Monday, January 15, 2007

To VoIP or Not to VoIP

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. This technology takes analog audio signals and converts them into digital form for transmission. Transactions are much more efficient since analog lines remain connected even during periods of no communication. VoIP packets are sent and received whenever there is activity. The information packets are send over any open rather than a dedicated line making communication much more effective.

VoIP telephony has rapidly become a reliable cost saving alternative to traditional switched circuit communication offered by the major telephone companies. VoIP providers are attracting strong response for their services by major corporations and the small to medium business (SMB) community. There are some deficiencies and drawbacks that prospective customers should recognize prior to migrating their services.

Service Interruption

During a blackout a traditional phone is kept in service by the electrical current transmitted through the phone line. VoIP requires a broadband connection, routers and/or cable modems to connect to an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Your VoIP service is only as reliable as your broadband Internet connection. If a power loss occurs, the hardware would shut down as would your dial tone. Many VoIP providers offer call forwarding features that allow users to route calls to land lines or cell phones to minimize risk of loss of service. Battery backups and/or power generators are recommended for critical service environments.

Sound Quality

The quality of VoIP communication can be unreliable, uneven or choppy with echo depending on the traffic load on the network. Conversation can sometime be difficult when packets are dropped. Internet telephony phones are more expensive than analog phones due to the complexity of compression algorithms and processing power required for VoIP.

Emergency Services

The most serious disadvantage of VoIP centers around the inability to connect to local 911 emergency service. 911 and E911 emergency services were originally designed for traditional PSTN telephone networks. Traditional phone equipment can trace your location when a 911 call is placed. The Enhanced 911 (E911) feature allows emergency service operators to identify the source of the call even if the caller is unable to utter the address. Pure VoIP providers now offer a rudimentary method of emergency locating. The address reported to the operator by the provider is the one that is registered to your account.

Local White Pages

If you select a VoIP service that is not offered by your local telephone company, you will likely not be listed in your local telephone book white pages. Online directories may still list your telephone number.

Lower communication costs, improvements in standards, protocols and underlying hardware and software are motivating many to migrate to IP. Many major VoIP providers and hardware manufacturers are making great strides in increasing sound quality and lowering hardware cost.

Article courtesy of Resource Software International Ltd. (RSI).