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Voice over IP (VoIP) is a major step in the evolution of real-time multimedia collaboration, where businesses can realize competitive advantages through increased productivity, improved customer service and lower communications costs. With VoIP, businesses of all sizes can combine voice, presence detection, instant messaging, video and other applications for richer, more integrated communications on one converged IP network.

VoIP, or voice over Internet protocol, allows you to send voice communications over the Internet and avoid the toll charges that you would normally receive from your long distance carrier.
When you send information across the Net, an e-mail for instance, it costs the same if you send it to your next door neighbor or your friend across the country, but the cost of making a phone call next door or across the country is different. If you could send voice as if it were data, then it wouldn't matter who you were talking to. VoIP packages phone conversations in the same way that data (an e-mail or a download for example) is packaged and then sends it across the same line.
VoIP can facilitate tasks that may be more difficult to achieve using traditional phone networks:
  • Incoming phone calls can be automatically routed to your VoIP phone, regardless of where you are connected to the network. Take your VoIP phone with you on a trip, and wherever you connect to the Internet, you can receive incoming calls.
  • Free phone numbers for use with VoIP are available in the USA , UK and other countries.
  • Call center agents using VoIP phones can work from anywhere with a sufficiently fast Internet connection.
  • Many VoIP packages include PSTN features that most telcos normally charge extra for, or may be unavailable from your local telco, such as 3-way calling, call forwarding, automatic redial

VoIP allows users to travel anywhere in the world and still make and receive phone calls:

  • Subscribers of phone-line replacement services can make and receive local phone calls regardless of their location. For example, if a user has a New York City phone number and is traveling in Europe and someone calls the phone number, it will ring in Europe . Conversely, if a call is made from Europe to New York City , it will be treated as a local call. Of course, there must be a connection to the Internet e.g. WiFi to make all of this possible.
  • Users of Instant Messenger based VoIP services can also travel anywhere in the world and make and receive phone calls.
  • VoIP phones can integrate with other services available over the Internet, including video conversation, message or data file exchange in parallel with the conversation, audio conferencing, managing address books and passing information about whether others (e.g. friends or colleagues) are available online to interested parties.

Most VoIP companies provide the features that normal phone companies charge extra for when they are added to your service plan. VoIP includes:

  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting
  • Call transfer
  • Repeat dial
  • Return call
  • Three-way calling
There are also advanced call-filtering options available. These features use caller ID information to allow you make a choice about how calls from a particular number are handled. You can:
  • One button access for voice recording to your personal voicemail box or to a centralized server
  • programmable keys for extension, call and line appearances, access to system features, and speed dialing
  • Forward the call to a particular number
  • Send the call directly to voicemail
  • Give the caller a Send the caller to a funny rejection hotline
  • busy signal
  • Play a "not-in-service " message
With many VoIP services, you can also check voicemail via the Web or attach messages to an e-mail that is sent to your computer or handheld.
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