IP Insights

What is VOIP?

Imagine being able to use your computer to make phone calls with the help of special software and a microphone—and bypassing your phone company and their charges. Wouldn't that be cool?

Imagine no more. Making calls with your computer is here. In fact, it's been here for many years. But not that many people know much about it, and even fewer have used it.

Making calls with your computer is called Voice over I.P., for "Voice over Internet Protocol". Or simply "VoIP" (pronounced "voyp"). It is also referred to as broadband phone, Internet phone service and digital voice.

You Know VoIP by Other Names

There's a good chance you know about VoIP, but just don't know that you do. That's because a lot of VoIP services out there go by their product names and don't make a lot of noise about it. (That's not a big deal and they're not trying to hide it. It just makes marketing the service easier.)

For example, if you've heard of Skype, you've heard of one of the best-known Web-based VoIP services in use. And it's highly popular, with more than 663 million users. Skype itself claims that at some point in March of 2012, more than 35 million people were skyping at the same time.

Skype not only lets you talk, it lets you see the person you called. However, in that case both you (the caller) and your friend (the recipient) have to be using Skype. That's not the case for all VoIP services.

Vonage is another VoIP service that, in their words,
"lets you make U.S. and international calls using your high-speed Internet connection (VoIP) and helps you save money every month with great calling plans."

They offer calling plans for the U.S. and Canada, as well as plans for calling certain countries. (Remember, they still aren't a telephone company.) Their prices would likely be better than what your regular phone company could offer you. As we know, phone companies charge users for their account and, according the plan customers choose, they charge for "minutes"—how long your calls last.

How Popular Is It?

Forbes magazine reported that according to an IBISWorld study, in 2012 about 30 million Americans used Internet telephone services. The VoIP industry was expected to earn $15.4 billion in revenue the next year. And those were statistics for those who pay for the service, and didn't include customers who make free VoIP telephone calls.

For businesses that make a lot of calls to customers and would-be customers, VoIP has grown in popularity, especially in sales-oriented jobs. In a lot of instances it's been integrated mostly for business purposes to replace conventional phone calls, all primarily to save costs.

Is VoIP for You?

If you're bothered by costs for telephone usage, look into a VoIP service. Or if you like the idea of simply making free telephone calls, give it a try.

VoIP could quite likely help you save money if you've struggled with high phone bills and long-distance calls (to other countries, especially). You pay for your subscription to a VoIP service that you sign up for on the Web through your Internet Service Provider. If it works for you, you could dump your regular phone service.

Take Note About Hardware.

In some cases, as with Vonage, you'll have to add a piece of hardware to use the service—an adapter that helps link your phone and computer together. With other services, there are special phones you can hook right up to your computer or your router.

With Skype, you don't need any special phone equipment; but you'll need to have a high-speed connection, a built-in microphone, and download their software...and so will anyone you want to talk to face to face.

Some VOIP Providers

  • Skype
  • RingCentral Business
  • eVoice

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