Picking a VoIP service is not an easy task. There are a multitude of options for everyone and a score of customizability possibilities. But if you’re new to the world of VoIP or need some help picking out your first service, it’s best if we just start from the basics.
What is VoIP?
The VoIP acronym stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol and is understood as a telephone that’s capable of making calls and sending voice messages through the internet. This revolutionary technology makes it possible for anyone to communicate through phone calls and other multimedia options at the mere touch of a button.
For example, when you speak ‘Hello’ into a microphone, your voice signal gets broken down into tiny chunks of data that are then transmitted through the internet to another end of the receiver. This enables you to communicate over long distances at flexible rates. These rates are a fraction of the cost and time charged by traditional landline networks to connect phones. No wonder over a billion people are using some form of VoIP service in their daily life!
What are my options?
Before you set yourself up for purchasing a particular VoIP service, you should know the two main types of systems available. The first is software VoIP and the second is hardware VoIP. Both are excellent options but it all depends on whether you’re looking to use it for business purposes or personal reasons. Let’s first break down the essential features of the two types.
Software based VoIPs are called softphones. Users can easily download the software to make calls from their desktop or their mobile phones. This means that there is minimal hardware involved in the process. All you will really need is a computer and an internet connection. For this to work, your device must have basic audio equipments such as a microphone, some speakers and a sound card. In case you’re looking for an advanced experience, there are special VoIP headphones available for use too.
Those who do not like talking through a microphone or headset can purchase a USB phone. The USB can easily be plugged into your computer’s USB port and you can expect superior voice quality with this option.
Pros and cons of softphones
The low cost is always the primary benefit of using a software based VoIP. Softphone users typically pay for their service at fixed intervals. They can choose to pay on a monthly or weekly basis and that too at nominal rates. Another benefit is the ease of installation and the level of mobility offered through softphones.
As mentioned, users will only need to download a software of their choice onto their device. They can move around, travel and make calls from different locations.
The main downside to using a softphone is that you will not be able to reap many benefits if you have a poor internet connection. A stable internet is a must for softphones. Also, more often than not, you will be dependent on your host media for any echo suppression while talking. Plus, some service providers generally offer poor audio quality. To avoid making any blunders while picking out your VoIP service provider, you can compare service plans.
Also known as hardphones, this system looks like a traditional phone and is plugged into an Ethernet port via an internet router. A separate category of hardphones has a built-in modem instead of an Ethernet port. This uses dial-up internet to connect to a VoIP server and therefore does not need a broadband connection. In effect, hardphones can communicate directly with a phone or VoIP gateway and do not require any software or personal computer to connect. For more advanced users, there is a built-in screen option available for web browsing and video conferencing.
Pros and Cons of hardware VoIP
Softphones are a popular option because of their ease of use and cost effectiveness but nothing beats hardphones when it comes to reliability. Hardphones offer a supreme communication experience mainly because of the great audio quality. Since they are connected using a conventional phone jack, you do not need to worry about a stable internet connection. Those who may be making their first switch from a traditional landline may also find it easier to use a hardphone because of the similarities.
The major drawback of using a hardphone is the cost. Most new hardware VoIP models are on the pricier side and if you wish to go for a cheaper option then you might lose out on some features such as a touch screen option. Also, the initial installation process might be a little complicated and you may have to rely on a service provider to do the work for you.
Conclusion: what’s better?
Are you using your VoIP system for your home, personal or office use? In most cases, you would want a softphone because of the cheaper costs. However, if you’re running a business or need to make frequent outgoing calls then you would probably want a hardphone because of its reliable service.
To make a decision, you will have to outline your priorities and see what cons you are willing to forego over the benefits of each service.
You can find more information and other VoIP-related articles at top 5 business VoIP’s website.