What is Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)?

If you’re unfamiliar with the specifics of VoIP (voice over Internet protocol), your knowledge of the technology may only extend as far as the well-documented issues that VoIP consultants are tasked with fixing. Like any relatively new technology, VoIP has its share of drawbacks, but there are several advantages that make it a legitimate alternative to traditional phone service for thousands of people. Here we will outline some of the basics of VoIP as well as some of the advantages and disadvantages of the technology.
How Does VoIP Work?
In a nutshell, VoIP takes traditional analog audio signals and converts them into digital signals that can be transmitted over various Internet protocols (IPs). The specific breakdown of exactly how local and long-distance calls can be made using VoIP is quite complicated, but involves a special device called an ATA (analog telephone adapter) that allows you to use your Internet connection to make telephone calls. You can also make calls from your computer using a headset. You can make and receive calls anywhere with wireless Internet, which is convenient considering how common wireless is these days.
There are three major ways that VoIP is used to make a phone call: computer-to-computer, ATA, and VoIP phones.
• Computer-to-Computer: The easiest and cheapest way to make VoIP calls. Computer-to-computer calls utilize software downloaded to your computer to allow you to make and receive voice calls over your Internet connection. Many companies like Skype and Jitsi offer free or low-cost computer-to-computer VoIP calling capabilities.
• ATA (Analog Telephone Adaptor): This device converts analog to digital audio signals, allowing for call data to be transmitted over the Internet. The best thing about an ATA device is that it can easily be connected to your existing phone or fax machine, making it possible to plug in and start making VoIP calls right away. Vonage, magicJack, and Ooma are all examples of ATAs.
• VoIP Phone: These phones look just like standard telephones, but with one important difference. Rather than having a standard RJ-11 phone connector, they have an RJ-45 Ethernet connection. This allows VoIP phones to be plugged directly into your router in order to send and receive phone calls over your existing Internet connection. Cisco, Polycom, and Avaya are just a handful of companies who manufacture VoIP phones.
Advantages and Disadvantages of VoIP
• Advantages:
o Compared to packet-switched telephone networks (PSTN), VoIP calls are extremely cheap. That is because you don’t pay for VoIP calls by the minute like you do with traditional PSTN calls. Instead, call costs are included in your standard Internet costs. The real savings of VoIP come when making long-distance and international phone calls, which can sometimes cost 90% less than making those same calls over PSTNs.
o VoIP offers service and phone number mobility, meaning when you move, there is no need to contact the phone company in order to update your phone number or get a new line setup. Wherever you go, your VoIP services and phone number follow.
o VoIP services provide the possibility of integration with other online services like social media, email, and instant messaging.
• Disadvantages:
o One of the biggest gripes with VoIP is that call quality can sometimes be poor, especially with slower Internet connections. Dropped calls, delays, echoes, and strange noises can negatively affect VoIP call quality.
o Some VoIP phone and call service providers do not offer the ability to make emergency calls to 911.
o Because your calls are transmitted over the Internet, your phone service subjects you to many of the same security risks as other forms of online communication such as identity fraud, eavesdropping, phishing, viruses, and malware.