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What are the Advantages & Disadvantages of VOIP?

written by: Dawn Tan•edited by: Eric Stallsworth•updated: 6/2/2011

There are as many advantages and disadvantages of VOIP. VOIP is the acronym for Voice over Internet Protocol and its function, simply stated, is the use of Internet for both outbound and incoming phone calls instead of the standard landline phone.

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    Advantages of VOIP

    One of the significant advantages of VOIP is that as long as one has Internet access, it is possible to make and/or receive calls no matter where the person is. To appreciate this feature, it's important to understand that even cell phones do not so extensively cover every remote and rural area like the Internet does. Needless to say, all the standard features are present and available free – be it three-way conferencing, call forwarding with auto functionality features, automatic redialing features and caller identification.

    It is noteworthy that VOIP enables Unified Messaging, integrating email, voice mail, IM, and standard calendaring. VOIP provider packages invariably allow unlimited outbound and inbound calls, including international calls. For people who frequently make overseas calls, VOIP can mean incredible cost savings.

    If you use instant messaging through some popular IM players like Skype, Gtalk, MSN or Yahoo, then consider using them with VOIP (via its voice calling features), since it can be used with all of them. Furthermore, VOIP is capable of being integrated with all Internet based applications and services – such as sharing files, video/audio conferencing, and other similar services.

    However, before making the decision to invest in VOIP equipment, you must do a cost-benefit analysis on the advantages and disadvantages of VOIP. While some VOIP systems restrictively allow making calls only to others who are running VOIP, many VOIP systems will permit calling anyone who has a phone. Some VOIP services are computer-based and let you talk via a headset with microphone. A computer-based VOIP system is also capable of transmitting video, enabling the user to see the person while talking. VOIP systems that do not use a computer have a digital VOIP phone or a VOIP adapter for use in tandem with a regular telephone.

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    The Disadvantages of VOIP

    One of the disadvantages of VOIP is the need for internet connection. Many users can be quite apprehensive and make it a point to not to rely on VOIP for their communications. If someone happens to use a slower connection, it will affect the sound quality of VOIP communications.

    VOIP systems are proprietary in nature and thus may allow calls only to others using the same software. You have to keep in mind that when using a computer based VOIP system, the user will not be able to communicate unless the computer is turned on and the VOIP software is running.

    Just like all things pertaining to the internet, there are service disruptions and down times. Electricity availability doesn't matter to landline phones, but with VOIP, regular uninterrupted electricity is imperative. A traditional landline phone works independent of power outages, since the service provider transmits current over the phone line. The lack of ability to call for emergency services is a possibility with some VOIP providers. Most VOIP companies have created their own emergency call centers to route emergency calls though.

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    Disadvantages of VOIP to Big Business

    The disadvantages of VOIP to big business is all the communications over the Internet are unsecured and privacy is not necessarily a given. IP phones are also more expensive than traditional analog phones as well. Furthermore, sending Fax messages through a VOIP connection is not possible, but the consolation is that services such as e-Fax or Callwave exist to fill in this gap.

    With internet service disruptions, meetings on conference calls and video conferences using VOIP may have to be cancelled, or conducted via other means of communications. Companies must do a proper cost-benefit analysis on the advantages and disadvantages of VOIP before venturing to invest on VOIP.