Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is quickly growing in popularity for both business and personal use. VoIP is a technology that encapsulates audio or voice communications in a data packet. The subsequent data packet is transmitted over the same data networks used for e-mail, web, and file transfer. VoIP can be as simple as a direct replacement for traditional landline phones. It can also be implemented to replace complex Private Branch eXchange (PBX) systems. Businesses use PBX systems to provide internal control (as opposed to Telco control) of desk extensions, voice mail, call forwarding, remote dialing, conference calling, and intercom features.
Here is a brief overview of the various common options when implementing a VoIP solution:
Internet or private leased line?
A VoIP system can operate over a traditional Internet connection or based on a private leased line.
Internet only and/or to landline or mobile destinations?
A VoIP system can provide calling services limited to other users of the same or compatible VoIP service, limited to traditional land line numbers and mobile phones, or both.
Software-based or hardware-based?
A VoIP system can be a software-only solution or require dedicated hardware devices. The hardware devices could include direct IP connected phones, USB phones, or converters to support RJ11 jacks (i.e. traditional landline phones).
Telco-provided or independent provider?
A VoIP service may be provided by a Telco or Telco-like organization, such as a cable company. However, there are many other independent providers who may provide VoIP hardware, software, and/or services.
Mobile phone app?
Some VoIP services are exclusively smartphone apps, while many other VoIP services might support smartphones as end devices in addition to more stationary or desk-based end devices
Centralized or decentralized?
A VoIP service may operate through a centralized management or switching center controlled by the VoIP provider, or it may operate directly between end devices without an intermediary other than to initiate connections.
Periodic bill, pay as you go, or prepaid?
Some VoIP services operate like traditional landline and PBX services with a monthly or annual fee, while others may operate in a pay-as-you-go or prepaid scenario. Some providers have a minimum fee for service availability, while others only charge for the use of the VoIP system.
Over-the-top or specialty service?
Some VoIP services operate over any available Internet connection and, thus, function as an over-the-top option. While others operate on a specialty service basis, such as piggy backing over satellite, cellular, or mobile phone provider signals and, thus, require specialty hardware.
Voice only or video?
While the typical VoIP solution will be voice only, as a direct telephone replacement, a number of VoIP services offer video calling in addition to audio calling.
Two participants or multiple?
Some VoIP services only allow a connection between two endpoints, the caller and the receiver, while others support conference calling or multicast connections.
Many other potential VoIP options exist, including text chatting, Caller ID support, application or document collaboration, audio and video voice mail, call forwarding, and file exchange.
As you can see, there are many issues and options to consider when selecting a VoIP service.