General Telephony

How to Make a Call Online

how to make a call onlineIf you’ve ever heard of technologies like VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), SIP (Session Initiation Protocol), or any other cloud-based telecommunications, is has probably been because that’s how to make a call online. The increasing popularity of cloud-based communications and hosted telephony has made it so that businesses and individuals alike have been saving enormous sums of money because they’ve found out how to make a call online. Making a call online isn’t as complicated as the acronyms above suggest it might be, however, so we’re going to outline some of the easiest ways people can choose to enter into the hosted telecommunications arena.

There’s Only One Way How to Make a Call Online

Well, not necessarily. Though there are many methods to make an online call, they all have one thing in common. At the most basic level, all of the most popular methods used to make a call online rely on one consistent technological theme. Specifically, this is that all hosted telephone calls or calls made online, rely on using data connections over the internet instead of wired connections through telephone lines. Hosted telephone calls don’t transmit electrical signals like the older calls from yesteryear because digital transmissions need to be able to span to anywhere there is a data connection and that’s not too dissimilar to the technology behind an email or an online fax. But this process of connecting to either a wired telephone or to another web-enabled which can include mobile users or those in remote areas. Obviously, telecom companies wouldn’t want to string wires across the globe to all of those possible endpoints anymore than that would be feasible financially or logistically. Therefore, making an online call entails a conversion of the voice data from a call into digital packets of information that are disassembled, transferred to the receiving party, and reassembled all at lightning speed and with crystal clear, high definition audio quality.

The Best Way How to Make a Call Online

The best way how to make a call online is less of a technology and more of a consideration for what is being conducted over an internet connection. Any web-based telephone call from either a softphone, a VoIP desktop phone, or even from a free web phone all needs to have some specific accommodations made in order to preserve the highest-quality voice connections. This is because most network connections that are established prior to having accommodations made to make online phone calls aren’t optimized for voice traffic. This doesn’t mean that voice traffic is excessively burdensome to a network, quite the contrary in fact. What it does mean is that data-heavy behavior like video streaming or file sharing can negatively impact the quality of a voice connection. This is easily addressed, however, with the aid of a quick network bandwidth assessment to determine if bandwidth is prioritized for voice or if it’s a free-for-all. If further apportionment of the data connection is required, a simple network remediation can be applied in as little as a few hours, depending on the size of the network and the volume of the data traffic. Either way, the point is that regardless of the methods used to connect to voice conversations, ensuring a data connection is optimized for voice first is the best way how to make a call online.

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.

Celebrate National Telephone Day With a SIP Phone from VirtualPBX

SIP Phone national telephone dayIf you’re one of our regular readers, you know that we like to take our holidays seriously around here. Whether it’s having a blast with April Fool’s Day or enjoying an entire month of Halloween, we enjoy properly celebrating certain points on the calendar. Which is why it should come as no surprise that we’re especially excited to recognize National Telephone Day. Naturally, we’re sure you’ve already been planning your National Telephone Day picnics well in advance of today, right? Absolutely you have! But, in the event that you have a few missing arraignments yet to be attended to, we thought we’d cover one of the more commonly asked about topics today, specifically those surrounding the SIP phone.

SIP Phone, IP Phone, VoIP Phone, What’s the Difference?

To determine the difference between a SIP phone, an IP phone, and a VoIP phone, it’s important to first understand the terms themselves. VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phones and IP (Internet Protocol) phones are essentially interchangeable in use. VoIP refers to the use of a cloud-based PBX (Private Branch Exchange) to access the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). Basically, that’s a cumbersome way to say that VoIP gets your phones connected to other telephone lines without the use of wires. Also, a VoIP phone and an IP phone are effectively the same things in that they are each physical handset that a person would use to place a VoIP or IP telephone call. A SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) phone is very similar in that it’s also a phone that connects to the PSTN with the aid of data-enabled connections (versus the traditional copper-wire only approach) but it does so slightly differently. SIP Trunks or SIP Channels are cloud connections to on-site PBX hardware. This hybrid of cloud and physical technologies allows companies that have invested in an on-site PBX telephone switch to maximize the functionality of their physical technology. Typical physical connections to on-site PBX hardware have limitations in cost, traffic, customization, speed of installation, and more, and leveraging the power of the cloud by replacing them with SIP trunks is the best way to get more out of existing on-site PBXs.

National Telephone Day Welcomes ALL Phones

It’s easy to see following this quick explanation about what separates a SIP phone from a VoIP phone and an IP phone that there are plenty of options out there for businesses to consider. What we didn’t even mention yet, though, is that the category of VoIP-enabled telephone options includes softphones, Web Phones, and the ever-present mobile phone and that they all play an important roll in business communications, as well. There’s only one place to find all of the best options on the market for business phones, though, and that’s on the VirtualPBX Recommended VoIP Phones and Devices list that is painstakingly curated to ensue that your business has the right options on National Telephone Day and every other day of the year.

Also, you can learn more about what exactly a SIP phone is by reading our What You Need to Know Blogs that cover SIP Calling and SIP Trunking v PRI, respectively. Or, you can also reference our SIP Trunking FAQ’s as well, as compiled by our award-winning Customer Support Team. And that being said, let us know how you’re celebrating National Telephone Day by sharing pictures of your favorite phones and devices with us on Facebook or Twitter!

VirtualPBX What You Need to Know: What is SIP Calling?

What is SIP CallingWhat is SIP calling is as easily answered as most of the advanced telecommunications topics we cover in that, once you break down the acronyms into meaningful definitions, everything makes a bit more sense. What is SIP calling is one of the many different SIP Trunking topics that is addressed in brief our SIP Trunking FAQ’s, but we’ll dive a bit more in depth, here. First, SIP calling stands for Session Initiation Protocol calling and refers to voice calls transmitted over a SIP Trunk or SIP Channel. Often confused with VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), SIP calls aren’t the same technology, but work very much in accordance with one another. SIP can also connect information like video, instant messaging, and other data, but we’ll get into how that works a bit later. And like many of the topics we’ve discussed in previous What You Need to Know Blogs about various telecommunications issues, SIP Trunking is one of those things that may seem daunting at first but is actually pretty clear once you have a broader understanding of the issue.

So Really, What is SIP Calling?

SIP Calls are voice conversations that use a specific route to connect parties. First, let’s address how telephone calls were traditionally made. The two basic components of a traditional business telephone system include accessing the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) and managing the calls and their routing/voicemail/etc. over a PBX (Private Branch Exchange). This already would indicate that SIP calling is something that is traditionally reserved for similar situations, specifically in that it’s more for businesses only. Spoiler alert: that is mostly the case. Some consumer SIP calling capabilities exist on open source platforms like the Android mobile phone operating system, but for the vast majority of SIP Trunk clients and customers, SIP calling is primarily for businesses. Moving on, a business with an on-site PBX used to connect to the PSTN exclusively over copper wires connected by the legacy telephone carriers, but in the advent of the digital and internet ages, that system changed dramatically.

SIP Calling Wasn’t the First Option

To begin handling the increased connections and complexity that initially came with having both landlines and internet connections running through the same on-site PBX hardware that was designed for voice only, PRI lines were created. PRI (Primary Rate Interface) Lines were an early solution to begin managing these new connections and have since been outdated by the more capable SIP Trunking option. We go into great detail on the SIP Trunking vs PRI in another post, but it boils down to SIP Trunking being faster to implement, more capable of handling the needs of voice-only data traffic, and an overall reduction in operating and installation costs. SIP calling via a SIP Trunk accomplishes all of this by eliminating the need to have a traditional, physical connection to a legacy phone company. This simplifies things on the site of the PBX by also eliminating the need for multiple phone lines because SIP Trunks leverage some of the flexibility that comes from cloud-based communications and can expand and contract to accommodate the needs of any business as its call activity spikes.

SIP Calling Is Just One Facet of Cloud Communications

What is SIP calling is just one of those questions that arises now that telecommunications have more than one route (specifically, a single copper wire) to connect people across a vast array of distances and devices. As we mentioned earlier, though, SIP connections can transmit a variety of data beyond just voice connections and that makes it more inherently “cloud” than anything else. By this we mean the majority of the benefits of cloud-based communications come from the infinite number of customizations and modifications that can be made for free to advanced telephone systems with a press of a button versus for a fee with the eventual visit by a telephone company engineer. This also means that SIP Calls are operated over connections that are optimized for the prioritization of voice over data, meaning that if traffic is at a peak the voice connections remain crystal clear and upload/download speeds of your favorite cat video may be constricted until the surge is over. Also, and possibly most importantly in light of the pace of business in the modern era, speed of implementation of SIP Trunking, like all cloud communications, is lightning fast in comparison to PRI lines. What traditionally takes PRI lines upwards of 45 business days to accomplish can be done with a SIP Trunk in as little as a 15 minutes or less.

With all of this under consideration, the next time someone asks what is SIP calling, perhaps the best answer is to simply say, “A really good idea.” If that’s the case, feel free to learn more about SIP Trunking for business and our other hosted VoIP business phone plans by reading more. Also, remember to let us know of other topics you’d like to learn more about in future What You Need to Know blogs by sending us suggestions over Facebook or Twitter.

VirtualPBX’s What You Need To Know: SIP Trunking vs PRI

SIP Trunking vs PRIWe have a lot of people asking us to clarify various terms they’ve heard during their search for the right hosted telecommunications solution for their businesses. One reason that’s so common is that not every company focuses as much on education and support as they do on sales. Because we take Customer Support so seriously, though, we’re happy to help with anything you need, even if it’s just a bit of edification. Today we’re examining the two related technologies of SIP Trunking vs PRI, their similarities, differences, and best uses. As will become clear by the end of this blog, this is one of the more disproportionate pairings of technologies we’ve ever reviewed, too. Suffice to say, we’ve narrowed the bulk of what you need to know into three categories- Efficiency, Capacity, and Costs. After reviewing these three areas, you’ll be an expert on the differences between SIP Trunking and PRI.

SIP Trunking vs PRI: Efficiency

PRI (Primary Rate Interface) and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) Trunking are very much related in the sense that PRI is simply the precursor to SIP Trunks insofar as addressing the same challenges is concerned. That said, unlike other technologies that have a legitimate coexistence for a variety of reasons ranging from experiential to personal preference (think about vinyl records versus digital audio files), these two technologies coexist simply because the former hasn’t completely been phased out yet. Much like the original steam engine that revolutionized intercontinental travel, PRI systems allowed for more flexibility and capability for business-based PBX telephone arrays. However, much like the original steam engine being supplanted by more efficient locomotives, SIP Trunking addresses the same challenges while accomplishing much more in the process. Taking the efficiency of the PRI system into consideration, this is immediately evident. A PRI was designed to bring dial tones to businesses that had invested in on-site private PBX hardware. The problem is that both voice and data connections were static through this connection and that created two problems. First was that there was no way to limit voice and data connections meaning that it often resulted in an inefficient earmarking of bandwidth by constantly allotting space for each regardless of its actual traffic at any given time. Second is that PRI’s also have no way to employ QoS (Quality of Service) rules that can protect the quality of voice connections by dynamically increasing or decreasing the allotted bandwidth to channels base don their use. SIP Trunking is totally QoS compatible (provided the on-site PBX hardware is QoS Enabled) and can be optimized to always prioritize voice traffic over data traffic so that calls continue without interruption.

SIP Trunking vs PRI: Capacity

Another area where SIP Trunking represented an improvement over PRI was in overall capacity. These systems, by definition, will only ever be required by organizations that have the need for multiple simultaneous channels. In lay terms, businesses that have multiple simultaneous telephone calls. The introduction of PRI was exciting for businesses because it meant that they could have 23 channels of voice traffic and one ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) channel that addressed the Post-Dial Delay issue of calls taking an additional 10 or more seconds to connect that had plagued businesses with their own PBX equipment up until that point. However, as another testament to the efficiency of SIP Trunks over PRI, part of their way to address this was also successful in expanding their capacity, as well. First of all, because SIP Trunks deliver dial tones that come from the same DNA as hosted VoIP (from the cloud, infinitely expandable and customizable), they can expand a company’s number of channels to any number of concurrent conversations that it needs or that its data connection can tolerate rather than only coming in allotments of 23 channels. Additionally, SIP Trunk channels are already capable of addressing the Post-Dial Delay without a dedicated ISDN channel, as well. While the theoretical ceiling of the number of channels that can be run through a SIP Trunk is nonexistent, the reality is that most businesses will opt for a set number of channels with an additional number “burstable,” or flexible and expandable channels that only activate with spikes in traffic in order to cut costs.

SIP Trunking vs PRI: Costs

Possibly one of the most commonly asked questions whenever we review any technology is about cost. This is one time when the answer expands into both the actual dollars and cents that a company will need to pay in order to implement SIP Trunks and PRI systems, and into the opportunity costs of doing so, as well. First of all, the initial costs of a telephone system that needs either a SIP Trunk or a PRI will mostly be already be paid for. That’s because these are systems that only work for businesses with their own, existing, on-site PBX hardware. Acquiring that type of equipment is expensive and typically wouldn’t be the first solution for a new enterprise, rather it would likely belong to a company that has been in operation for a while already and had acquired it before fully cloud-based PBX options had become available. That said, the PRI will cost, in general, at least $300-$400 a month to operate with an additional fee per channel which is far more than even the best SIP Trunking options on the market. Additionally, a professional telecommunications provider can deploy SIP Trunking in as little as 10 minutes, whereas a PRI installation will take at least 30-45 business days. And for businesses that have as much call capacity as it takes to need these services, over a month without being able to handle those calls is a month too long.

SIP Trunking vs PRI: The Verdict

Like we mentioned early in the blog, comparisons of these two technologies is almost unfair simply because they were never even meant to be competing technologies. Instead, SIP Trunking is the logical next best option that is entirely designed to improve upon the path that PRI systems set out. That said, there are still PRI systems in place and many of them belong to companies that have no impetus to change because their needs are met and they already own the on-site PBX hardware that the PRI connects to. Even for them, however, it may be worthwhile to consider a switch to SIP Trunking for both the opportunity to optimize their networks for QoS and for their potentially hundreds of dollars in monthly service charge savings. Either way, we’re thankful for the Facebook and Twitter communities for asking the questions they have about PRI and SIP Trunking. Also, we know that for the more hardcore telecom folks out there we didn’t even scratch the surface about all of the nuances about these technologies like TLS Encryption, Delayed Media, or P-Asserted Identity. For you information on those and other topics pertaining to SIP Trunking vs PRI, visit our SIP Trunking FAQ compendium for some more, um, “light reading.” Please feel free to keep those new suggestions rolling in and we’ll be happy to continue offering the finest Unified Communications Products and Services, plus the education to support you in choosing them, that we can!

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