What is a VoIP caller?
Thanks to widespread, fast, reliable internet connections, we can harness the power of the web in almost everything we do. Telephony is no exception, with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) growing in popularity for business telecommunications.
We’re going to dig a little deeper into what VoIP is all about, and show you some pro tips on how to seize the benefits and avoid the potential pitfalls. But first, let’s make sure we understand the basics of internet calling.
What is VoIP?
VoIP technology uses the internet to deliver phone calls. It doesn’t necessarily require wires, fiber optic cables, or radio waves like traditional landlines and cell phones do. Instead, it converts your voice into “packets” of data that are transmitted via the internet.
VoIP services provide more features and flexibility than regular phone lines or “plain old telephone networks”, and allow anyone with an internet connection to make calls from anywhere in the world. It’s possible to call people who don’t have VoIP with the help of VoIP gateways, or even to make VoIP calls with a traditional phone by using an ATA (analog telephone adapter).
Internet telephony requires less hardware than hosted PBX phone systems, and another advantage is that you can use a laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone to make calls. VoIP is mostly used for business, but there are residential VOIP services, too.
Businesses can subscribe to a VoIP-only service, or choose a unified platform like RingCentral Office that combines a virtual phone service with additional communication and collaboration features.
The terminology around VoIP can seem confusing, with a host of acronyms in the mix. Many of these relate to internet protocols, which are rules that prevent data going astray. They include:
- Transport Control Protocol (TCP)
- User Datagram Control (UDP)
- Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP)
- Session Initiation Protocol (SIP)
TCP and UDP are the primary protocols related to data delivery. TCP prioritizes quality over speed, while UDP is faster but not so reliable. RTP controls how your voice data is delivered and provides the recipient with essential information. SIP, meanwhile, is the component responsible for initiating and ending calls—and sending multimedia data.
What is a VoIP caller?
This term can actually mean two things. It can describe the person who’s using an internet-based phone service to make a call. The VoIP phone system itself, too, is sometimes referred to as a VoIP caller or “VoIP caller software”.
You don’t actually need a VoIP phone to become a VoIP caller. You can use an adapter to convert an existing phone, and you can even call people who don’t have VoIP without them requiring additional equipment.
This is made possible with VoIP gateways, a component of SIP. They convert digital voice data into analog, and vice versa, so that it can travel over the internet.
Some people are concerned when “VoIP caller” shows up in their caller ID, but there’s no need to panic. More people are now using VoIP phones, so you’re increasingly likely to receive a call from one.
Although VoIP can be used for nefarious purposes, you just need to keep your wits about you—as with any type of phone call—and make sure your business has security protocols in place.
What is a VoIP phone number?
A fixed VoIP system is attached to a physical location. It’s similar to a PBX (public branch exchange) system. Your VoIP provider assigns you a phone number, and the broadband network is linked to the PSTN.
Some internal wiring is required, but the installation is not as complex or costly as a PBX system. Although the numbers are linked to a specific address, your provider will help you take them with you if you relocate.
If you’re new to VoIP, fixed systems are a great starting point for replacing traditional phone lines. They typically include more advanced calling features than a non-fixed system, such as call recording and forwarding, and high-level security means they are considered more trustworthy and professional.
Sometimes a fixed system can prove more expensive, especially for international calling—but all-in-one providers like RingCentral offer plenty of bang for your buck when it comes to global communications.
These VoIP numbers are not linked to a single location and don’t require a fixed address. However, all phone systems now require a nomadic 911 address to be used in case of emergencies. They offer more flexibility and a simpler set-up than a fixed system. Instead of being assigned a number, you choose your own—including the area code.
Why choose an area code other than the one where your business is based? Well, your organization may have multiple locations, and you want them all to have the same number as your headquarters.
Or, you may be located in one area but do most of your business in another. Most people prefer to answer the phone to a local number, so it helps if your calls appear to come from the customer’s home area.
Calling plans are based on unlimited local for a flat rate or a per minute charge depending on the plan that you pick . This can be very attractive for a business phone that handles lots of long-distance calls. However, since the VoIP allows the users to change how they present their numbers that they are calling from they are more prone to fraud and seen as less authentic—more on that later.
What equipment is used in VoIP?
Compared with traditional phone systems, VoIP generally doesn’t require much hardware. The main thing you need is a stable internet connection!
If you want to configure existing phones, you can buy a plug-in analog telephone adapter (ATA) that converts analog voice data into digital signals. Some of these devices perform the conversion and connect directly to a VoIP server, while others use software for the task.
Companies with on-premises IP PBX hardware can use SIP trunking to connect to a VoIP system. Alternatively, you could purchase a VoIP phone or IP phone, which is basically a desk phone connected to the internet through wi-fi or ethernet cables, for use with a fully cloud-hosted PBX system.
Another option is to run your VoIP system over a computer or mobile device, using software to turn it into a “softphone”. VoIP caller software or apps usually come from your VoIP service provider, such as the RingCentral for Desktop app included with RingCentral Office.
To operate a softphone, you’ll also need a microphone and speaker (already integrated into standard telephones and smartphones) or a headset.
Why do people use VoIP?
One of the main reasons is affordability. VoIP solutions cost less to set up, run, and maintain, and we’ve already mentioned low calling rates. Plus, updates and upgrades are free and arrive automatically without you needing to install them.
VoIP is super-flexible and scalable, too. Because you’re a subscriber to software-as-a-service (SaaS) rather than complex hardware, you can use it for as long as you want, then simply unsubscribe.
When new employees come on board, it’s easy to add them to the system from any location—perfect for remote workers dispersed globally. Internet technology lets you add extra extensions instead of physical cable lines.
VoIP phone systems usually come with advanced features like voicemail, auto-attendants, and call forwarding at no extra cost. Some VoIP callers let you transmit video streams and audio files. And if you choose a unified communications platform like RingCentral Office, you get messaging and video conferencing alongside VoIP voice calls.
Finally, cloud-based VoIP systems (particularly the fixed kind) bring security benefits, with the service housed in a remote data center owned by the provider.
What about VoIP fraud?
We touched on this earlier. Yes, VoIP can be used by fraudsters—as can landlines and cell phones—but there are plenty of ways to protect yourself.
Call spoofing is when the caller deliberately sends false information to change the caller ID. Most spoofing is done using a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service or IP phone that uses VoIP to transmit calls over the internet. VoIP users can usually choose their preferred number or name to be displayed on the caller ID when they set up their account.
Some providers even offer spoofing services that work like a prepaid calling card. Customers pay for a PIN code to use when calling their provider, allowing them to select both the destination number they want to call, as well as the number they want to appear on the recipient’s caller ID.
Spammers have been known to take advantage of non-fixed VoIP systems because they can easily change their number that presents to the receiving number.Non-fixed VoIP numbers are not so simple to trace, and can more easily be “spoofed” by fraudsters.
For example, vishing (voice or VoIP phishing) is a scam that uses apparently genuine VoIP caller ID names and numbers to elicit sensitive information from a person or business—in the same way that a spoof email appears to come from one of your contacts. Other scams will ask you to press a certain button to end the call—so never press anything unless you’re sure it’s legitimate!
Trustworthy VoIP providers will check incoming calls against a list of known caller IDs, and attach an encrypted security certificate to the SIP protocol as the call is initiated. The recipient’s VoIP software then checks for authenticity and decrypts the information using the provider’s public key.
If you choose a provider with a great security record (like RingCentral) then you’re already at lower risk from threats. But here are a few more things you can do to stay safe:
- Be wary of giving out personal information
- Educate yourself on the latest scams
- Regularly change passwords and logins on all devices
- Encourage staff to report suspicious incoming calls
- Work with your VoIP provider to find ways of avoiding issues
- Get advice from the FCC.
Can I see who’s calling on VoIP?
There are two types of caller identification: Carrier-provided caller ID and phone-based identification. The first is provided by your phone company, which gets its information from a CNAM (Calling Name) company’s database of phone numbers and attaches it to your phone call.
In the days of traditional phone lines and limited carriers, it was easier to keep track of caller information. But there is no central regulating authority for CNAMs, and their databases are not necessarily kept up-to-date.
Phone-based identification is where you assign caller ID information to a particular number, and it will show on your phone when that number calls. It’s useful for regular external contacts, or for internal calls within large businesses, and RingCentral Office makes it easy to manage.
All VoIP calls are traceable, by looking at information such as server records. Telecom companies and law enforcement agencies have the resources to do this, but you can try to find out for yourself, if you:
- Run an internet search
- Use free “number lookup” services
- Ask your VoIP provider for information
- Set up live tracking during calls.
If a VoIP caller keeps calling, it could be a spammer, in which case you can try blocking the calls. Some VoIP phones come with this feature, while some VoIP services provide enhanced call blocking. If you’ve inadvertently signed up for calls from a certain source, just ask to be taken off the list.
However, there are some legitimate reasons why you keep getting calls from a VoIP phone, such as political campaigning, informational messages or reminders, or charitable calls.
Which VoIP provider is best for business?
VoIP is suitable for any business, since cloud-based hosted services eliminate the need for costly on-premises hardware. It is possible for a business to host its own internet phone system, but a VoIP provider will do the hard work and give you the necessary expertise.
RingCentral has its own secure cloud IT infrastructure, advanced features, and customizable user experience. Our solutions are quick and simple to set up, easy for all employees to use, and ready to be scaled up when needed.
Because RingCentral Office provides unified communications, you’re getting a raft of valuable features alongside HD-quality VoIP calling, too. Think conference calls, team messaging, SMS, and fax—plus personalized functions like call routing, hold music, and caller ID.
We’ve mentioned the need for top-notch safety and reliability, and RingCentral offers both. Enterprise-grade security includes 24/7 monitoring, with multiple data centers and servers in different locations. All users are assured of 99.999% uptime, while comprehensive customer support includes running a VoIP speed test.
Another upside is the simple, all-inclusive pricing with no hidden costs. It may not be as cheap as some non-fixed VoIP systems, but it’s well worth paying just a little more to protect your security, ensure top call quality, and benefit from all those extra features.