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Voice over IP (internet protocol), aka VoIP, is the technology that lets you make voice calls using broadband connections. This means that unlike with phone calls, you don’t need a public-switched telephone network (PSTN) to make a call. To make and receive calls over the internet, you can use any VoIP-enabled device, a computer with VoIP software, or even a landline phone connected to an analog telephone adapter (ATA).
When you speak into the microphone of your device, you generate analog voice signals, which are converted into packets of data (aka “compression”). These VoIP packets are transmitted over the internet and converted back to analog voice signals (or “decompression”) for the person on the other end to understand. The process of compression and decompression is made possible by special algorithms called codecs (COder-DECoder).
VoIP technology is made up of different protocols (think of them as rules built into your software) working together to deliver voice and multimedia communications (like when you’re video-chatting with someone!) over an IP network. These work simultaneously in real-time and do different things, like:
Session initiation protocol is responsible for starting, establishing, and ending real-time conversations between two or more people, whether on a two-way or multi-party call. This is possible through “SIP trunking,” which is a service that’s usually offered by an internet telephony service provider (ITSP).
The ITSP uses a SIP trunk to connect one or multiple channels to your private branch exchange phone system (or PBX), so you don’t need a physical connection to a telephone company—and you can make calls over the internet. Think of a SIP trunk as the virtual version of a traditional phone line (it's installed over your internet connection rather than through wires).
Real-time transport protocol is responsible for carrying every media stream—which, again, in the VoIP world exists as a “digital voice data packet”—back and forth during a call. This is also what makes it possible for you to watch your favorite Netflix and YouTube shows. It relies on other VoIP protocols too, like transmission control protocol (TCP) for accuracy and user datagram protocol (UDP) for speed. Oh, and RTP has a secure version too: secure real-time transport protocol (SRTP).
Fun fact: Many VoIP service providers use just one type of protocol. To ensure first-rate call quality, some companies, like RingCentral, employ multiple protocols.
To say that VoIP technology has changed the way that people and businesses communicate would definitely not be an understatement.
For one, calls aren’t restricted to a single device anymore as people can now choose to use IP phones, computers, or mobile devices. That’s because VoIP allows different forms of communication—voice calls, SMS, video calls, conference calls, etc.—to take place on a single IP network. Not only that, businesses can also get rid of their clunky, on-premises PBXs (think of those old desk phones that every office used to have) too.
So ultimately, what do these things mean for businesses?
Significant cost savings
Because VoIP services use the internet, you don’t need to pay all the costs that come with traditional phone companies. Basically, it saves you money. Potentially, lots of it.
Direct cost savings can come from:
Now, let’s look at indirect cost savings:
More advanced features for both small and large businesses
The average VoIP phone system today is loaded with sophisticated features that you won’t be able to find on traditional systems. What’s even better? Most of the time, you don’t need to pay extra to have them.
Advanced call routing and voicemail-to-text are just a few of the many VoIP features that make small businesses look like big, sophisticated companies. On the other hand, large enterprises can appear more approachable by using a local number, which is possible with VoIP services.
Your VoIP system grows with you, letting you easily add and delete phone lines or extensions any time. Again, you don’t have to pay anything extra to do this. Bonus!
VoIP allows you to make and receive calls from anywhere using any device (and using the same number) as long as there is an internet connection. It follows you wherever you go, and you’ll still be able to use its features without a hitch. Having remote teams or letting people work from home is pretty much impossible with traditional telephone systems, in which your number is assigned to a specific line.
If you haven’t looked too deeply into VoIP, you’ve probably wondered about its call quality. To be fair, your VoIP service won’t be great if you’re low on network bandwidth. But the fix for that is pretty straightforward: You just need to run a test on your current network to make sure you have sufficient bandwidth! As long as you have an adequate internet connection, routers and cables, you can easily avoid issues like lost audio and latency (delays).
Support for emergency calls
Because VoIP calling happens over the internet, it’s almost impossible to trace the locations of callers. This can be a huge problem if there’s an emergency. Of course, that’s not the case with fixed VoIP, which is the type of VoIP service commonly used by businesses. It still uses IP telephony—but with your virtual number linked to a physical address, your service will be able to support emergency calls.
Thanks to VoIP, businesses are working smarter and more efficiently. In a highly competitive global economy, that often means being able to tap into the best talent from around the world—and in the process save on real estate, equipment, electricity, and other overhead costs. That's all possible with an awesome internet phone setup. Here are a few options to help you make the most out of VoIP technology:
A router is a network device that forwards data packets between devices across a network or from devices to the internet. With proper IP addressing on every endpoint, it can prevent packet loss even when the network is congested.
VoIP handsets work pretty much like regular handsets and typically have the same features. The main difference is that these handsets are powered by the internet.
Your existing landline phone (and number) could support VoIP services, provided it’s connected to an analog telephone adapter. The ATA converts analog signals into digital data, which makes VoIP calling possible. The downside to it is that the adapter doesn’t give you access to all the cool features you’ll find in standard VoIP handsets. A touchscreen display, for instance, is something your trusty landline phone may not have.
Computers and mobile devices
Your computer or mobile device can be used as a VoIP telephone too! All you need to do is install VoIP software on it. That’ll let you make voice calls over the internet without a conventional telephone (or relying on cellular service).
VoIP phones come in two forms: hard phones and softphones. See which one would work best for your business:
A softphone is essentially a software program installed on an internet-connected device like a personal computer or a smartphone. So you can basically use a computer as a hard phone (think of it as a software-based IP phone).
Well, it depends on you! The best VoIP phone service is the one that suits your business needs and is delivered by a VoIP solutions provider that you trust. This last part is important: From saving you thousands of dollars to streamlining your business operations, a VoIP provider should guide you every step of the way.
Here’s a quick guide in choosing the perfect one for you:
There are tons of services out there that range widely in price (and quality)—sure, we’re biased, but we’d recommend checking out at least one option from a top VoIP provider.
RingCentral has been a global unified communications and collaboration solutions leader for years. Beyond the scalability of a hosted PBX and the flexibility of VoIP, we offer extended services too, like technical support, maintenance, and network monitoring to give you a top-tier business VoIP system. If you ever need cloud consultants who are experts in VoIP, or have questions about updating your company’s communications, we’ll be right here.
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"We’re easily seeing a 40%-50% reduction in communications costs with RingCentral. Several years after choosing RingCentral, I am still confident and happy with that decision."
"Having calls, texts, emails, faxes, and documents all under one umbrella creates a more streamlined workflow for employees. RingCentral makes the creates a more streamlined workflow for employees. RingCentral makes the phone a powerful tool that travels with you."
"We spent a lot of time working outside of the office. 40% of our employees use the RingCentral mobile app, which gives us the ability to use our business phone number rather than our personal cell phone numbers."
"From receptionists to the executives, everyone is delighted with our new system. Migrating communications to RingCentral was the best move we have made."
"Compared to when we had multiple vendors for phone, meetings, and chats, we are saving 30% to 40%."