If you need a phone service but don’t want to deal with an antiquated and expensive landline, you might want to consider a VoIP system. These services allow you to make calls over the internet from any device, including your smartphone or a desktop computer. Best of all, they come at a lower overall monthly price than traditional landlines and typically offer advanced features like video conferencing, text messaging and more. Here’s what you need to know about how VoIP works and what it can do for your business.
What Is VoIP? And How Does It Work?
Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is an internet-based technology that uses a broadband connection instead of a regular landline or cellular connection to send and receive text messages and phone calls. This means that as long as you have an internet connection, you can use your VoIP number just like any other phone number.
VoIP works by sending your voice audio as data through the internet. In the past, it was common for VoIP numbers to be attached to a physical phone that connected to the internet with an ethernet cable. These days, you can just as easily make calls and send messages with your VoIP number via an app on your smartphone. This way, you can access your personal and work number through one device.
Some providers offer free VoIP numbers, while others—usually those catering to small businesses—charge a monthly fee. The price of a VoIP number will almost always beat the cost of traditional cellphone service. If you need a separate number for your small business, a VoIP number is likely the most convenient way to get an additional line without any substantial upfront fees (or a new phone). VoIP systems also come with several features that can be particularly helpful for small businesses.
Pros and Cons of VoIP
Have you ever missed a phone call on a cellular line because you had no reception? Or missed an important message on your answering machine because you were out of the office? This can be particularly frustrating when you run a business, as each call can represent thousands of dollars from a potential client. With VoIP, calling and messaging data is hosted on the cloud, which means you’ll always have access to it whether you were online at the time of the call or not. VoIP services can take the form of a smartphone app for iOS and Android phones, or as a computer app for your Mac or PC. And no dedicated hardware is required, either. In most cases, you can use your device’s built-in microphone for calling.
VoIP numbers also come with a lot of flexibility that isn’t available from a traditional cell provider. If you’re going on vacation and want to disconnect from work calls, you can turn off notifications on your app and check them later, while with a regular cell phone, you risk missing calls when you turn off your phone, travel overseas or spend time off the grid. Many providers also offer the ability to receive your voice messages via email and to forward calls to multiple devices.
Because they transmit calls through the internet, VoIP systems make it easy and free (in some cases) to make international calls. A VoIP number is particularly convenient if you regularly travel overseas. As long as you have an internet connection, you can make VoIP calls.
The fact that VoIP works over the internet also lets it do things that landlines simply cannot. For example, RingCentral lets you make video calls to other users and read your voicemail on your screen via automated transcription functionality. This alone can make VoIP worth the price of admission to many users.
The downside with VoIP is that you need a high-speed internet connection for the software to work well. Therefore, you might not want to use VoIP if you are in a rural area where stable high-speed internet simply isn’t available to you. For those customers, a landline or a traditional cellphone carrier plan might be the best option.
Who Should Use VoIP?
There are many different reasons you might need a VoIP system. A VoIP number is an ideal solution if you need a flexible, affordable and powerful phone service.
VoIP can be useful for small-business owners who have multiple customer service representatives and want to use one phone number and switch between them. Many VoIP providers offer the ability to forward calls to different physical phones. If you and your business partner want to alternate who’s available to take calls, you’ll be able to switch through your VoIP online account. This wouldn’t be possible with a traditional cell number without exchanging the physical phone. VoIP phone numbers also allow you to set up extension lines at a minimal cost. So if your business has five team members, each can easily have a separate extension.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I choose a VoIP service?
If you are using VoIP for your personal line, there are many app-based free options available, such as Google Voice. However, if you intend to use VoIP technology for work, you’ll want to make sure the company you choose has reliable customer service and is specifically intended for business use. Many VoIP services are free but not intended for business owners. While this might be easy to overlook, when your business is on the line, the last thing you need is to worry about is missing important client calls without a way to troubleshoot the problem.
How much does VoIP cost?
You can set up and use a VoIP number for free. Paid business systems can run anywhere from around $10 per month all the way up to more than $50 depending on what features you need.
Can I port my phone number to a VoIP number?
Yes. You can port out your cell number to a VoIP line. That way, you can keep the number your clients or friends are already familiar with. The porting process is straightforward and works the same way it would from one cell provider to another. You’ll be able to port your number back if you decide you prefer your cell provider.
Will I need to buy another phone for my VoIP?
No, you can use an app on a smartphone to make and receive calls. Some VoIP companies may provide you with a landline phone as well, but in general, you’ll be able to connect your number to your existing cell phone through an app.
Can I cancel my cell service and use a VoIP number instead?
Yes. However, keep in mind that if you plan to use this number when you are not connected to the internet, you’ll still need access to data service through a traditional cell provider.
Are VoIP numbers reliable?
Yes. In some ways, they can be more reliable than cell service. With cell service, you often don’t receive notifications of missed calls when your phone is off or on airplane mode. But with a VoIP phone number, all your calls, voice messages and texts are hosted on the cloud, so you won’t have to worry about missing an important contact when your phone is off.