How long have you had your home phone line? Ten years? Twenty? More? Do you constantly fear the charges for making out of state, or even out of county calls to people you know and love? Do you dread having to deal with making calls to clients for your business, knowing that a long call will cost far too much? Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) may be the answer to all your worries.
How VoIP Works
VoIP allows you to make phone calls using a standard phone, a VoIP box, and your PC. Your phone calls are transmitted over the internet rather than your regular phone line. The setup is very easy, and no more complicated than setting up a router and modem. The VoIP box connects to your router via CAT5 cable and connects to your phone via CAT3 phone wire.
Your voice is converted into digital data that is sent over the internet to the other party. If the other party is using a regular phone, it is converted again along the way and travels over the phone lines rather than internet communication lines. The operation of a VoIP phone is no different than your current landline. Simply pick up the phone and dial a phone number.
Types of VoIP
There are several different services for using VoIP. One of the most popular is Vonage, which charges a low monthly rate for service. This service often includes free caller ID, long distance calling, and a set number of usable minutes per month. In most cases, you probably won’t go over your minute allowance, but if you tend to make a lot of long calls, you’ll want to pay attention to this.
Another VoIP option is a device called the Magic Jack. This small dongle attaches to your computer’s USB port and landline phone. It works the same way as Vonage, but instead of a monthly rate, you only pay once for the device. The service is paid for by generating ads on your computer by using your browser history to target particular interests.
Many cable providers like Comcast offer digital voice packages. In these cases, you’ll likely just have to connect your phone line to a router that has a phone jack on it or acquire a special attachment that allows you to plug a phone into the router. These plans usually have unlimited or a high amount of calling time each month and are billed at a flat rate as part of a package.
Last but not least, another option is Google Voice. Google Voice is completely free and allows you to select a phone number from within your exchange location. The calls are primarily made through the computer, and texting is also allowed. They also feature a visual voicemail, so you can see editable transcripts of voicemails you receive. You can also forward calls to a cell phone by installing the Google Voice app, so you’re never out of touch.
Downside to VoIP
While voice over IP is easy to use, cheaper than a phone line, and packs just as many features, it does have its downsides. Telephone lines have been pretty much perfected over the years of their use, so phone calls on a traditional landline are crystal clear in most cases. VoIP calling converts all voice into digital data, which has potential to become corrupted in some way, and that can reduce call clarity.
When the power goes out, phone lines will usually still work (unless the line has been broken due to a downed powerline). Phone lines carry a very low voltage through them at all times. VoIP relies on the power being on in order to function. If the power’s out, your phone on VoIP won’t work, unless you use a service like Google Voice and have the calls forwarded to your cell phone.
In the grand scheme of things, VoIP is the way to go. The technology is constantly getting better, so call quality has continued to improve over the years, it’s considerably cheaper than a standard home phone service, and it often packs more features than a typical phone service. If you’re worried about call reliability in regards to power outages in storm prone areas, look into options to have your calls forwarded to a cell phone. Providers like Vonage often offer this as a means of getting a call through if the main line is unresponsive to a call.