Make phone calls over the Internet with VoIP technology
What is internet calling?
As the term implies, internet calling is the method of placing a phone call via the internet, made possible by VoIP technology. VoIP turns a standard internet connection into something that enables the exchange of information with people from anywhere in the world.
Since you’re not using a regular landline or mobile network, you bypass the services of a traditional phone company and therefore don’t incur costs related to them. The per-minute charges are much lower, so it doesn’t overwhelm your funds, especially if your company makes a lot of phone calls every day.
But the truth is, communications systems are vital to businesses whether they are heavy on phone calls or not. It is in every competitive company’s plan to implement a solid communications infrastructure that also helps to streamline their operations without investing much capital.
The enhanced quality of an online phone call
Cost reduction isn’t the only reason numerous organizations are making the move to VoIP. For one, the quality of a VoIP call itself is constantly improving. VoIP is a fairly young technology and there has already been massive improvements since it was developed around 1995.
It’s true that call quality could suffer if the internet connection isn’t stable. But if you turn to an industry-trusted VoIP provider, you’ll see that it’s more or less a thing of the past. VoIP technology has evolved over the years, and a good service provider should be able to leverage all advancements to the point where service interference is rare and quality is significantly better than what you’d get from cell phone reception.
If you’re subscribed to a really good service, the person you’re calling won’t be able to tell if you’re using VoIP or the public switched telephone network (PSTN), which is the technology that powers landline phones. Should you encounter problems in the quality of your calls, your VoIP service provider should be able to fix them. Otherwise, you may want to consider another vendor.
RingCentral is one company that ensures superior quality of all calls. They make it possible by providing tools that enable you to check the speed of your internet connection and giving instructions on how to properly configure your router.
How to make a phone call online
With VoIP, there is no one way to place a call. There are connections that allow free local and international calls with a few restrictions. Others may require a small fee, but that’s still much cheaper than traditional landline calls. Depending on your specific needs, you can find a type of VoIP connection that makes the most sense for your business or specific departments.
Computer to computer only
Generally free of charge, a computer-to-computer connection is the fastest and easiest way to make a call over the internet. All you need is a computer with a sound card, a microphone, and an account through a VoIP-enabled program.
Setup is a breeze. Just download the program over the internet, install it on your computer, create an account, and you’re good to go. As long as the person you’re speaking with is also signed up to the same service, you don’t have to pay anything—even for international calls.
Call quality depends on your bandwidth and computer system. If you experience lag time or frequent dropped calls, you may need an upgrade. This is almost never an ideal setup for a business.
Computer to any phone
With a computer-to-phone connection, you’ll be able to use a computer running a VoIP-enabled program to connect to a traditional landline phone. For this, you will need a third-party software provider who will be responsible for the setup. You’ll be able to use their service to place out-of-network calls for a premium.
Still, the price is considerably lower than what you’d pay a traditional phone company, especially for long-distance calls. Here, the program takes the data from your computer and converts it to analog so it can be sent to and understood by the person on the other end.
This type of connection is particularly helpful to businesses that regularly make international calls to areas without a stable internet connection.
Mobile softphones and apps
Whereas the first two options work with fairly stationary devices, this connection works with any handheld device. That means your employees don’t have to stay at their desks to leverage VoIP functionality. They could be queueing for coffee or catching a plane ride home and still be able to make and receive calls with only their mobile phone in hand.
With softphones and apps, you enjoy mobility with hardly a dent on call quality. They come with full VoIP capabilities, so they’re ideal for businesses with field or remote staff.
Any landline using ATA
An analog telephone adapter (ATA) is a device that connects a landline phone to a digital network or a VoIP system. It does so by converting the sound of your voice into digital data and sending them over the internet.
This is pretty much a straightforward setup. You simply plug your phone cable into the ATA and you’re ready to make a VoIP call. Some ATAs enable users to switch between landline and VoIP. Depending on the plan you choose, your landline phone can also be outfitted with a host of VoIP features. It’s ideal for companies that are transitioning from legacy phone systems to IP-based phone options.
Advanced business phone features
VoIP technology has the ability to make a small- or medium-sized business appear big in the eyes of customers, thanks in huge part to a selection of sophisticated features. You’ve probably used caller ID, call forwarding, call waiting, auto attendant, call screening, and other features available in traditional phone systems. But there is more to VoIP for business than that.
Renowned VoIP providers like RingCentral can deliver all those features and more to enhance your call experience. That includes these calling and mobility features:
- Call Delegation
Let your admin assistants manage incoming calls with ease. Using the shared line, they can make and receive calls on your behalf.
- Answering rules
Set up rules on where to route calls. You can take advantage of advanced routing capabilities so that every call is forwarded to the right device every time.
- Call Flip
Transfer calls from one device to another. With Call Flip, you can move an ongoing call from your desktop to your mobile phone even if you’re not in the office. This way, the call continues even if you have to leave abruptly.
- Virtual extensions
Connect departments and office locations with virtual phone extensions. These extensions are based in the cloud so you can enjoy flexible features that can be customized according to your needs.
There is no shortage of useful business system features from RingCentral: Call Park, presence and heads-up display, voice-to-email, and visual voicemail. You’d be hard-pressed to find a VoIP provider that delivers the same level of service that RingCentral brings.
Using VoIP to make international calls
Unlike PSTN, VoIP doesn’t require a dedicated circuit to maintain a call between two people. This is a major reason why long-distance calls, especially the international kind, are so expensive with PSTN. You can just imagine how call costs drain certain businesses dry, like those that house a contact center.
On the other hand, VoIP uses packet-switching technology, wherein data packets (voice signals) take different routes to reach their destination. That only means cost isn’t based on time or distance. There are no expenses to cover circuit and phone infrastructure.
So if your company makes a ton of long-distance calls, you are bound to generate huge savings with Voice over IP. That’s money that can be used for other important aspects of the business.
Are internet calls replacing traditional phone calls?
With all the benefits that can be had from a VoIP phone system, one might wonder if the days of traditional phone systems are numbered. Is it only a matter of time before every business will have fully embraced VoIP technology?
Full adoption may take a while, but the future of business communications and connectivity indeed point to packet-switched networks. VoIP continues to change the way businesses communicate and collaborate, and it’s up to you to capitalize on this technology and stay ahead of the competition.
There may be “hurdles” along the way (see next section) but you can rest assured that experts are stopping at nothing to refine this technology. For as long as providers like RingCentral are on top of the game, internet calling can only get even more sophisticated and accessible to businesses of any size.
Still, there are many businesses that prefer to stick with traditional phone systems. This is mostly due to fear of the unfamiliar, and this points mainly to one thing—security. Let’s see if there’s a good reason for this seemingly persistent concern.
VoIP security: Is an internet phone call vulnerable to attacks?
The big question of security has been thrown at VoIP technology, especially since it’s started to gain traction. It’s just a reality we have to deal with in this increasingly connected world. The internet, after all, is ever susceptible to various security issues. Let’s take a look at the common ones.
- Service theft
Hackers can gain access to your VoIP service and network through VoIP phones. Once in, they can steal passwords, usernames, and personal information. They use the data they have stolen to perform all sorts of fraudulent acts, such as identity theft, phreaking (stealing of service from the provider or using it and passing the cost to another user), and intentional disruption of service.
- Denial-of-service (DoS) attack
In a DoS attack, your network or device is denied of service or connectivity. Hackers choose one target at a time and consumes its bandwidth or overwhelm its network until it’s forced to shut down. This is usually done to damage brand reputation, extort money, and, in some cases, just for kicks.
- Call tampering
Here, the hacker targets the communication stream with the intent of degrading call quality, dropping the call, forcing a delay in voice signaling, and other critical issues. This is done by sending a stream of data packets through the PBX network. By intercepting call signals, the hacker can change the encryption key to their own public key, causing further privacy and authentication issues.
- Malware and viruses
VoIP exists within the realm of computer networks and is therefore exposed to the same risks as computers themselves. These include malware, which takes up network bandwidth, and viruses that wreak havoc on software (softphones included) to compromise its performance.
A kind of malware that has the capacity to self-propagate is called a worm. It infiltrates your VoIP network, PBX, databases, and other systems to access important data and make your business vulnerable to other attacks.
- Man-in-the-middle attacks
Hackers use sophisticated software tools to mislead customers into thinking they are accessing a genuine server. The attackers positions themselves in a conversation between the client and the server in order to intercept or manipulate data. By eavesdropping or impersonating one of the parties, they can collect sensitive information.
If you’ve heard of phishing in email, this is its voice-based equivalent. With vishing, the attacker uses ID spoofing to pretend they are a reputable business (e.g., a government or financial institution) and trick you into giving up sensitive information.
Simply being aware of all these threats should already put you in a prime spot to prevent or combat them. From establishing strict standards in password setting to implementing monitoring systems, there are numerous techniques you can implement to secure your network.
The thing is, as IT experts mitigate one security risk, hackers are able to find other ways to go about it. It almost feels like they are always a step ahead. But this shouldn’t be much of a concern when you get a number from a VoIP provider, as they follow stringent security measures and practices.
RingCentral, for instance, takes pride in providing optimum security with Tier 1 network centers and round-the-clock monitoring to avert any form of attack or disruption. This is a major reason why the company continues to lead the way in business communications solutions globally.