VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a phone service that operates over the Internet. It creates a digital signal from an incoming or outgoing call. After this, it converts that signal to reach members who are not using VoIP. This cloud-based solution allows you to receive calls from a VoIP phone, any phone with a VoIP adaptor, mobile hotspot, or computer.
We address the above 4 steps in our easy-to-read comparison charts of the best VoIP providers and their offerings. Every key detail is front and center in our extensive round-up comparisons. Don’t get swept up in what might be great marketing unsupported by likewise service. We’ve done the research for you, by narrowing down the best VoIP providers in the industry. Follow the above 4 steps for a seamless transition.
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).
Michael Muchmore is PC Magazine’s lead analyst for software and Web applications. A native New Yorker, he has at various times headed up PC Magazine’s coverage of Web development, enterprise software, and display technologies. Michael cowrote one of the first overviews of Web Services (pretty much the progenitor of Web 2.0) for a general audience. Before that he worked on PC Magazine’s Solutions section, which in those days covered programming techniques as well as tips on using popular office software. Most recently he covered Web 2.0 and other software for ExtremeTech.com.
PhonePower is one of a handful of VoIP providers that actually specialize in residential VoIP rather than business VoIP. Although PhonePower has many plans, it’s best for calling within the US (including Puerto Rico) and Canada. That’s because it has possibly the cheapest prices in residential VoIP, providing you’re calling solely on local numbers. PhonePower also enables calls abroad, although there are cheaper options such as Vonage if you’re planning on making more than an hour’s worth of calls internationally each month.
Though many consumer VoIP solutions do not support encryption of the signaling path or the media, securing a VoIP phone is conceptually easier to implement than on traditional telephone circuits. A result of the lack of encryption is that it is relatively easy to eavesdrop on VoIP calls when access to the data network is possible. Free open-source solutions, such as Wireshark, facilitate capturing VoIP conversations.
First, there might be a very low cost or even free "basic" or "introductory" tier that's just so feature poor that the vast majority of customers will opt for the next level up, which will be the full-priced tier. Another common practice is a one- or two-year contract, each with a slightly lower price that are offered next to a significantly higher-priced month-to-month tier. Additionally, while most residential VoIP services offer unlimited calling, some vary their pricing on call restrictions. Those will come either in the form of minutes (with higher pricing attached to monthly overages) or geographic region. The latter usually start with nationwide calling and then tack on another charge for worldwide calling or even separate charges for different countries.
Companies working from home will appreciate Ooma’s remote features. For starters, Ooma offers a mobile app that lets you make and receive calls from your smartphone using your business number. You can also set up ring groups, which allows you to group extensions together so they all ring simultaneously—then the call gets transferred to whichever remote employee picks up first.
Residential VoIP reviews submitted by real users can be a great tool when trying to decide which provider is the best choice for you. Each review includes ratings for various aspects of the service, such as sound quality, features, customer service and more, as well as their personal comments based on their experience of the service. Reading reviews is an essential part of the decision making process.
In India, it is legal to use VoIP, but it is illegal to have VoIP gateways inside India. This effectively means that people who have PCs can use them to make a VoIP call to any number, but if the remote side is a normal phone, the gateway that converts the VoIP call to a POTS call is not permitted by law to be inside India. Foreign based VoIP server services are illegal to use in India.
For an extremely small business, especially one that’s just starting out, Ooma is a smart choice, as it provides all of the hardware and software you need to be up and running quickly. You don’t need a lot of know-how to start using Ooma, which is nice for a small business, where the owner likely has to wear numerous hats, including network management.
Work When & Where You Want – One very popular and common feature of business VoIP systems is called “find me/follow me.” Instead of having separate numbers for your office, cell phone, and home office, you have one “virtual extension.” You can program the virtual business phone service to ring all of your extensions simultaneously, or in a specific order, and you decide how to handle a missed call. You decide if a call should go to your voicemail, or to another extension. When you make a call using your cloud phone system, the receiving caller ID will show your business phone number, regardless of which device you are calling from.
On the physical side, you'll also need to plan for providing Ethernet drops to any new desktop phones you'll be placing on user desks, or even adding capacity to your Wi-Fi network should you decide to use wireless calling. For many organizations a separate network is often winds up being the preferred solution. If that's what happens in your case, you'll need a separate VoIP gateway. You'll also need security that understands voice protocols, and you'll need to have switches and routers that understand VoIP, too. By the time you've covered all those bases, a separate network is often the more effective solution rather than attempting to not only install but also integrate that much new equipment into an existing LAN.
Other basic features to consider include the phone itself should your provider offer its own handsets. Many residential providers don't since their bridge devices allow them to work with old-style landline phones, but some, especially the larger and more business-oriented players, do offer special VoIP phones. These look and work the same as a regular phone aside from the initial setup process, which will require making sure the phone is connected to your Internet router in some way and then configured to access the VoIP provider's service from there.
If you’re located in one of the 21 states currently serviced by Verizon Fios—which are mostly in the northeast—you’ll have access to one of the fastest internet connections available, which is perfect for VoIP. If you’re in DSL-only country, the speed will be slower, but uptime is still guaranteed at 99.95%. Either internet option will support steady VoIP service, and if your business is more medium-sized than small, Verizon could add up to a better value in the long run (especially if you’re in Fios territory).
The problem there is that VoIP traffic is much more sensitive to network bumps and potholes than most general office traffic. That translates to conversations breaking up or cutting out entirely, difficulty connecting over Wi-Fi, or (worst case) dropped and lost calls. If your business is small and your network is essentially contained in one or two wireless routers, then your configuration and testing headaches might be fairly small (though still there). But for medium and larger networks, these tasks can not only be complex, but also time consuming, which translates into added cost in terms of man-hours.
For a VoIP system to work, it needs a means of routing calls between users or to the outside world. In a cloud based system, a virtual PBX does that job. What that means to you is that the provider is running a large PBX operation in a data center somewhere, and slicing off a little of it to dedicate to your organization in exchange for your money. You're essentially sharing a large PBX with that provider's other customers, but because these companies use multi-tenant segmentation, your PBX will appear dedicated to you. This engine will take care of routing calls on your VoIP network.
It is much cheaper than a regular landline - most providers offer unlimited calling plans (including long distance) in the USA and Canada for under $10 per month. There are also some great promotional deals available such as 2 year specials that cost around $6 per month (includes all your calling). Comparing this to a regular PSTN (landline) phone service that can cost in the region of $60 per month can result in savings of over $500 per year for many home phone users. If you also regularly call International numbers you can save even more, with rates typically starting from around 1 to 2 cents per minute to many countries.