VoIPVoice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the method by which people can talk over the Internet in the style of a phone call. There are multiple ways this can be accomplished, whether is be by using a headset with your computer, a physical handset connected to your system, or even stand-alone devices that don’t even require your computer to be on.

A lot of people are put off by the idea because the traditional landline has been around so long, but when you see how much cheaper VoIP is, a lot of those misgivings go away.

The way it works is very technical, but nothing that the common user needs to concern themselves with. In the simplest of terms: your voice is turned into data by the input device, transfered to the recipient, and the device on their end decodes it. It is not that dissimilar to traditional phones, it’s just done in a different manner.

There are two types of phones: soft phones and physical phones.

A Soft phone is a piece of software on your computer, such as Skype, that require you to use your computer as the interface for your phone calls.

Hard phones can be phones that plug into your computer, stand alone, or, in more and more cases, a phone that you can take with you. Examples of stand-alone services would be companies such as Vonage, Lingo, Voip, and numerous cable companies. For an example of one you can use even outside of your own house you unfortunately have to look outside of the United States at this time to mobile carriers like 3, which allows you to use Skype anywhere they have mobile phone service.

What about the money it can save you? All of us here at StarterTech are big believers in Skype due to its ease of use, and the fact you can mix traditional calling with your Internet calls. Calls from one Skype user to another are always free, and if you use their soft phone, you can even do conference calls of up to 20 people. If you want to add a regular phone number so non-Skype users can call you, you can do that also as well as get voice mail, and make unlimited calls around the world to select countries for $9.99 a month. The possibilities with this service are truly endless.

Philips voip8411bOnce Philips came out with their VoIP841B system, things got even more interesting because you now could have a cordless phone that still allowed you to use Skype even when your computer was off. The system allows you to have up to four handsets working off of one base station, giving you the freedom you get from any traditional cordless phone. You can still make free Skype calls from one user to another with it, use your Skype phone number and more.

The other brilliant thing about all VoIP services is that your number will work wherever you are. Say you are on a business trip to Japan and you have a soft phone service on your computer, with a phone number attached to the account for your hometown in California, if someone makes that local call to your number, it will still ring on your computer in Japan. The caller will never know the difference, and it is treated just like a call made while you are at home. Moving cross country? No problem, the number from your old home will still work.

So while all of this may sound like the perfect answer to get away from the burden of a traditional phone bill, there are caveats to it also.

No emergency service – I have yet to find a VoIP provider that can handle calls to an emergency service because it can’t figure out where you are and route you properly.

Calls are only as good as the slowest connection – If one person in the call is on a slow connection, such as a dial-up connection, then your call quality will suffer.

There can be some delay – Even on the best of connections, you can still sometimes detect a delay in the talking.

The technology is constantly improving, and as more, and better, bandwidth is added around the world, the calls will continue to improve.  VoIP may not be ready to completely replace your main phone line, but it is certainly ready to be your second line, and an answer to the the prays of people that travel frequently for business.

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