In the old days to make a telephone call, you needed a phone that was connected to the outside world with wires. Soon after came cordless phones and then cell phones, where calls, seemingly miraculously, could be made without any physical connections to walls or structures at all.
Today, more and more business is done through the next generation of technology, called VoIP, which stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol.
What is VoIP?
As you probably know, we use broadband and wi-fi technology to send emails, access the internet, and send data through our computers and internet-connected phones. These digital connections are different and separate from traditional analog phone connections (they weren’t always separate — you may remember the days of “dial up,” when the internet and the phone lines couldn’t both be used at once because they used the same lines).
VoIP takes voice communication that used to travel through telephone analog lines only, and transmits them through the internet’s digital signals. Your voice is transmitted and received no differently than emails or pictures are online.
VoIP technology doesn’t just convert your voice into a signal that can travel over the internet, it can even convert it back to a signal that can be heard by the receiver if he or she is on a traditional analog phone line.
How VoIP Works
VoIP works by transforming your voice into small, compressed bits of data or code. Before your voice is being transmitted, it is broken down from audio sounds into data — literally, numbers that when decoded by the device receiving it re-create the sound of your voice. Each bit of code is sent separately through the internet and “reassembled” when it reaches the destination computer or phone.
International standards, or protocols, make sure your voice is transmitted and sent properly by every computer. It’s much like mailing every page of a book separately to someone and having all the pages come together just as they reach the doorstep of the recipient.
When no sound is being transmitted, the data lines aren’t doing anything, unlike a phone line that is open and occupied by your call so long as the call is connected, even if nobody is talking.
How VoIP Calls Are Made
If you’re not technologically savvy enough to make calls through a computer, VoIP allows a traditional phone to send calls through VoIP with converters. Conversely, if you never want to leave your computer, VoIP software allows you to make calls directly through your computer terminal, no phone needed.
Many offices nowadays have done away with the need to convert, instead using phones that are designed specifically for VoIP. These look, act, and feel like real phones, except that their connection is through Ethernet connectors, and the phones can’t use traditional analog lines. Some phones even allow calls to be made through wi-fi.
The Benefits of VoIP
This is all interesting, but you may be wondering why you should care. The answer is that VoIP has some serious advantages for businesses.
Because VoIP uses the internet, even when you’re on the road, so long as you have internet connectivity, you can use your phone number.
With VoIP you only have to manage your internet connection. Moving offices or rearranging your workspace? You no longer have to deal with a phone company or phone lines. Adding, deleting and changing phone extensions is as easy as pressing a button — no more drilling holes in the walls to install new wiring.
VoIP also offers services that traditional phone companies consider as expensive extra charges. VoIP providers routinely offer caller ID, three-way calls, voicemail conversion to emails, and call forwarding.
VoIP can go “old school” as well, and receive your faxes, while also being on the cutting edge by allowing integration with software that’s already on your computer (for example, by saving VoIP messages for your customer contact or project management software).
Virtual Phone Numbers
Although you dial traditional phone numbers using VoIP, your call isn’t going through normal phone lines. That means that you can establish virtual phone numbers that can be used by anyone in the world without you having to be there.
For example, if your business is in New York and you want to have a London phone number, in the old days you would need a phone in London and an account with a London phone provider.
Picking up your London calls from your New York office was difficult or impossible.
With VoIP, you can establish a London phone number through your VoIP provider, and answer the calls (or check messages left to the number) wherever you are. In fact, that VoIP call made in London and answered in New York, can easily be forwarded to you while you’re on vacation in Australia.
VoIP technology is revolutionary but it isn’t difficult to use. Getting a virtual VoIP phone number is easy and you can use VoIP’s intuitive software and features wherever you or your business may be!