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VoIP Telephony: Is It the Right Fit for You?

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Voice over IP is the new buzz, but not easily understood by the masses yet. Here we break down the fundamentals so consumers can determine if it is a good fit for their telephony needs?

It’s everything you ever wanted to know about VoIP but were afraid to ask. That may be dramatizing it a little, but as the new technology buzz in business it may be a little intimidating for some potential users. In fact there are many residences and small businesses that are overlooking a potentially cost-effective service because it is misunderstood as a technology reserved for high-tech companies. While there are many advantages, there are also drawbacks that you should be aware of. Here is some basic information to help you get started:

What is VoIP?

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, technology allows you to make and receive calls the same way as with traditional phone lines, but the connections are routed through the Internet through a high-speed broadband connection. Why go through the Internet? Because bypassing the traditional phone line may save you money. The technology has improved to the point that there are no special instructions and no extra numbers to dial; just pick up your phone and dial as usual. Yoom Nguyen of 24VoIP, www.24voip.com explains, “More businesses, including small businesses, would be implementing a VoIP solution if they understood the cost-savings and efficiency it offered.”

Who can use VoIP telephony?

Nearly anyone. Though many large companies have already transitioned to VoIP telephony solutions they are not the only potential beneficiaries of its allowances. Small businesses, home-offices and even residences can enjoy VoIP’s flat rates and abundant features. While there are minor equipment requirements, including a high-speed connection, there are no size or usage requirements that might limit a business from subscribing.

What features does VoIP offer?

VoIP solutions offer services familiar to the traditional lan-line phone including caller ID, call waiting, hold and transfer, and voicemail in addition to many special features that are especially appealing to small and home based businesses.

For mobile users and frequent travelers:

Voicemail messages can be routed to your personal email and listened to using the proper software. Simultaneuos ring is available and allows incoming calls to ring your cell phone, office phone and any other phone at the same time to ensure that you don’t miss calls while out on the road. Most important to mobile users is the flexibility in that VoIP does not tie you down to any one location. Anywhere that you can find a reliable Internet connection, including home and hotels, you can receive phone service.

For mid-size to large business and enterprise needs:

VoIP allows your company to support hundreds of employees in one building or hundreds of employees and offices across the country. Auto-attendants can route to extensions within the building, across town, or around the world. VoIP offers the ability to centralize offices under one main PBX, reducing phone bills for inter-office calls and allowing a single administrator to handle changes across the company.

Who might not benefit from VoIP?

Residences and local small businesses that do not make many long-distance calls may not see the full cost savings possible from VoIP services. While they may still benefit from the features offered, including simultaneous ring and email retrieval, the costs of installing should be considered before making the purchase.

Residences and businesses that make a large number of international calls should also consider if cost savings will be fully realized. Many VoIP providers who advertise free long distance are referring to domestic calls, sometimes including Canada, but providers may charge an additional fee for international calls. Most often the rates are still reasonable, but you should request a cost chart for review before you sign up.

What do I need to know before signing up?

You may need to purchase some special equipment. In order to maintain a quality connection you will need a DSL, cable modem or satellite connection with a minimum connection speed of 64k. You may find providers who will install VoIP on a lesser connection but expect your calls to be frequently interrupted and suffer from distracting voice distortions, especially if the connection is shared by a computer. In addition to the Internet connection, you will need to either replace your existing phone with an IP phone or purchase an adapter that will allow you to hook up a traditional phone to the broadband connection. Further, a router may be needed to allow you to simultaneously connect to the Internet on your computer while talking on the phone. Your VoIP provider should be able to provide these products for you, but will most likely charge for them as part of the installation costs.

Also important to consider is the current incompatibility of VoIP and 911 emergency services. Because of the portability of these connections there is not currently a system of determining the location of a specific VoIP phone and 911 operators cannot always determine the correct physical location of an incoming call. For example, your phone may be registered at your home address but you might be working from a hotel in Cleveland when you need to make an emergency call. For this reason, The FCC (Federal Communications Commision) has recently mandated a solution to this issue and providers plan to have their solutions available by the end of the year. In the meantime, if you are a subscriber you should have a clear understanding of the limitations and inform children and babysitters of how to make an emergency call. For more, visit the FCC website.

How to Get Started

There is no contesting that VoIP solutions are a reliable investment in todays market, but you’ll want to find out exactly how it can meet your own business or residential needs by evaluating the advantages and the disadvantages. If you’d like to learn more about the service and how it can apply to your needs, consult with your Information Technology provider to find out if they offer VoIP or if they can refer you to a reliable VoIP provider. To learn more about cost and functionality, visit www.24voip.com.

Shannon Southway is the Director of Strategic Relations & Quality Assurance for E-Integration, Inc., a provider of Information Technology services and solutions. E-Integration, Inc. owns and operates 24VOIP.com and ArtistsHeaven.com, an art and fine craft emarketplace. Shannon can be reached at shannon@e-integration.net. More information: http://www.e-integration.net.

VoIP Telephony: Is It the Right Fit for You?
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About Shannon Southway
Shannon Southway is the Director of Strategic Relations & Quality Assurance for E-Integration, Inc., a provider of Information Technology services and solutions. E-Integration, Inc. owns and operates 24VOIP.com and ArtistsHeaven.com, an art and fine craft emarketplace. Shannon can be reached at shannon@e-integration.net. More information: http://www.e-integration.net. WebProNews Writer


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