Michael Muchmore is PC Magazine’s lead analyst for software and Web applications. A native New Yorker, he has at various times headed up PC Magazine’s coverage of Web development, enterprise software, and display technologies. Michael cowrote one of the first overviews of Web Services (pretty much the progenitor of Web 2.0) for a general audience. Before that he worked on PC Magazine’s Solutions section, which in those days covered programming techniques as well as tips on using popular office software. Most recently he covered Web 2.0 and other software for ExtremeTech.com.
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission requires all interconnected VoIP service providers to comply with requirements comparable to those for traditional telecommunications service providers. VoIP operators in the US are required to support local number portability; make service accessible to people with disabilities; pay regulatory fees, universal service contributions, and other mandated payments; and enable law enforcement authorities to conduct surveillance pursuant to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).
The service's we detail below, however, aren't triple play providers. Every service detailed here is an independent residential VoIP provider that you can use over any broadband internet connection. But while that means their pricing is probably somewhat more transparent than in a triple play scenario, some of them do still obscure the real number you'll wind up paying. This can happen in several ways.
Disclaimer: The information featured in this article is based on our best estimates of pricing, package details, contract stipulations, and service available at the time of writing. All information is subject to change. Pricing will vary based on various factors, including, but not limited to, the customer’s location, package chosen, added features and equipment, the purchaser’s credit score, etc. For the most accurate information, please ask your customer service representative. Clarify all fees and contract details before signing a contract or finalizing your purchase.
Setting up a residential VoIP system can mean big savings on your phone bill, especially if you make a large number of long distance and international calls. In addition, these systems are mobile-optimized, and provide a wealth of features that may just change the way you think of your home phone service. Take a look at the features you need and the budget you can handle, and make the decision that’s right for you.
Still the pandemic won't last forever so keeping in mind core VoIP criteria is important, too. That means providing voice communications for employees at their desks. VoIP systems may also need to support a call center for sales, customer service, and support; and they often need to connect with and through a host of other communications channels, such as fax machines, video conferencing, conference calling, mobile communications, wireless handsets, and text messaging. On top of that, they're often expected to provide more advanced functionality through software, like shared meeting collaboration, voicemail to email transcription, and call recording. And lest we forget, many businesses still need a service that will connect to public switched telephone network (PSTN).
You don’t want to cheap out on your business’s VoIP plan, but . . . admit it, you sort of want to cheap out on your business’s VoIP plan. Nextiva offers an impressive balance of pricing and features that could assuage any guilt over saving a few bucks. Also, their online management platform makes it simple to juggle multiple lines and employees in different locales (read our review of Nextiva for more info).
In Oman, it is illegal to provide or use unauthorized VoIP services, to the extent that web sites of unlicensed VoIP providers have been blocked. Violations may be punished with fines of 50,000 Omani Rial (about 130,317 US dollars), a two year prison sentence or both. In 2009, police raided 121 Internet cafes throughout the country and arrested 212 people for using or providing VoIP services.
Another area of business VoIP support covers the growing number of mobile employees using softphones for sending and receiving calls from a laptop or mobile device. With a cloud-based PBX solution, you can have employees at different physical locations, including multiple time zones. This makes it easier to support longer business hours to cover your entire customer base. Most of the business offerings offer call routing based on the time of day and time zone.
Though many consumer VoIP solutions do not support encryption of the signaling path or the media, securing a VoIP phone is conceptually easier to implement than on traditional telephone circuits. A result of the lack of encryption is that it is relatively easy to eavesdrop on VoIP calls when access to the data network is possible. Free open-source solutions, such as Wireshark, facilitate capturing VoIP conversations.
These include features like voicemail-to-email (and/or fax to email) which will automatically take your voicemail messages and send them as audio files to your email, making you much less likely to miss important messages. Many companies can also provide you with voicemail transcription to text, which will automatically convert the messages to text in an email, saving you even more time.
Voicemail routing can take multiple forms, but they're basically rules you can apply to incoming calls that will automatically route them to voicemail without even causing a ring. For example, if calls come in with Caller ID blocked, those can be routed directly to voicemail. Or if you're simply not into talking to anyone, you can hang out a digital Do Not Disturb sign and route all calls to voicemail, perhaps until you're feeling more social or every day between the hours of 9 PM and 7 AM.
VoIP (pronounced “Voyp”) stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol” and to make a long story short—it allows you to make calls through your home internet connection. When you make a call with your VoIP system, your voice is converted into data and transmitted to the caller at the other end in the form of high-quality audio. The sound and connection typically are seamless enough to where you won’t even know the call you’ve received is from a VoIP line.
That's the basics of UCaaS, but the concept is constantly evolving to include more communication and collaboration technologies. Those capabilities also get tweaked to provide new benefits, sometimes general, sometimes aimed at specific business use cases, like call centers or help desk operations, for example. The key is integration. Voice is becoming integrated with other back-end apps.
As always the best place to start is at the beginning! The following buttons provide access to some of our best guides and tools for getting started with VoIP. These articles give a great background into VoIP, help you understand all the basics, and answer most people questions. The VoIP/Speed test tool performs a test of your Internet connection and provides a great indication of how well VoIP will work at your home. We highly recommend running this test.