VoIP telephony is one of the major communications developments of the last few years, and it is set to grow exponentially through the coming decade and potentially become the most used form of telecommunication before long. If you haven’t already used it, then you are bound to have some questions about this system of calling, not least how it stacks up against the old familiar style – traditional, copper-wire telephony using a phone that plugs into the wall. In addition, with cell phones being so predominant in the market, there will be those who wonder where VoIP fits into this ever-changing market.

For people who have yet to experience the benefits of VoIP telephony, there are questions that will need to be answered before they can fully commit to getting on board with it. This guide is designed to take you through the issues you might have, and demonstrate what uses VoIP can have for you. It will show why VoIP is such an efficient solution for making calls and what it has over the other forms of telephony currently used, every day, in business and residential settings. Essentially, this guide will clarify what VoIP is, how it works, what forms it comes in and how it can benefit you.


What Is VoIP?

VoIP is short for “voice over internet protocol” – literally, it means that instead of using the old standard copper-wire or fiber-optic system of carrying voice signals from phone to phone, your voice is transmitted using the internet. Essentially your voice is converted into digital information and transmitted to the other end of the line where it is transmitted to the person you are speaking to. If this sounds a little confusing, bear in mind that it is little different from using an Instant Messenger system or even sending and receiving email (in a way, at least).

There are a few different ways of using a VoIP system to make your calls, and not all involve discarding your old telephone – so, if you are quite attached to it, you can keep it around and use it in a new way. If you would like to use your old phone to make new-age calls with VoIP, you simply need an Analog Telephone Adapter, or ATA for short. The ATA just needs to be hooked up to your computer and you then plug your telephone into the adapter; which will then convert the analog signals your phone sends out into digital ones which can be sent electronically. There may be some software to install on your computer to make it work, but it’s pretty self-explanatory.

Alternatively, you might buy an IP phone. These are phones designed to work specifically for VoIP calling and cannot be plugged into the wall socket, instead coming with an Ethernet connector which need only be connected to your computer. Other than that it is a pretty standard phone, which has all the usual components that a wall phone would have; the same buttons, handset and everything else. Like a wall phone, it can be a little more flashy or as basic as you want it to be. Less installation is required because the software is already built into the phone.

There again, you could use a system that doesn’t even require a phone as we would recognise one – which just uses the internet for every element of the call. All you will need is a little bit of equipment, most of which you will already have – like a PC, sound card and speakers. You will also need a microphone or headset, which you may need to buy, although increasingly the newer computers on the market are often packaged with a built-in microphone. Along with some downloadable software which more or less installs itself, this will permit you to start making computer-to-computer calls.


The Key Point To All Of This

The reason it’s a big deal that you can do this with VoIP, above all else, is that it means that every call you make using the system originates on the internet, and means that every call can be a local call. Rather than the old way of calling, which involved using a cable system that would need to be linked up all the way around the world if that is where you were calling, using a VoIP system means that your call is carried all the way to the nearest possible point using the internet, and if it needs to be carried by old-style telephone wire at all, it is merely from the nearest exchange. The bottom line is that this saves a lot of money.


Why Should You Trust VoIP Calling?

Although the technology involved, and even the system in principle, are not especially new, VoIP telephony on the scale we are seeing today and will see going forward is innovative and, form some points of view, largely untried. Therefore it makes sense that a lot of people would question whether it is a “here today, gone tomorrow” scientific development. Is this a fair opinion?

In order to get an impression of how VoIP is viewed at the most important level for its continued development, it is worth seeing how it is taken up by businesses and how it is being treated by the major telephony companies. After all, if they back technology which is quickly made obsolete, their companies will fall flat, something they cannot risk in any competitive market and especially in the troubled economy that we have been seeing for the last few years. What is worth noticing is that the major telephone companies are not attempting to beat the VoIP companies, but looking to join them.

An increasing level of VoIP usage at business level, particularly at intra-office level, is a sign that the service is seen as the wave of the future. What we see in the business world one day we are likely to see filter down to homes in the near future – cell phones, email and instant messenger systems were used first in the workplace before they became consumer items.

Businesses appreciate VoIP because it cuts costs – many businesses have been able to slash their outgoings on telephone bills by changing to the newer system. While budgetary decisions are all the more important in business, they still matter in the home, and for this reason VoIP should become a primary method of communication in both the home and the office within a few years.


What’s In It For You?

It is clear, then, that VoIP calling is a more affordable alternative to the standard way of doing things. Of course, people still occasionally shy away from budget options for various reasons, whether it is because they are untried or inferior. Neither of these things can be said about VoIP today, if ever they could have been. VoIP calling is more efficient than the standard way of doing things – using a system called “packet switching”, a VoIP calling system only transmits the parts of the conversation where someone is talking, meaning that information passes more quickly and taking up less memory.

Because of the nature of VoIP calling, it is possible to add a lot of features to a VoIP calling plan that are simply impossible or impractical with the older way of doing things. Many VoIP providers are now adding features which vastly increase the efficiency of your telephone system, with one of the most popular features being one which allows the system to pick up your voicemail and send it to you in email form – so even if you aren’t equipped to log into your VoIP service you can hear your messages.

VoIP is also the most versatile telephony system around at the moment, allowing you the convenience of cell phone calling with the greater stability and lower cost of standard line calling. As long as you are equipped to make your calls – and this need only entail a few portable pieces of equipment – you can call anywhere in the world, often for free, from anywhere that allows you to get a WiFi connection.

There are so many reasons why you might consider giving VoIP a try, but in the end it comes down to the fact that there is no reason not to. You can keep your old phone, you can keep your old number. It doesn’t need to cost you anything, and even if you are planning to use your phone a lot and for many different purposes, it won’t cost you a lot. This is the way things are moving for the future, and those who get on board now will be that much more switched on by the time it becomes second nature to us all; which, the way things are going, will be by the end of this decade. You’ve nothing to lose and a lot to gain by trying it out.

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