Getting Started With VoIP
The Various Kinds of VoIP Service
Unlike the traditional PSTN phone system, there is no single way to use VoIP. The term Voice over IP applies to a broad range of technologies that carry voice data over the Internet. As a result, there is no standardization, no common addressing system, and no central authority dictating VoIP standards. This means that you will most likely find it impossible to communicate across VoIP service providers solely using the Internet without dropping down to the PSTN phone system at some point of time – even if it's just using a telephone number. But if you don't mind dialing telephone numbers, read on.
First the hardware. The good news is that you most likely already have the tools to make VoIP calls starting immediately. If you're reading this article, it means you have access to the Internet. If you're using a laptop, you already have speakers and most likely an inbuilt microphone. The quality of a VoIP call will increase greatly if you have dedicated devices for both of these, but that's up to you. You can also use VoIP from any modern smartphone after downloading the app from either the iOS on the Google Play store. You can use either the mobile data connection provided to your smartphone by the carriers, or Wi-Fi which is freely available at most businesses and at home.
Choosing the VoIP Provider
Barring very few services such as Google's Gmail calling facilities, you will most likely have to pay to either send or receive calls to or from any telephone number. This is because the VoIP service is forced to use the PSTN phone system as an intermediary since it is impossible to tell just from the telephone number itself what kind of system lies behind it. But if you just want to talk to your friends on a particular service such as Skype or Viber, it's as simple as downloading that app from the marketplace. They're free and you only pay for calls made to someone using the PSTN phone system.
If you're a business however, you want something more professional. For this, you can use a variety of SIP services that replicate the way a business phone system works. Using VoIP hosted PBX calls, you can have access to all of the important business-related functionalities such as conference calling, call waiting, SIP forking, call parking, HD voice codecs etc. In addition, your employees will be able to talk to each other for free over the Internet since they'll all be using the same VoIP service. This is true even if they are spread out across the globe – a facility that has the potential to save you thousands of dollars.
Ultimately VoIP will adapt itself to your needs, not the other way around. It's flexibility allows it to be used with equal ease by businesses as well as individuals.