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My VoIP Provider: Everything You Need to Know About VoIP
First of all, what is VoIP?
VoIP stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol”. You may also hear VoIP referred to as “Internet telephony” or “Internet calling.” If you’re like most people, you have probably used VoIP before, whether or not you even realize it.
Some of the most popular applications of VoIP are in Skype, Viber, and Google Talk. If you’ve ever used these platforms, you’ve used VoIP.
What you may not know is that you can use VoIP for your regular landline calling, not just for free “peer-to-peer” calls. This means that you can choose a VoIP provider for your home phone or business phone, and all of your landline calls will become free or cheap Internet calls.
How Does VoIP Work?
VoIP works by essentially replacing the copper wires of the legacy phone system (“POTS”, or plain old telephone service) with a wireless connection between IP addresses. Where legacy analog phones require physical connections via copper wires to send the data of your voice messages, VoIP phones send your calls as binary over the Internet via IP addresses.
This means that all you need in order to get VoIP is a high speed Internet connection. The better your Internet connection, the better your sound quality will be. Unlike traditional service, VoIP service does not necessarily require a visit from the technician for installation. All you need is a router (and modem), an IP phone or analog phone with an adapter, and if it is a business plan, a PBX solution. Once you have all that, you can start using VoIP just as you would use traditional phone service. The end user experience is no different.
There are lots of benefits to VoIP service, and MyVoIPProvider.com can help you find the right provider with the right options, so you can start saving money with VoIP right away.
Picking Your VoIP Provider
There are hundreds of VoIP providers out there. In January 2008, we identified around 1400 international providers for the residential and small business market. In addition, there are wholesale providers, call center providers, and providers for large businesses, industries, and government organizations.
With all that variety, it can be overwhelming to think about picking a service provider. Every VoIP phone provider offers low prices on monthly service. Many offer unlimited calling in the US, and some may offer low rates or special deals on international calling as well.
So how do you pick a provider? The best way is to do a point by point comparison to find the provider that comes closest to fitting your needs for phone service.
How to Find Your Provider Using MyVoIPProvider.com
First, you should determine which kind of VoIP service you need: residential or business?
If you need VoIP service for your home, there are lots of options in home phone VoIP. Check out our selections of residential VoIP providers to start your search.
If you are looking for VoIP service for your office, check our our business VoIP providers. Our business providers offer service that is suitable for virtually any business, from the tiny to the very large.
Need phone service for a home office or a very small business? You may be able to choose between business or residential providers. Some providers like VOIPo offer the same starting plans for their small business and residential customers.
My VoIP Provider has a few tools that can help you with selecting an appropriate plan:
- Topical VoIP comparisons
- A list of our pick of the top 100 providers in the world
- A VoIP quote service (check it out at the top of this page!)
- We also suggest that you look into some VoIP reviews on various providers before choosing a service
Choosing Residential VoIP
When looking at residential VoIP plans, you will be able to choose phone lines for extremely low prices, around $5 to $15/month for unlimited calling. When choosing between providers, it may be helpful to consider the following points:
- Does the provider only offer unlimited plans? Would you prefer to have the option of choosing a metered plan with a lower monthly cost, but with an additional per minute cost?
- Will you need to sell or rent any equipment (IP phones or analog telephone adapters) from your provider? Would you prefer to sell or lease? Would you prefer to buy that equipment separately?
- Do you want to sign up for a yearly contract, or are you more comfortable with paying on a monthly basis? Many providers give discounts for customers who are willing to sign up for yearly plans, so see what your provider is willing to offer.
- What does your provider offer by way of international calling? Some providers offer free unlimited calling to certain destinations, and others may offer a certain amount of time (usually 60 free minutes) of calling time to any international phone number. If you do lots of international calling, these deals may save you a lot of money. At any rate, providers usually offer extremely low rates on international calling, usually for pennies per minute.
- What kinds of VoIP features does the provider offer? Do they have all of the special features you might want?
Choosing Business VoIP
If you want VoIP for a business, you will have a few more things to consider. Business VoIP plans are usually a little more expensive than residential plans, but they tend to include more customization options, more advanced features, and more advanced customer support.
When choosing a business VoIP provider, consider the following points:
- Does the provider only offer unlimited extensions, or like Vocalocity, do they offer you your choice of metered and unmetered extensions as you need them so you can select different extension types for different employees based on their calling habits?
- Do they only offer hosted PBX solutions, or can you choose SIP trunking if you prefer? SIP trunking is for business owners who want host their own in-house IP PBX software or hardware system, while hosted PBXs are for people who want use a business phone system that is managed and maintained remotely by a VoIP service provider. Hosted PBXs have a slightly higher monthly cost than SIP trunking solutions, but SIP trunking may involve some upfront expense for hardware. Hosted PBXs also have the advantage of being totally hands-off for the business owner. All service and repair is handled by the VoIP provider.
- How much customer support does the VoIP provider offer? High-quality tech support is a point of pride for most VoIP providers, but different providers focus on businesses of different sizes, so be sure to get a provider that offers thorough support for a business of your size and complexity.
- Do you want mobile VoIP features? Different providers have varying levels of support for mobile and remote employees, so consider how much you will want to depend on remote connection for your employees before weighing the relative benefits of mobile VoIP.
Other Types of VoIP and IP Service
Other than basic residential and business VoIP service, there are a few other kinds of VoIP and IP service available.
Some may be interested in wholesale VoIP, which is VoIP sold on the carrier level, to a provider in need of minutes, termination or origination rates, etc.
For those interested in breaking into the world of telecom, but aren’t sure how it’s done, there are also VoIP reseller programs available. These programs give you a ration of monthly minutes which you can market, sell, and distribute to your own customer base. This allows you to break into the world of telecom without having to buy all of the hardware and software associated with a telecom service setup.
Many business owners may be interested in supplementary services like IP faxing and video conferencing. IP faxing is VoIP’s answer to the fax line. You can get an IP faxing plan that works with an old fashioned fax machine, or you can get rid of the machine, and send and receive faxes like emails. This is perfect for anyone who wants to get rid of some machinery or save money on a fax line, but still needs to send and receive faxes to and from certain partners or customers.
Video conferencing is a great option for any business owner who frequently needs to have discussions with many partners, employees, or clients, especially if they are spread out at remote locations. Video conferencing suites allow business owners to have discussions with all of these people without having to cover travel costs for everyone to convene in one location.
Business owners may also be interested in call center software. With VoIP call center services, business owners can use virtual call center services, or software programs to minimize their dependence on physical call centers with extensive employee payrolls.
One of the best aspects of VoIP service is in the included free features. With many telephone service providers, you need to pay extra to get many of the same features that come free with VoIP service. Some of the most popular VoIP features include:
- Find Me Follow Me: Have calls sent to additional phone numbers when you are going to be away from your desk. For example, you could have calls ring on your home or cell phone sequentially or simultaneously.
- Call Forwarding: Forward calls to other numbers or extensions or have calls forwarded to you as needed.
- Call Waiting / Music on Hold: Put calls on hold as necessary and play music for them as they wait.
- E911 Service: Enhanced 911 is the VoIP provider’s response to standard 911 service. It keeps you connected to emergency services at all times, but it works a little differently from traditional 911 in that you need to manually update your address when you start service and move to make sure emergency responders can locate you.
- Number Porting: Port the phone number you already have so contacts can still reach you at the number they already know.
- Caller ID (with name, date, phone number, time, etc.): Have details of a call displayed on your IP phone as calls come in.
- Black and White Lists: Set lists of numbers that cannot call you (black lists) and/or of numbers that can call you (white lists).
- Contact Lists: Keep lists of your regular and important contacts for easy dialing.
- Limited service area tech support: Some VoIP providers like VoIP.com offer included visits from technical support to certain areas. Generally, these areas are limited to the local area of the service provider.