This article is a beginner’s guide to VoIP. Reading forward, you will find out what is a VoIP phone number. You will understand why so many businesses prefer VoIP over the old PSTN telephony. You will get familiarized with the terminology, discuss the differences between fixed and non-fixed VoIP and the benefits of each. Finally, you will find the answer to the most frequently asked questions. We hope that, by the time you are done reading, you will find it easier to determine if your business needs a VoIP phone number. And also you’ll find out how to choose the best service provider to meet your needs.
Quick walk through telephony history
In the past few decades, the telecommunications industry has been changing at a rapid pace. Smartphones have made home phone landlines obsolete, with very few people still using them. Now companies are moving away from the old technology, replacing landlines with IP phones.
VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol. As the name says, it refers to voice communication through the internet.
Traditional phones used landlines to route the call from one end to the other. That is comprised of a vast network of underground cables and switches. Later, mobile networks started using antennas and satellites to transmit information through radio waves from one device to another.
Nowadays, we can make calls through the internet, which does not require any additional infrastructure. These phone calls use the same technology used by chatting apps to deliver your messages. VoIP converts audio signals into digital packets of data using packet-switching technology.
While the user experience is the same as that of a landline or mobile call, the technology used to connect VoIP calls is totally different. This opens a whole world of possibilities for VoIP users. So let’s dig more deeply into the subject and take an in-depth look at VoIP meaning, with its pros and cons.
If you consider using VoIP and a VoIP phone number, you should familiarize yourself with some of the related terms. This way, you can understand the jargon and get a better grasp of the technology behind.
Here are the most frequently used terms in the context of VoIP, which you will also encounter while reading this article.
PBX (Private Branch Exchange)
PBX is the private telephone network used by a company. A PBX system uses VoIP, ISDN, or analog channels for internal and external communications. It can connect a large number of devices and provide free internal calls.
SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)
SIP is a signaling protocol used to initiate, maintain and terminate a real-time session. It allows two or several endpoints to communicate with each other by voice, text, or video.
PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network)
PSTN is the name of the global telecommunication infrastructure. This includes cables, switches, fiber-optic cables, undersea telephone cables, and more. PSTN is what makes public and private telecommunications possible.
SIP trunking is using VoIP to make your PBX system connect to other PBX systems or with PSTN over the internet. It is a way to move on from the old analog lines to modern internet connections while keeping your company’s internal infrastructure.
DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol)
DHCP is used by your network devices to get assigned a unique IP. VoIP phones work with both static and dynamic IP addresses.
VoIP uses codecs to compress data and save bandwidth, which improves connection speed. In addition, codecs also improve the sound quality of your calls.
This describes the time interval between the sending and receiving of a signal. It is the delay from the moment you speak to the moment when the recipient hears your voice.
What is a VoIP phone number
A VoIP phone number is a telephone number that is assigned to a user instead of a phone line.
In theory, any device that can be connected to the internet can use VoIP. One number can be used by multiple devices, from smartphones and computers to desk phones, regardless of their location.
Devices that use the same VoIP phone number can be used simultaneously. In other words, multiple devices can make phone calls from the same number. This is one of the most useful features for companies with large sales teams or customer support call centers. But we will discuss more the benefits of a VoIP service later on.
First, it is important to mention that there are two main types of VoIP services.
Fixed VoIP and non-fixed VoIP
Fixed VoIP refers to VoIP phone numbers that are assigned to a physical address. In this way, it is very similar to traditional phone numbers, assigned by area codes.
Two of the biggest benefits of fixed VoIP are security and authenticity. Compared to non-fixed VoIP, data transmission can be encrypted. This makes it harder to hack and less attractive to cybercriminals in general.
On the other hand, the costs of fixed VoIP are higher in comparison with non-fixed VoIP. That is due to the fact that it relies on internal infrastructure, cables, and devices that are more expensive and more difficult to install. However, if we compare it with traditional PSTN telephony, the costs are generally lower.
Unlike fixed VoIP, non-fixed VoIP is, as the name says, not fixed to a physical location. All you need for a non-fixed VoIP service is a stable internet connection, an email address, and a payment method. Calls can be operated through a wide range of devices. It allows the use of laptops, tablets, mobile phones, or even traditional desk phones.
Companies with an international client base benefit the most from the lower costs of non-fixed VoIP. The possibility of choosing almost any area code as display numbers make non-fixed VoIP even more attractive to big global companies.
On the downside, non-fixed VoIP can be more exposed to cybercrime such as identity theft.
Therefore, choosing between fixed and non-fixed VoIP is a decision that should be based on your needs. On one hand, you have a safer, local, but more expensive service. On the other, there is a flexible, inexpensive, and global service, with minor vulnerabilities. It’s your call! 😉
Should you be using a VoIP phone number?
VoIP phone numbers have a lot of benefits, which is why they have quickly gained popularity. Here is a list of the most important ones:
- One of the most essential benefits of VoIP is that it can use any area code, from anywhere in the world. Regardless of the actual location of the machine making the call, you can assign a local area code. This allows companies with an international presence to use local phone numbers, increasing their customers’ trust. For example, a company based in New York that serves customers in California can make a VoIP call using a California area code. However, there are some countries where VoIP is more regulated. In such countries, it isn’t always possible to get a VoIP phone number unless you provide a local address that will be linked to that number.
- In terms of security, VoIP numbers also do a very good job protecting the identity of the caller. Tracing a VoIP phone number is a complicated procedure that would discourage anyone who doesn’t have a good reason to do so.
- Best voice quality you can get. All you need is a stable internet connection. VoIP phone calls sound better than most traditional calls, and it’s all thanks to the codecs. Static and fuzziness are eliminated while digitally converting sound before sending it over the internet. This means that with VoIP you can get HD quality calls.
- The same service can be used for different types of communication, managed from a single platform. Therefore, besides internet phone calls, you can use your VoIP service for text and video calls as well. Having a Unified Communications platform helps you keep expenses low and productivity high.
- One of the biggest perks of VoIP is the low-costs of international calls. If you are an often user of long-distance calls, getting a VoIP phone number will definitely save you a lot of money.
- Mobility is a huge plus. Once you are signed in, you can use your VoIP phone number from any device, anywhere in the world. If you want to make work phone calls from a tropical beach and seem as if you were at the office, nothing stands in your way. And your interlocutor won’t know, unless it hears the sea waves crushing on the beach 😉
- With VoIP, anyone can get toll-free phone numbers. Help your customers reach you without worrying about call costs. Most VoIP service providers will provide toll-free calling at very low costs on your part.
- Virtual phone numbers and VoIP services offer several call management features. Using a Unified Communications system like VoipNow, with features like call routing, call recording, call transfer, voicemail and other advanced PBX services and outbound calling, allows your employees to quickly and effectively manage calls. This will offer increase customer satisfaction.
How to get a VoIP phone number
To get a VoIP phone number you will first need to find a service provider and sign up for a plan. You should know that you don’t need to change your current phone number for that. Any phone numbers can be ported, regardless of previous carrier or service. Landline, mobile, or even Google Voice, can all be ported to VoIP. It is your decision whether you want to keep using your existing phone number or select a new one. Once this is done, all you have to do is set up your VoIP equipment and VoIP system and you can start using your new VoIP phone number.
However, selecting the right service provider and choosing a plan that fits your needs is a serious task. There are several aspects you need to consider before making a decision. Here is a short guide that should help you in the process:
1. Assess your needs
What are your business objectives? What will you be using VoIP for? What systems do you currently have in place? What devices do you already use to make calls? How much is your company projected to grow over the next few years?
All these are questions you should answer before moving forward with choosing a VoIP provider for your business. Start by defining your mission and have a clear image of what you are looking to achieve with VoIP. Next, make a list of all the features you are going to need. Most importantly, take into account your plans for the future. Consider your growth plans and how is it going to change your needs.
While most VoIP providers offer packages with flat fees, you might have to pay extra for some premium features. For small businesses and private enthusiasts, some companies even offer free options.
To make a clear idea of how much it will cost you, you should count in some factors, like:
- The total number of users
- The daily average number of calls
- The average call duration
Additionally, there will also be costs associated with the hardware you need to run the operation, such as phones, headsets, microphones etc.
3. Evaluate the offers
Find the best providers by doing some research and request for quotations based on your individual needs.
Ask for referrals in your professional network and do throughout research before settling on a provider. Let them know exactly what you are looking for, and don’t shy away from asking questions.
Finally, you should do a trial run to make sure that’s what is right for you before signing a contract. Most VoIP service providers will agree to offer you a demo.
VoIP hardware equipment
Any company using VoIP services needs compatible hardware to work with it. There is a wide range of equipment you can choose from, but all fall into one of these three categories.
Softphones allow you to make calls over the internet without the need for a traditional telephone. You can use your smartphone or your laptop to make calls simply by installing a softphone.
ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) can be used to convert your old phones into VoIP devices.
SIP phones or VoIP phones are similar to traditional telephones, but use IP networks instead of PSTN lines to make phone calls. Unlike traditional landlines, VoIP phones can handle advanced features, such as video integration.
Choosing the right equipment for your VoIP needs is not an easy task. You should carefully consider a series of factors, such as:
VoIP devices can vary in cost. Making a good budgeting decision is about more than getting the equipment you can afford. You should get a good value for money by putting in balance the cost of the features you need.
There is no point in overpaying for a phone that offers top features if you won’t be using most of them.
There are several factors that can affect the quality of a VoIP call. To make sure you’re getting the most clarity, you should opt for an HD model.
In the world of voice communications, VoIP provides the best connectivity options. The equipment can be wired or cordless, connecting via Ethernet, WiFi, or Bluetooth. The latter allows the use of hands-free headsets, making it a lot easier for the staff to operate.
VoIP phones offer a wide range of features. The most popular ones are call routing, call blocking, and the ability to hold voice conferences. More and more companies also opt for models with video compatibility.
Make sure to have a list of all the features you will be needing before deciding on a model.
5. Service compatibility
Most VoIP phones have high compatibility with all VoIP software. However, some service providers require certain models of telephones. Check with your service provider before making any purchase.
Once you have chosen a VoIP service provider and purchased the right equipment, it’s time to learn more about how it works.
VoIP phone number FAQ
The following FAQ section aims to answer some of the most frequent concerns.
Can a VoIP number be traced?
It is not very easy to find out who is the owner of a VoIP number. Area code is not a reliable indicator, so you shouldn’t count on that. VoIP phone calls have two identifiers. First is the phone number you see displayed on the phone when receiving a call. The second one is the CNAM (Caller ID Name).
However, there are at least a couple of methods to find out who is the owner of a VoIP phone number:
1. Searching by phone number. There are different websites and online apps you can use to do a reverse phone lookup. However, it is not guaranteed that the real owner of a phone number will show up in the search results.
2. Search by CNAM. This is the most reliable method and your best shot at finding out the origin of a VoIP phone call. However, there’s a catch. In order to be able to do a CNAM lookup through a VoIP service provider, you should have a registered VoIP service yourself. Also, since the CNAM is not displayed by default, you should configure your device to show this information when receiving a VoIP call.
It is important to know that a CNAM lookup by the service provider needs reasonable justification. You will not be able to find out who is behind a VoIP phone number just for the sake of it.
To put things in perspective, a VoIP phone number can only be traced if the user is a legitimate business. However, if the owner is trying to hide their identity, it can be almost impossible to find out. VoIP does a great job preserving user’s anonymity.
How do you know if a phone number is VoIP?
Typically, no one can tell if the phone call they are receiving is a VoIP number at the first glance. Since VoIP numbers can be assigned to any area code in the world, it is almost impossible to know. However, there are certain details that could help you figure out whether you are dealing with a VoIP caller or not.
Some countries are regulating VoIP services by assigning a certain number range as display numbers. So a simple look at your local regulations might be enough. If your country is one with strict regulations, you should be able to determine quite easily if a number fits in the given range or not.
However, in North America, a more reliable option is using a Phone Validator API. There are dozens of websites that can help you check any phone number you wish. For a small fee of only a few cents, you can find out if a phone number is landline, toll-free, mobile or VoIP. Most of these services will give you even more detailed information. This includes details such as the network carrier, or whether a phone number has been ported.
How to avoid VoIP fraud
The anonymity and difficulty of number tracing make VoIP very attractive to cybercriminals.
VoIP fraud is known as vishing or voice phishing and it costs the global economy over $1 billion every year in credit card fraud.
Scammers manage to make phone calls that display the caller ID of a trusted source. For example, it could appear as a phone call from your bank or one of your company’s suppliers. Going further, scammers attempt to convince you to disclose personal information that would allow them to gain access to your finances.
Pretending to be your company’s supplier, they could say there was a problem with the billing. Next, you would be asked to resubmit your credit card details, under the pretense that your orders would be frozen. They could go as far as accompanying the phone call with an email providing a link where you should resubmit your payment info. As soon as you fall into that, you become another victim of vishing.
Recognizing illegitimate callers from real ones can be quite tricky. That is why you should respect some strict security protocols in all circumstances:
- Don’t disclose personal information over the phone. Especially if the phone call was initiated by the other party.
- Always ask for more details that could help you confirm the identity of the caller.
- Don’t let yourself tricked by the sense of urgency induced by the caller.
- If you notice any red flags, ask for contact information that would help you get back to them at a later time.
- Don’t call phone numbers from not trusted sources or unsolicited emails.
- Make sure you use strong passwords for all your VoIP devices and never reuse them more than once. Change these passwords as soon as you become aware that any security incident took place.
- Set up a VPN for remote staff and educate them on cyber security practices.
- Ask your VoIP service provider about call encryption and other safety measures they may be using.
- Stay up to date with the latest scam practices. As a rule of thumb, be skeptical towards any unsolicited calls.
If you have been a victim of vishing, inform the local authorities. Update your cyber security protocols, and change all your passwords right away.
However, there is no need to be alarmed. Operate on the side of caution and everything will be fine. The majority of VoIP users never encounter any security threats. Actually, VoIP is more secure than many of the apps and websites you are using daily.
In a nutshell
Considering all its benefits, having a VoIP phone number and using a VoIP based platform are great ideas for your business. It can help your company increase productivity and customer trust. As an online service, it comes with some associated risks, but not much more than your email 🙂 And following some simple safety rules will keep you out of trouble.
Whether you settle on a fixed or non-fixed service, VoIP is an economical solution. The low cost of international calls saves companies millions of dollars every year. Besides that, you have higher mobility, better call quality and higher privacy. Choosing the right hardware equipment will help you harness the full potential of your VoIP phone number.
The VoIP industry is developing with rapidity. Every day we see something new coming up. The VoIP market was estimated at US$ 60 billion last year, for US only! Imagine how much it is world-wide. And more businesses are joining the trend every year, making this growth exponential.
Furthermore, in our current landscape of social distancing and remote working, staying in touch with coworkers and clients is more important than ever before. The Lazarus effect of the COVID-19 pandemic was the revival of voice calls once again.
Now, it’s only up to you to choose the best service provider that meets your business needs. Best of luck!