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Archives: November 2011

You Can Rely on VoIP
November 2nd, 2011

As VoIP is such a new technology, you may wonder how reliable it is. Communication is key to any business, so it must be reliable.  Most companies rely on multiple forms of communication, including telephones, email, web services, and more.  Of all these communication types, phone calls demand the highest level of instant interaction, and any delay or trouble with a phone call is noticed more quickly.  So call quality and reliability of your phone service are critical.  A major interruption in service can greatly impact a company’s performance and have far-reaching consequences and even poor call quality reflects negatively on your business. Inconsistent or unreliable phone service is simply unacceptable. So, if you are considering switching from a traditional phone service to a VoIP phone service, you may wonder if VoIP is something you can rely on.

Simply put, today, VoIP can be extremely reliable. VoIP has been around long enough for all the big issues to be worked out. With a good VoIP provider and solid internet service, problems such as latency, jitter, static, and dropped calls have been eliminated. Interestingly, the reasons some people worry about using VoIP – sound quality, dropped calls, intermittent loss of service – are the same concerns that afflicted the original PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) phone system. PSTN quality has continued to improve over its many years of use, and old-style analog phone systems using copper wires for connection have become the standard for call quality.  VoIP is still undergoing important changes, but by selecting the right VoIP provider, you can already get quality and reliability that rivals analog connectivity.   VoIP communication services are progressing and evolving faster than ever and the issues associated with VoIP are quickly becoming a thing of the past.

In fact, now VoIP telephone service can be even more reliable than traditional telephone service and provide better features at a lower price. VoIP telephones will often work in situations when traditional telephone services won’t.  Suppose, for example, that you need to work from both home and office.  With VoIP, you can have service anywhere you have an internet connection. So even if you loose internet connection in your home or office, you can make and receive phone calls from any internet connection anywhere, whether you take calls on your desktop VoIP phone or a softphone on your computer or smart phone.  And the internet itself  is very reliable. It has built in redundancy, routing packets around any failing links.  The biggest reliability issue will be with your own Internet Service Provider (ISP), so you’ll want to select a provider that has a solid reputation for reliability.  To check your current service, you can run our VoIP Test and see the bandwidth, jitter, latency, and packet loss associated with your current connection..

In addition, the sound quality of a VoIP call can be as good if not better than a call made through traditional landline services.  This is because with VoIP, your voice breaks down to a digital form, which can be exactly reproduced at the other end of the call, unlike with landlines which can inject noise or lose strength over distance.

The real question in VoIP reliability may be in your choice of VoIP provider.  You’ll want to choose a company with a strong reputation for reliability, and know what they do to make sure your phone system stays up and running, all the time. VirtualPBX has taken all the precautions to ensure you will have the most reliable VoIP service available.  Our service runs in a secure, hardened data facility that is part of our national infrastructure.  It has many sources of power, carriers, and lines, including primaries and multiple backups in each area.  In addition, we’ve built the whole system with reliability in mind.  Every component has multiple backups and redundancy.  So if a component fails, your calls are not affected.  In most cases, over half of our equipment could fail and you’d still get your calls.  This is one of the reasons Virtual PBX is so well known for its reliability and quality.  For more information, check out the Quality and Reliability page of our website at http://www.virtualpbx.com/learn-more/quality-reliability/.

What Exactly is a Softphone?
October 27th, 2011

I am sure you have heard the term softphone recently with the huge growth of everything VoIP, but do you really know what one is? Common sense will tell you that it is a phone but what kind of phone and how could it affect your business?

Basically, a softphone is a phone that lets you make calls over the internet from a computer or other smart device. As the name would imply, it is a piece of software that acts as a phone interface, allowing you to dial phone numbers and carry out other phone related functions via a screen (PDA or Computer) using your mouse, keypad or keyboard. Conversations usually take place through a headset or a microphone and computer speakers.

The softphone software or application can be downloaded from a variety of providers such as Counterpath or SNOM. These are sometimes also referred to as ‘clients’. Many of these applications are free although some have a modest cost. Softphone clients are available for Macintosh, Windows and Linux computers, and many smartphones, such Androids and iPhones.

In most cases you will find a softphone used in conjunction with VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol. This form of computer telephony uses an internet connection to deliver voice information over the internet. For more information regarding VoIP, please check out this blog. VoIP calls can go over a standard internet connection on your local network, wireless networking (WIFI) or even a cellular data network, such as 3G or 4G.

So, we have a softphone client and an internet connection. There is one more component needed to use a softphone and that is a provider. Although anyone can download and use the free softphone software, a VoIP service provider must provide the underlying VoIP phone service over which the calls are carried.  A softphone is registered with the service provider, and often a phone number is assigned.  Calls to and from the softphone are routed over the service provider’s network. The features and functionality of each softphone will vary somewhat from one softphone provider to another.

So who can benefit from using a softphone? Telecommuters and anyone who travels frequently for starters. For users on the go, especially those who travel overseas, softphone service allows them to conveniently make calls from their smartphones and laptops, saving them the hassle and expense of using a hotel phone or roaming on a cell phone. Also, softphones are well suited for small and medium size businesses that save money by cutting their ties with expensive traditional phone companies. Furthermore, softphones do not require expensive hardware which needs to be maintained. Softphones are inexpensive and easy to upgrade.

Thinking about trying out a softphone yet? If so, Virtual PBX would be happy to help you set up you softphone to best fit your needs. Every Virtual PBX system includes VoIP Anywhere technology, which can turn your cellular phone or computer into a Virtual PBX VoIP phone. With VoIP Anywhere and our award-winning open-systems approach, you can use any standard SIP softphone, from almost any vendor, to make and receive calls over your data connection. We’ve reduced the bandwidth requirement so that high quality calls can be made over 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi connections. You simply register your softphone as a VoIP device in our service, and open the softphone application to make calls.

Benefits of a Virtual PBX Softphone

Tons of Included Features

All standard Virtual PBX features that are available to a VoIP extension are available to all calls to and from a softphone, like call recording, or choosing your caller ID. And softphone calls are included in your Virtual PBX business reports so you’ll always have records of every call. You can make outbound calls from your cellular phone without giving up your personal phone number. And call-backs go to your company number, not to your personal phone. You protect yourself while looking more professional.

Little to No Cost

Our flat-rate plans include the ability to add softphones at no charge. And any extension in a usage-based plan can be enabled to use VoIP, for both VoIP phones and softphones, for just $5 per month per extension. Minutes used on a soft phone are part of your plan. Flat-rate plans have no per-minute fees for calls to a softphone or to a destination in the continental U.S. or Canada (within our fair-use policy), and calls through usage-based plans simply use plan minutes.

Getting Started

To put a softphone on your Virtual PBX account, you should first download a softphone from a good provider. Then, you add the softphone to your account starting from the VoIP Phones page of our vConsole web portal. For more information visit our VoIP support pages.

Why Saving Money with VoIP Peering is So Cool
December 2nd, 2010

In our last post we explained the basics of VoIP, how SIP became the default standard in the VoIP industry, and the fact that even though most VoIP providers have adopted the SIP protocol, they use a proprietary implementation to keep calls within their own network. In this post, we will expand our discussion on SIP, explain SIP URI, why Virtual PBX chose to adopt the open SIP URI standard for VoIP communication, and finally why this gives you the freedom to choose the VoIP solution that works best for you and your business.

In 2009, Virtual PBX broke the mold by expanding our feature set to allow calls to go through the Virtual PBX virtual phone service, but rather than dial out to find the extension owner at a phone number, they could instead have the Virtual PBX service send the call via SIP to their VoIP service of choice that accepts inbound calls via SIP URI.

In our last blog we described SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) as the default protocol on which the VoIP industry has standardized. A SIP URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) is basically an internet “address” for a VoIP service allowing one VoIP user to call another VoIP user by using the SIP URI. A SIP URI resembles an e-mail address and follows the format of user@domain.com or user@Ipaddress (e.g. User@192.168.1.7). The “user” portion of the URI could be a user name or resemble a 10- or 11-digit phone number. The “domain” portion is the domain of the VoIP provider and can be a name or an IP address. For instance, CallCentric uses the following format: 17775551212@in.callcentric.com.

There are many VoIP services available which fit this mold and are very cost-effective, including CallCentric, Ekiga, Truphone, and Gizmo5, although after being purchased by Google in 2009, Gizmo5 does not accept any new sign ups. With most of these VoIP services, you download a softphone to your computer, which is a software application that has a dialpad and is used to make and receive phone calls, typically using a USB headset or USB phone. However, some of the above services go a step further and allow the user to purchase a hardware VoIP phone and register it to the service, thus allowing the user to have a phone on their desk. This configuration could allow the user to replace their land line if so desired. With most of these services, users can call each other for free. But users can also get a phone number, or DID, and attach it to their VoIP service allowing users outside their VoIP network to call them as well. This feature will usually add a monthly or per minute cost to the service.

Now that we’ve explained SIP URI and some of the VoIP services that have implemented it, let’s circle back around to why Virtual PBX chose to support it. Through our VoIP Peering feature, for which we have won the Internet Telephony Excellence Award 2 years in a row, users can choose to have the Virtual PBX service reach them on not only their cell phones and land lines, but also send calls via SIP URI directly to the VoIP service of their choice. You can find information on how to do this in our training video.

So why is this so cool? Let’s put the parts together. Not only can a VoIP phone service save you a lot of money over a traditional land line with long distance, but if it’s truly an open SIP solution, then it can work with other VoIP services on the market. All this allows users to choose best of breed VoIP services that truly meet their telecom needs and the needs of their business rather than being tied down by proprietary VoIP solutions. With Open VoIP Peering, Virtual PBX is now the lowest-priced and most flexible hosted PBX solution on the market, allowing users to mix and match their Virtual PBX virtual phone system with the SIP-based VoIP softphone (and/or hardware phone) service of their choice, or with one they were already using. This creates amazing opportunities for businesses to best meet all of their feature, cost and reliability needs. And that’s what happens when vendors like Virtual PBX put the customer first.