To your network, VoIP is more than just a funny word.

As more and more customers become less and less satisfied with traditional phone service, the use of internet-based telephone communication keeps growing. Making phone calls over the Internet is usually called VoIP; pronounced “voyp” or spelled out “v-o-i-p”, and the acronym stands for voice-over-Internet-protocol, but it’s also sometimes called telephony or broadband phone (or a host of similar things, but VoIP is one of the most common). Through VoIP, your voice – like everything else on the Internet – is converted into digital packets and shipped out to be reassembled on the receiving end. In theory, the packets can move more quickly and efficiently following the Internet’s path-of-least-resistance model, instead of a traditional land-line model, which is dedicated to its one function and path.

 

The Good

VoIP is cheap and fast. Just like sending an email to Australia costs you the same as sending one across town, VoIP costs very little to actually implement. Once you sign up for the service, your investment is basically done, and you can make unlimited calls wherever you want (depending on your service). Like your regular home Internet service, there are lots of people offering VoIP service, and, consequently, there’s a pretty wide variance in the quality offered. Don’t be afraid to shop around.

 

You can talk into your computer’s mic and use its speakers to receive, or you might want to splurge and get a VoIP phone. Companies like Skype offer several different models, some of which don’t even need a computer to operate. There’s even an iPhone model, although – strangely enough – it’s not created by Apple. Many of these phones can integrate with other Internet-based services like email, video out, and managing address books.

The Bad

Folks may tell you that problems with VoIP include power outages and dependence upon the Internet. Guess what – to varying degrees, traditional phones suffer from these same weaknesses, so don’t let those naysayers deter you. One actual problem has to do with those packets we mentioned above and how they’re compressed for shipping. Some software does it really well; some don’t. The occasional packet does get lost amid the hectic razzle-dazzle of the Internet, and that means VoIP quality can suffer. While the theory of VoIP has been around for some time, the implementation of it is pretty new, and companies are scrambling to figure out the best ways to provide service. Still, broadband can move more information (and more quickly) than traditional phone lines, so some argue that VoIP quality is better than regular phones. To read even more about VoIP vs. Phone quality, check out this study on “Ars Technica.”

 

There is no Ugly

All VoIP phones do look pretty slick, and that completes the metaphor to Clint Eastwood’s movie. The point is that VoIP can be a very cheap, very efficient addition to your home network. It can communicate with several key players in that network and, with a little tweaking, exhibit functionality far beyond traditional phones. Just remember that as technology development increases in the field, so will reliability.

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