Before you consider moving your phone service away from traditional phone lines to the internet, you may want to invest some time in studying the nuances of making this big technological change. This blog assembles answers to seven frequently asked questions about VoIP telephones and IP (Internet Protocol) telephony. This technology is better than plain old telephone service but making the move does bring up numerous issues around performance, cost, security, and more. This FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) post offers information that should cut down on your research time.

1 – Can you explain VoIP and IP telephony?

Some people use the terms interchangeably but that isn’t 100% correct. Internet protocol refers to the communication rules that Web-based hardware and software use to share data, including voice phone calls and instant messaging conversations, among other things. VoIP (voice over internet protocol) is a phone system that uses internet protocols to carry phone conversations. The technology turns an audio signal into a digital signal, transmits that data, and converts incoming digital signals back into analog signals.

2 – How much bandwidth does VoIP consume?

VoIP calls have different bandwidth requirements based on the desired call quality. For standard quality, you need about 90kb/second upload and download speeds. For high-definition (HD) calling, you need about 200kb/second. Note that this is per line. Multiply the number of phones you will be using by either 90 or 200 to get the bandwidth requirement. Also remember that this figure is on top of what your business normally requires for email, sending and receiving data, and other purposes. If you need 100 phones, you will need 100 X 200 kb or about 20,000 kb (or 20 MB) of available bandwidth.

If you have a monthly cap on data usage, remember that VoIP calls can greatly increase your monthly data usage in some instances. A single, short call hardly uses any data at all, but hundreds of those calls every week can take up a substantial chunk of your monthly data allowance.

3 – Are there limits on the types of devices you can use with a VoIP system?

Some devices either will not work or may not provide satisfactory performance. Credit card readers typically use a dial-up connection to send and receive information, which means they will not work. Some building alarm systems use a similar connection to the city’s phone system. Elevator alarms may use a copper wire connected to the city’s phone system, and this type of connection may be required by regulations. Finally, your existing fax machine may not work once you make the switch, however, fax software that does work over a broadband connection is readily available. Talk to a prospective VoIP services provider about any devices that you have concerns about.

4 – Can I keep my business phone number(s)?

Typically, a VoIP customer can keep their old phone numbers. Porting the phone numbers, the technical term for moving them from one provider to another, is possible for most phone companies and VoIP providers. Bear in mind there may be a cost associated with porting each number. You would also need to provide a list of numbers to be ported and information verifying that you are the owner of those numbers.

A couple of common exceptions apply here. First, DSL phone numbers are a special case, so you want to check with the DSL provider to make sure those numbers can be transferred over to your VoIP provider. While portability is almost guaranteed if you are moving landlines from one part of a geographic area to another, going from one part of the country to another may not be. For example, transferring numbers from Los Angeles to Long Beach is doable, while moving numbers from Reno to Long Beach might be a problem.

5 – Is VoIP service secure?

A VoIP phone can be quite secure, more secure than a mobile phone. However, this really depends on having good security for your network. Up-to-date security software and employees trained to detect phishing and otherwise prevent security breaches will be enough to ensure their VoIP calls are as secure as they can be. Note that using a wireless network to make VoIP calls would introduce additional security risks. Using an unsecured wireless hotspot, of course, increases the risk of your communication being monitored or files being stolen.

6 – What are the advantages of VoIP service?

VoIP service is almost certain to be less expensive than regular phone service, with similar or better call quality, and advanced features that make for better customer service and higher productivity. The phones tend to be cheaper than regular business phones while delivering similar call quality along with features like an auto attendant and call forwarding that businesses need. VoIP customers can use their existing business numbers, create “virtual” numbers that are not attached to a specific phone, or they can select numbers with a specific area code. This can be valuable because it enables customers to make a local call, to a Las Vegas number, for example, versus making a long-distance call to Los Angeles.

7 – How is VoIP different from products like Skype and Google Voice?

Skype is similar in terms of being an IP-based communication solution that offers voice, chat, and video. Google Voice is a free Web-based phone that also supports text and voicemail. Neither service really offers the range of services that VoIP offers, such as SMS, chat, auto attendant, voicemail to email, fax from email, analytics, and conference calling. Most VoIP providers also offer integrations with email and with customer relationship management (CRM) tools like Salesforce.

A VoIP system, whether based at your location or in the cloud, offers numerous useful functions that conventional phone service cannot provide, and at a reasonable cost. If you have further questions about adopting IP-based telecommunications for your business, contact us to set up a free consultation.