Voice over IP is a technology which allows users to make inexpensive phone calls using the Internet rather than using a traditional phone company. The costs savings and benefits of VoIP can be huge—especially for businesses.
Lower costs per call and an impressive list of added features has made VoIP systems extremely attractive–and millions of individuals and companies have already made the switch.
VoIP systems do put an extra burden on your Internet connection. This means your phone calls are competing for room right along with your email, news sites and streaming media.
For individuals on a standard high speed connection, this probably won’t make much of a difference. A single phone line will not cause a noticeable degradation in connection speeds. However as more and more lines are added, bandwidth can become a problem (especially for businesses) which is why it’s important to understand and plan for your bandwidth requirements.
Your Internet connection can come in many flavors. Gone (for the most part) are the days of dial up connections which only allowed for basic connectivity—certainly no streaming video. Most common these days are Internet connections using either DSL or cable modem connections.
Both of these types of connections are “always on” and both are considered to be high speed connections. However each relies on different technologies along with different capabilities.
DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line and utilizing the existing telephone infrastructure (which is why most phone companies are offering DSL). Although the speeds offered by DSL are generally slower than cable modems, they are still considered “high speed.” A DSL connection may or may not be a factor in your decision to go with a VoIP system. Many factors go into what makes a system operate glitch free.
Cable modems provide connectivity via a coaxial television cable rather than a traditional phone lines. This means that the speed of the connection can be significantly higher. Again, that can be a factor when considering a VoIP system, but it shouldn’t be the only one.
Cable providers can offer bundled services such as television, VoIP and high speed Internet due to the fact the coaxial cable can handle all the traffic simultaneously.
Making the Right Decision
Either a DSL line or a cable modem connection can be used for a VoIP system, however what’s important to research is the following:
- Your actual (not advertised) bandwidth. There are simple online tools available to test your connection speed.
- The number of simultaneous calls you will need to be able to support.
- What is the Service Level Agreement (SLA) offered by your Internet provider? This is important because some ISP’s reserve the right to throttle (meaning slow down) your connection based on usage.
For individuals, running some simple bandwidths tests should be enough to confirm the existing connection is suitable for a VoIP system. In fact, most providers will happily run theses test for you prior to you signing up for the service.
For businesses, it might be worth the expense of having a telecommunications consultant come in and evaluate you company’s current Internet connection, your bandwidth usage and your VoIP needs. An evaluation such as this shouldn’t be horrible time consuming or expensive and will give you exactly the information you need.
It’s also important to note that there are other types of Internet connections (such as dedicated T1 lines) that were not covered in this article.
No matter what your need, there is a VoIP system out there that will give you access to all of its unique benefits.