VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) originated in 1995. I remember using it shortly after that. The application I used would allow you to randomly connect to strangers anywhere in the world. Even though the quality was terrible since I was using it over a dial-up connection, it was kind of like a modern ham radio. The conversations were short and didn’t amount to much, but I was talking to people on the other side of the world for free!
VOIP has come a long way in the last 20 years. Today, many people use apps such as Skype or Facetime to communicate using VOIP, but it isn’t tied to just applications anymore. VOIP can be used in place of a landline while still making use of a standard phone. Businesses have started adopting VOIP since it can be a less expensive option for long distance calls and offers many more features than standard phone lines.
Many people these days are even cancelling landline phone service and sticking with only a cell phone. If you’ve been contemplating that same decision, consider some of the features VOIP accounts offer:
(Not all providers offer all of these features and some providers will charge extra for certain features.)
- Telemarketer blocking – Today, we have do not call lists but it seems we still get constant telemarketer calls. Many VOIP providers offer telemarketer blocking which allows you blacklist these calls.
- Multiple phone numbers – Do you have an elderly friend or family member who doesn’t have a cell phone and has to call you long distance? You can add a virtual phone number to your account that is local to them so they can call you for free.
- Call forwarding – You can forward your home phone number to your cell phone. You can also have it ring your house first and if there is no answer, it will try your cell phone before going to voicemail.
- Simultaneous ring – Instead of just forwarding your home phone number to your cell phone, you can have them ring at the same time.
- Keep your existing number – Many numbers can be ported to the VOIP provider so you may be able to keep the landline phone number you already have.
- Voicemail management – You can view voicemails online, have them e-mailed to you, or have a notification sent to you via a text message.
- Distinctive ringtones – Much like a cell phone, you can have your VOIP enabled home phone use different ring tones for different people.
- Caller I.D. – With a VOIP enabled phone, you can see the number that is calling you.
- Call logs – VOIP providers keep a log of all calls, much like your cell phone. Normally, you can login to a website and see your call records.
- Manage features online – Many features can be controlled by logging into the providers website.
VOIP is not without its downsides. For instance, if you lose power or internet service, you also lose your phone service. And VOIP phone numbers are associated with an IP address instead of an actual location which makes it difficult for 9-1-1 operators to locate the caller. Yet many people are finding that the rich set of features make it worth replacing the landline with a VOIP account. Have you made the switch? If so, please share your experience in the comments below.