Tuesday, January 9, 2007

What is VoIP and Why Do I Need It?

Watch a techie show, read a techie magazine or talk to any cyber dude and most will acknowledge that VoIP is one of the coolest advancements they've ever been blessed to experience.

On the other hand, for the vast majority who are not techie-nerds and who are looking for a non-techie to English translation of what VoIP has done to induce such high praises, then sit back, relax and read a bit more. In a nutshell, VoIP allows you to make phone calls over the internet, using your computer, to pretty much anywhere on the planet. The VoIP acronym is simply a fancy, smancy technical term for what could just as easily be called an Internet phone.

The miracle of VoIP can be explained in a simple process. The analog voice signals, which are the technical term for the exchange of hot air you have with friends and family while talking for hours on the phone... Sorry, I couldn't resist a bit of humor as I drifted back to days gone by and my youth. Ok, back to business.

VoIP converts the analog voice signals into digital data packets, which allows those packets of data to be transferred via cable lines (the internet) and then they are reconverted into analog voice signals at the other end so that once again, you can understand what is being said. Thanks to internet protocol, VoIP supports real time and two way transmission of conversations.

Sounds Good But How Do I Get Started With VoIP?

First, you have to know what type of internet service you have from your ISP (Internet Service Provider). The reason you need to know the type of service you have is because currently, VoIP works best with a cable or DSL internet connection because they are faster… as in they can download more bits of information (data packets) per second and this allows better sound quality on your internet calls.

Although VoIP services are available for other types of ISP connections like dial up, prepaid and satellite... the technology with VoIP has yet to progress to the point where you will consistently experience crystal clear sound over slower internet connections. However, if you currently live in an area that hasn't been wired for broadband, you shouldn't have to wait too long for the technology to progress to where you can enjoy a quality conversation over a slower internet type connection. However, for the time-being, quality is still a bit patchy without a high speed connection.

How Much is This Internet Telephony, VoIP Thingy Going to Cost Me?
Cost is one of best things about VoIP because VoIP services cost less than residential phone service and much, much less than most monthly cell phone plans. And if your DSL or broadband internet company just happens to be one of companies that currently offers VoIP services, then so much the better because that usually translates into even lower rates than if you used an independent or outside company for your VoIP phone service.

How Reliable Is VoIP?

Because transmission is being done over the Internet, the voice quality is largely dependent on your internet connection speed. And… at this moment in time, regardless of your ISP or connection speed the voice quality still hasn't reached that of normal land based or mobile phones. Plus, although rare, if your internet connection goes down you wouldn't be able to make or receive phone calls and VoIP is still more vulnerable to dropped calls due to a lack of signal strength.

Although VoIP still has a few drawbacks, once you try it you'll quickly realize that they aren't the type of problems that will stop you from wanting to use it… especially when you get your bill each month because with VoIP the savings can be dramatic if you spend a bunch of time on the phone.

How Secure Is VoIP?

Because transmission is in an environment where the dreaded "hacker" reigns supreme this concern is an obvious and legitimate one. Let's face it... although not perfectly secure it's no less secure than sending emails and billions and billions of those are sent each day. And frankly, if you're concerned about others listening in on your phone calls you should toss your cell phone because picking up those signals by the "unscrupulous" is much easier than sabotaging your VoIP phone calls.

If you are overly concerned with security due to the fact that VoIP is a relatively a new technology and that there still exists; although remote, a possibility that those cyber technicians will hijack your calls then you'll just have to wait until you feel these issues are solved before you give VoIP a test drive.

Can You Keep Your Number?

Yes and No! In most instances you will be able to keep your current phone number but just to be safe you should ask this question before signing up for VoIP service. And frankly, in some cases you may be required to change numbers. Oh well… nothings perfect.

About Author

Kevin Erickson is a contributing writer to: Medical Insurance (http://www.eyeonmedicalinsurance.com/), Long Term Care (http://www.eyeonlongtermcare.com/), Nursing(http://www.eyeonnursing.com/)