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A brief guide to VoIP

For those of you not yet clued up on VoIP, it could well be time to find out a bit more about this increasingly popular alternative to your trusty old landline phone. After all, as you may already be aware, it's quite possible that you could end up saving a bit of cash on your phone bill. Basically, VoIP is a burgeoning technology that allows your voice to be carried over an internet connection. It works by breaking your speech into blocks of digital data and carrying it over the internet (in much the same way as an e-mail) to be reassembled into speech at the other end. It's a technology that has started to become more widespread now that more and more people have got access to a high-speed internet connection -whilst it's possible to use VoIP with a dial up connection this obviously means that you wouldn't be able to use it without losing the use of your normal phone line. The proliferation of broadband connectivity opens up the possibility of increasing numbers of us running both VoIP and a traditional landline in parallel, an arrangement that should give you the best of both worlds.

It isn't necessarily advisable to ditch your regular home phone just yet. So, how true is the claim that VoIP calls are free? It's certainly the case that when making PC to PC calls there's no reason why it should cost any more than sending an email (i.e. nothing). Should you want call anyone who's only got a traditional landline however, a gateway will have be opened between the two separate networks, for which you'll be charged.

This probably means that you'll have to pay a fixed monthly fee to your VoIP provider or (maybe a better option for infrequent users) on a Pay As You Go basis. Overall VoIP certainly has the potential to provide a considerably more cost-effective communication service. It's a relatively recent development that VoIP is beginning to be marketed as a genuine alternative to your conventional landline; this has meant that there are now plenty of providers trying to present it as more of a familiar, approachable product for those still attached to the idea of a regular phone. In many cases, if you sign up for a monthly deal, perhaps in conjunction with your broadband service, providers will supply you with a free adapter, meaning you can simply plug your regular phone handset straight into your modem. Alternatively, you might want to get hold of a headset ? using an inbuilt computer microphone probably won't give you great sound quality.

To conclude, VoIP is definitely a worthwhile option to explore as it becomes in increasingly feasible alternative for anyone with broadband.

Find out more about VoIP and a host of other IT subjects at Techworld; the UK's premiere site for IT professionals.

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