At its most basic, VoIP uses network and internet infrastructure (wiring and communications technology) and software to route and manage calls instead of traditional analog phone lines and systems.
VoIP works by converting analog voice calls (usually expressed as waves) into digital signals (1s and 0s) at the originating device and transmitting them as data packets over established internet connections. At the receiving endpoint, the packets are converted back into an audible analog signal humans can understand.
The primary advantages of VoIP are twofold:
Today, VoIP is considered one part of a larger overall communications strategy called Unified Communications, or Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) when delivered via the cloud. UCaaS consolidates multiple audio and visual communication technologies like video conferencing, instant messaging, chat, email, fax, presence plus voice communications into a unified service from a single provider.
There are two types of VoIP systems, hardware- and software-based.
A hardware-based VoIP phone looks and feels like a traditional hardwired or cordless telephone. It has a handset, speaker, and microphone, a dialing keypad, and a caller ID display window. VoIP phones can provide voicemail, call conferencing, and call transfer services. The difference is the device is connected to a network via an RJ-45 Ethernet port rather than to an analog landline using an RJ-11 telephone jack.
Software-based or virtual phones are just that, telephony software installed on a computer or mobile device that otherwise might not have voice communications. A soft dialing keypad and caller ID window are displayed on the monitor or screen and controlled by keypad, mouse, or touchscreen. Systems with built-in microphones and speakers eliminate the need for dedicated hardware, although many users prefer a headset for privacy.
For example, many laptops and mobile devices act as "phones" through applications like Microsoft® 365 Teams™ and Business Voice™.
Behind the phones are an IP PBX (private branch exchange) that manages telephone numbers, telephony features, devices, and network gateways, as well as various databases, servers, modems, and routers to handle the calls. Software apps are used to prioritize voice traffic over data, and to enhance sound quality.
Further, VoIP systems can be installed on-premises, although they are more likely hosted by a cloud service provider. This also provides resiliency, as VoIP signals can instantly failover to redundant network connections for uninterrupted service in the event of an outage. Can't say that about a downed landline.
Besides the obvious advantage of reducing or eliminating long distance telephone charges, the pros of VoIP systems include:
Considerations before you implement a VoIP system include:
A technology partner (like Ricoh) with a deep experience in VoIP can help to build, deploy, and insulate your voice communications network from external threats through multiple layers of redundancy and security.
So, when a customer dials your number and hears, “Thank you for calling ABC Corporation. If you know your party’s extension, you may dial it now. Please listen closely as our options have changed…” they won't know if you have a staff of five employees or 500, just that their call is being handled professionally.
If you think your business could benefit by migrating from landline to VoIP telephone services, our IT Managed Services Team can help. From designing a scalable VoIP solution to making the business transition as part of your larger digital transformation journey, our professionals will walk with you every step of the way.