The Architecture of VoIP
VoIP relies on the Internet to transfer its voice data rather than use the old-fashioned copper wire networks. When you speak into an IP system, the sound is digitized and sent as bits of ones and zeros over the Internet. In the early days, it was an unreliable technology due to poor bandwidth connections when most people were still using dial ups. Today however with the penetration of broadband technology in the US, VoIP has become a viable alternative not just for wired connections at home, but also using the data plans on smartphones.
From a technical perspective, VoIP is just another Internet-based application like e-mail – but significantly more complex with a whole set of issues that don't affect traditional web content. For one, it is real-time and that means that there is no tolerance for delays. Other content such as gaming also faces the same requirements. To use VoIP, you typically need to sign up with a service provider just like you need one to use e-mail. Unfortunately unlike e-mail, there is no standardized protocol yet. The closest thing we have is the Session Initiation Protocol or SIP. To get started with VoIP, sign up with a hosted VoIP provider. Doing so for free will give you an SIP address that you can use to communicate with other people who have similar addresses just like e-mail. Paid accounts however will also receive a telephone number that you can use just like any other with a VoIP client.
Using a VoIP Client
A VoIP client resides on your smartphone or your PC or is installed on a dedicated VoIP phone that communicates with the server and receives voice data. One of the benefits of VoIP is that you can assign a single telephone number to many devices and you can configure complex business rules such as routing calls to a different office on certain days. No longer do you have to carry around a specific device for every telephone number. Instead, you can pick up whichever is most convenient at any given time – even a tablet or a PC if necessary.
Where VoIP really shines is the low cost of international calling. Hosted PBX services will allow you to call other countries at only a fraction of the cost of regular phone call. This is because most of the voice data is carried over the Internet that doesn't respect national boundaries. It drops down to the traditional phone line only when absolutely necessary. In fact, if the other person is using a similar VoIP service the entire call can take place over the Internet for free. For businesses that need to constantly keep in touch with overseas partners and suppliers or contractors, this can result in savings of thousands of dollars over a very short period of time.
Contact your SIP service provider to find out how easy it is to get started.