VirtualPBX Explains Telecom: What Exactly is an Online Phone?

online phoneOccasionally, we’ll hear some confusion from first-time VoIP users about what an online phone is. That’s certainly understandable based on the variety of information that is available to people online, some of which is from less reliable sources than others. Be that as it may, we’re here to help shed some light on the topic and question we often hear; “What exactly is an online phone?”

Wait, is There Such a Thing as an Online Phone?

Online Phone is kind of a misleading phrase because it doesn’t really refer to any specific technology and, as such, can be a bit of a misnomer. But for the sake of argument, we’re going to narrow it down to a comparison of the two most applicable technologies out there, a web phone and a softphone. Both of these types of online phones use the internet to connect to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) which is the place that all telephone calls need to go in order to connect to each other. The online portion of this equation refers to the fact that VoIP (voice over internet protocol) is the method by which both web phones and softphones alike access the PSTN. While there may be some unclear terms there, the area to focus on is the “over internet” portion because these online phones rely on data connections rather than the antiquated copper wire connections of yesteryear.

How Do Softphones and Web Phones Differ?

Even though both softphones and web phones each use internet and data connections to execute their core functions (placing phone calls), they each have their own differences, too. After a quick review, though, it becomes clear that the explanation for this rests in their actual names. A softphone refers to a piece of software that acts as a telephone. This can often be in the form of a mobile application or can also be in the form of a software program that operates on a laptop or desktop computer, too. The drawback to this is that the software that a softphone uses to be a mobile application and the software it uses to operate on a computer are not the same, which means you could have to download (and potentially pay) for two versions of the same technology. Conversely, a web phone is a telephone that operates totally in the cloud without any software on the device a user chooses. Web phones accomplish this by operating wholly on WebRTC (Web-based Real Time Calling) technology that is native to most modern web browsers. That means that a Web Phone will be completely free of any software downloads, updates, or best yet, licensing fees, unlike softphones.

Which Online Phone is Right for You?

While every business and every telephone user has unique needs and limitations, there are some indications as to which online phone is right for you. For many, the best bet will be to stick with a modern web phone because of the differences we’ve outlined above. A web phone like the VirtualPBX Web Phone is totally free to use and only draws from the pooled minutes that a customer has on his or her VirtualPBX Dash Business Phone Service Plans. Plus, because the VirtualPBX Web Phone operates on all devices that have either Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, that makes it effectively both a mobile and a desktop compatible technology right off the bat. Also, web phones are hosted completely in the cloud so there is no need to worry about updating or maintaining the underlying software. Add that to the fact that because it’s an open-source technology that doesn’t charge licensing fees or operational expenses and the web phone quickly takes a decisive lead over a softphone for most users. To get started with a VirtualPBX Web Phone, all you need to do is have a VirtualPBX Business VoIP Plan, and getting started on one of those can be done in as little as a few minutes.

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