency and low costs that VoIP technology can provide, businesses are migrating from traditional copper-wire telephone systems to VoIP systems to reduce their monthly phone costs. In 2008, 80% of all new Private branch exchange (PBX) lines installed internationally were VoIP. For example, in the United States, the Social Security Administration is converting its field offices of 63,000 workers from traditional phone installations to a VoIP infrastructure carried over its existing data network.
To get a better picture of the savings of VoIP for home use, here's a real life example: Long distance calls with a VoIP provider can be as little as $10 per month, if not less. Major telecommunications corporations typically charge more for such packages, even 2 or 3 times as much. If you look at this over the course of a year, that’s no small change.
A business phone system helps you to present a professional image to your customers. If you do not have a need for office phones or spend the money, you can still use a virtual phone system to project a professional look. This enables you to place a call directly to a mobile phone. It also has key features like voicemail transcription and automated attendants.
The following table provides a high level summary of how residential VoIP service compares to other alternative solutions for home phone service. The table compares this service to a regular landline, a bundled phone service from a cable company such as double or triple play, and a cell phone service. The cell phone is included as some people decide to just get rid of their wired phone and use their cell phone for all calls. Free services such as Skype are not included as they are not effective, like for like, landline replacements in our opinion.