The marriage of computer and telephone technology goes by the funny name of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol). But the cost savings are no laughing matter.
The Simplest Solution -- Headphones
Attach a headset to your computer?s sound card and you can try VOIP for free!
Download any one of the many VOIP software packages -- Skype, Gizmo, Free World Dialup, and Net2Phone are some of the big names. Install and invite your buddies to install the same software. It?s that easy to set up. Special features like call display, call forwarding, voicemail, and conference calls are also free as long as both parties are using computers.
It's even easier to use. Just click on a name to start a call. Most of these so-called "soft phones" allow you to place and receive calls at no charge to and from anywhere in the world, so long as you are not connecting to cellular or landline phones.
The next step up from headsets is Internet phones. They plug into the USB port or sound card of your computer.
Because you still need VOIP software installed on your computer to make and receive calls, these phones are also considered soft phones. But they seem more like "real" telephones because they ring, have regular number pads and are used like conventional phones.
Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA)
Progressing up the VOIP ladder, ATA is next. It allows you to connect a regular analog telephone to a broadband modem. It is usually free when you sign up with a provider, similar to signing up with a telephone company. There is a monthly charge for this service, and you may have to sign a contract committing you to that provider for a specified period.
Using an ATA for Internet phone calls is straightforward. You pick up the phone and dial a number. Anyone calling you won?t even know that you are using VOIP.
A computer is not needed for this kind of link. It connects to either a DSL modem linked to your phone line or cable modem attached to your cable television connection. Any traditional telephone can also be plugged into an ATA.
You can even take your ATA with you when you?re traveling and receive phone calls from anywhere by connecting it to any broadband modem. Calls to your home phone number will be routed to your ATA (which has a unique identification) at the same cost as the call to your residence.
The final VOIP option is an IP phone (not the same as an Internet Phone). IP phones plug directly into the modem; Internet phones plug into the sound card or USB port of your computer.
An IP phone is a handset that has all the hardware and software built into it. You connect an IP phone to a broadband modem, then make or receive calls the same way that you would with an ATA.
The advantage of an IP phone over an ATA is that it is a completely integrated unit. You don't need an extra telephone to plug into it. Another IP phone advantage is that your phone numbers are all stored and the display screen provides information about incoming calls.
There you have it: 4 choices that will all add up to substantial telephone savings.
About the author:
Ron King is a full-time researcher, writer, and web developer. Visit http://www.voip-solutions-now.comto learn more about this subject.
Copyright 2005 Ron King. This article may be reprinted if the resource box is left intact.
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