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How to Get a VoIP Phone Number

Updated on May 21, 2013
A VoIP Telephone Number
A VoIP Telephone Number | Source

What Is a VoIP Phone Number?

A VoIP phone number is just like any other regular PSTN telephone number. Except that it's not assigned directly to any specific device. Rather, it "floats" above the SIP service with whom you have an account. To understand how you are able to use a VoIP number to make and receive phone calls, you need to understand the process of SIP. Don't worry – it's simple!

It all begins with understanding the client/server paradigm. You can use VoIP on a number of devices such as a tablet, a smartphone, a PC, or even a dedicated VoIP telephone. Each of these is called a "client". From a technical aspect, you can have any number of clients but in practice, most SIP providers will restrict you to a certain number of devices – let's say 10.

All these clients will constantly be in touch with a central server. An incoming voice call would be processed by the server who will then send the signal to all of the connected clients who are currently online. This ability to send a single call to multiple devices is known as "SIP forking". It is a crucial aspect of VoIP and can provide several benefits. Unfortunately it seems that some SIP providers do not provide this capability which is sad, because it severely cripples VoIP's utility.

The Architecture of SIP

As you may have understood, the SIP server is the central hub of all of your VoIP activity. Now you can either build the server yourself and maintain it on your own business premises, or you can contract it out to a hosted VoIP PBX service. If the former, you need to spend money to build it, house it, maintain it, hire the talent to operate it, and constantly keep it upgraded with the latest hardware and software. If the latter I'm a you can simply pay them a fixed fee every month and forget about the details of the implementation. More and more businesses are realizing that it's not worth the effort to build their own VoIP servers in-house.

An SIP VoIP system gives you an outward facing telephone number that displays as the caller ID when you make outgoing calls using VoIP, and that others can use to get in touch with you. It is in effect nothing but a proxy for the SIP server that does all the hard work. If you're shifting to VoIP and want to keep your existing telephone number, there's a good chance that you will be able to do so provided you remain in the same geographic location. Contact an SIP provider to find out whether or not this is possible for a small fee.

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