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Internet Phone Systems

Internet Phone Systems

  Technology with Integrity

By Tim Torian, Torian Group, Inc. 


You have probably been hearing about free internet phone service, Voice over IP, Vonage, Skype and others. This article will give you an overview of phones and the internet, and some resources for further information.

Internet or IP phones work by digitizing the voice signal, sending the data over the network, and converting it back to voice at the other end. There are 3 major categories of IP phone systems.

Business IP phones (VOIP – voice over Internet Protocol) are designed to work over an existing computer network within a business. By using existing network connections between branch offices to send voice as well as data, the company saves on long distance calling. IP phones also enable a much richer set of features, including integration of voicemail with email, very flexible call management, and advanced conferencing features. These systems typically start at about $25,000. Prices are dropping, but this is still too expensive for smaller offices. It starts to make sense at 35+ phones, with multiple branches, unless there is a special need for the advanced features. You can learn more from these tutorials: www.iec.org/online/tutorials/int_tele http://www.techtionaryna.com/phones/main/voip-main.swf

Another application is internet phone service.  These systems are designed to allow you to avoid long distance charges by connecting a regular phone with an adapter, or a IP phone to your internet router (typically at home), and then routing the call to a distant city where it is either connected back into the local phone system or directly to another IP phone. The main contenders for this service are Vonage and AT&T CallVantage.  There are many others, and many of them suffer from poor call quality. They have limitations a regular phone does not have: when the power goes out, so does your phone. Also, 911 service may not be available, and if it is you need to set up the association between your IP phone and your address.  However, they are a great solution for people who regularly call friends or relatives in other parts of the world.  For more information and a list of providers go to: http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-9140_7-5131559-1.html?tag=nav    www.vonage.com     www.callvantage.att.com

The 3rd option is phone software. These programs make the call directly from your pc. You use a microphone and headset, or an adapter which connects your pc to a regular phone.  The leaders are Skype 2, Yahoo Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger (formerly MSN Messenger).  These services suffer from the same call quality issues, but the price is right – free. www.skype.com  www.yahoo.com  http://get.live.com/messenger

Low cost internet phone services are still not ready for business. VOIP systems are still too expensive for most of us, but prices are dropping. This is a market to watch, as it inevitably gets more affordable and more capable.

Tim Torian teaches computer networking at the College of Sequoias, and has owned and managed several businesses. He is president of Torian Group, Inc. which provides a full range of Technology Consulting services to local business, including computer services, networking, and custom software development. They can be reached at (559) 733-1940 or on the web at http://www.toriangroup.com


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