What is VoIP? VoIP stands for Voice over IP. In English, this means that when you make or receive a call, the sounds of your call are converted to digital bits of information and then transmitted to the other party to the call. While there are many VoIP providers that allow you to use your internet connection to make or receive a VoIP call, in reality virtually all calls today are digital. The main difference is that when you subscribe to a regular telephone company for a ‘hard line’, you can use a normal telephone to make and receive calls. When you subscribe to a VoIP provider, you connect your phone to your local internet connection.
So, what’s the difference between VoIP and a hard line? Here’s where things get interesting (that means complicated unfortunately).
First, the quality of service (ie. how your call sounds) can be impacted by a wider variety of factors than a typical hard line. If you have too many devices connected to your internet connection or some of your devices consume large amounts of bandwidth, your VoIP voice quality may suffer. This is typically not an issue with a hard line which only handles voice traffic. A faster internet connection can resolve some issues but, if you have more than two or three lines using VoIP, you should consider investing in a router that allows you to give priority to voice over data. There are many other factors that can impact voice quality so be sure that your vendor offers you a call quality guarantee.
Second, you should consider the price of the phones. VoIP gives you enormous flexibility in choosing the type of phone or, for that matter, skipping the phone altogether. You can take and make calls using your computer and specially designed software. That said, if you prefer a real phone, you cannot simply pick one ‘off the shelf’ at your local retailer. You need to ensure that the phone is a true VoIP phone (as opposed to VoIP ready which is essentially meaningless). Such phones tend to be somewhat more expensive than a standard hard line phone.
Third, hard lines are automatically connected to the 911 system. In the event you call 911 from a hard line, the 911 operator is automatically notified of your location. VoIP providers are required to participate in 911 locator services however, they are more susceptible to issues such as power outages, unpaid bills, and call forwarding concerns.
As noted above, VoIP can provide a user with enormous flexibility. You can use a wide variety of devices for making and receiving calls, set up sophisticated phone trees and answering systems, have messages sent to email and even transcribed, and frequently, even ensure that your area code matches your location. Just be sure that you are aware of the limitations as well.
If you want to dig really deeply into the world of VoIP, here’s a great website: https://www.voip-info.org/
And for a great short list of questions to ask when considering VoIP. http://www.smallbusinessadvocacycouncil.org/5-questions-to-ask-when-picking-a-voip-provider-for-your-business/
Allen Friedman is the owner and CEO of Techaerus LLC, an office efficiency consulting firm. He is also a licensed attorney. Allen founded and managed one of the largest consumer collections law firms in the country and managed over 50 attorneys as well as hundreds of non-attorney staff. Prior to founding that firm, he opened and managed the New York and Michigan operations for the largest consumer collections firm in the United States. Throughout his career, Allen has always placed great emphasis on ensuring that investments in office technology provide the greatest possible returns. In order to achieve these returns, he focuses on three pillars of office management; asset management, training, and automation. His expertise includes document/image management, software and hardware integration, training, and process management and automation. Allen lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife Amy, his children Cassidy and Gideon, and two adorable dogs named Roxie (a labradoodle) and Bentley (an Old English Sheepdog).