The Quick Start Guide to VOIP for the Home, Home Office, and Small Business
Surveying VOIP Phones, VOIP Software, and other Hardware
What equipment do I need to use VOIP?
After fees and rates, this is one of the most commonly asked questions about Voice-Over-IP services.
The hardware and software you need to get up and running with VOIP are minimal. If you subscribe to a service plan, the equipment is usually included in the startup costs.
Depending on your situation, you may need one or more of the following pieces of equipment:
Also known as: SIP phone, IP phone
If you really want to harness the power of VoIP, invest in a VoIP phone. There are lots VoIP phones available on the market today, ranging from simple residential phones to complex business phones loaded with features such as speakerphone and frequently dialed number storage, and programmable keys. Even basic models have an LCD display for caller ID and phone configuration.
Some examples of popular VOIP phones are:
Also known as: broadband phone adaptor, VOIP adaptor
To use your regular analog or cordless phone, youâll need an Analog Telephone Adaptor (ATA). Your VoIP service provider or broadband phone company should be able to provide you with one of these. Otherwise, online stores such as Voxilla.com carry popular brand names such as Grandstream and LinkSys/Sipura.
The ATA converts your voice into digital data before it hits the Internet. The ATA connects to your broadband modem and to your regular telephone. Some ATAs also have built-in broadband routers are "all-in-one" and have built in ATA functions.
The obvious advantage of using an ATA is that you can use the phone you have on hand, either wired or cordless. Some ATA's are small enough to be easily portable, meaning you can take them with you when you travel.
Some example of popular ATAs are:
Also known as: broadband router
To have high speed Internet, you need a broadband modem or router. Usually, this device is installed by your broadband service provider. VOIP phones plug directly into the router, while a regular analog phone plugs into an ATA, which then plugs into the router. Some broadband modems are all-in-one, and have built-in ATA functions.
Also known as: softphone, VOIP client, dialer, PC telephone, Net phone
VOIP software is required only for computer-to-computer, or computer-to-phone calling. It is an application that allows you to dial from you computer. Most softphone user interfaces are designed to resemble familiar looking phones, PDAs, or Instant Messenging applications like MSN Messenger.
VOIP software can be free, like Skype or GloPhone, or it can be part of a VOIP service Plan. Vonage, for example offers the Vonage Softphone as an add-on service. On your desktop or laptop computer, the SoftPhone looks like a telephone keypad.
If you plan on using your computer as a phone, then you need a computer with soundcard, a headset with a microphone, and some VoIP software. Headsets can be mono (only one speaker or earpiece), or stereo (two earpieces). Headset earpieces come in two types: cushy pads that cover the whole ear or ear buds that you insert inside the ear. Some folks find certain earpieces uncomfortable so make sure to try some on before you buy
Some examples of headsets with built in microphones:
Also known as: Internet phone, computer phone, PC phone
If you dislike headsets, try a USB phone for making PC-to-PC calls. These phones plug directly into the USB port on the computer. Skype currently offers the Cyberphone K and Simply Phones for use with the proprietary Skype service.
Other USB phones include:
Linksys has just released a new cordless handset for use with Skype. The CIT200 uses a PC running Skype as its base station and uses DECT wireless, to eliminate interference with 2.4GHz cordless phones and other networking devices.
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