Voice services, sometimes referred to as Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP, are a way of sending telephone calls and other forms of audio communication over an Internet connection, as opposed to a traditional phone line.
With voice services, audio is transmitted as digital data using the same network infrastructure as an online connection. As it uses the existing Internet network, voice services do not require a bespoke handset like traditional telephone calls. Instead, any device with a microphone and speaker can be used.
However, voice services also offer a number of additional features that set them apart from analogue telephone services. These can range from the relatively simple like caller IDs, call forwarding and 3-way calling to the more complex such as contact lists.
As voice services require an existing Internet connection they use up Internet bandwidth in the same way that any other online service would. This means that businesses should consider whether their network infrastructure is robust enough before deciding to transition away from their phone line, as insufficient bandwidth can lead to low quality calls.
Voice services are frequently cited as an example of cloud telephony – communication services that use cloud technology, often provided by a third party supplier. While businesses and individuals can use a service like Microsoft’s Skype to carry out VoIP calls, this is often inadequate for larger scale operations.
In this case, companies may decide to enlist the services of a cloud telephony provider who will host the infrastructure needed to fulfil their communication needs. Servers, software and network adapters will all be maintained by the cloud provider.
Alongside additional features, cloud voice services also offer businesses increased flexibility. Employees are able to retain the same work phone number wherever they are located, simply by signing in to their VoIP account. This is a useful benefit for companies with a mobile workforce as it means they are easily contactable even when out of the office.
Similarly, for firms that have customers, partners and clients located all over the world, cloud telephone services are likely to be much cheaper than a traditional phone line. International calls are often charged a premium rate using analogue phone lines, but because voice services operate over the Internet, there are usually no additional charges when compared to domestic calls.
Cloud voice services also facilitate conference calls by compressing audio data to allow for more speakers, while adding additional extensions, should your business grow, is straightforward.
There are some issues with voice services, namely that it is not as reliable as an old fashioned phone line. If the Internet connection is lost or there is a power failure, Internet voice service will become inactive. Traditional phone lines, which receive their power from the telephone wire itself, do not suffer from this problem.
Despite this issue, many businesses are taking advantage of the benefits that cloud voice services bring. The added flexibility, coupled with lower costs means that it is preferred approach to communication technology for many organisations.