VoIP Disadvantages and VoIP Solutions
VoIP has a couple problems when compared to traditional PTSN phone service:
- VoIP and power outages
- VoIP and 911
- VoIP network outages
- VoIP call quality problems
- VoIP and security
VoIP doesn't work when the power is out.
Unlike the traditional PTSN (which has its own external power backup), you get the Internet using modems and routers. You access VoIP with IP phones, analog telephone adapters, and computers with softphones installed — modems, routers, IP phones and the like don't have backup power.
You can't use VoIP during a power outage. A battery backup solves the power outage problem.
Even if you don't have a battery backup, most VoIP service providers offer hosted voicemail. If your power is out, your customers will still be able to leave you a voicemail.
VoIP doesn't use standard 911
Unlike 911 on the PTSN (which connects to emergency services and gives the operator your address and phone number), VoIP doesn't have traditional 911 service.
A VoIP call is just an exchange of data between IP address — and IP addresses don't have a specific physical location attached to them. So, even if you do call 911 from your VoIP phone, the emergency operator will have no idea where you are or how to contact you.
E911: VoIP's 911 Solution
Enhanced 911 (E911) registers your phone number with your location and sends the call to the local emergency services call center (also known as a Public Safety Answering Point). All VoIP providers that connect to the PTSN are required to have E911 capabilities.
However, VoIP providers can charge a recovery fee for E911 service and almost all do. It's just a few extra dollars a month.
Furthermore, VoIP doesn't work when the power's out (which might be when you need help) and E911 service is tied to the location you register with your VoIP service provider. You need to change it if you move the phone and need to be careful calling emergency services if you use an IP phone for mobile VoIP.
VoIP and Network Outages
Most VoIP providers have addressed early problems with call quality by building private networks, through which they route the call.
Obviously, this is a problem if the VoIP provider's network goes down. Unfortunately, sometimes network outages happen – sometimes, network outages happen a lot.
Most VoIP service providers have redundant networks and Service-Level Agreements to reduce the cost and headaches caused by network outages.
If a VoIP provider has redudant networks or a redundant network, that means the VoIP provider has multiple data network centers in order to prevent network outages. Basically, if one data center goes down, the VoIP provider has another network to ensure that calls can be routed normally.
With a Service-Level Agreement, the VoIP provider guarantees that their network will be up for a certain amount of time every month (usually somewhere between 99 and 99.99%). If they don't meet those uptime requirements, they will refund you the equivalent cost of the service. So, if the service is down for 3% of March, you'll recieve 3% back on your monthly subscription fee in April. You may recieve more, depending on the VoIP service provider.
With some providers, violation of the Service-Level Agreement is grounds for termination. That means that you can exit your contract without paying cancellation or termination fees. Of course, you need to confirm that this kind of clause is in your Service-Level Agreement.
VoIP Call Quality
Private VoIP networks, the increased availability of high speed Internet, and VoIP QoS routers have made VoIP's problems with call quality virtually disapper.
However, call quality issues still exist with VoIP. Sometimes your Internet connection can hiccup; other times, the hiccup is with your VoIP provider's network.
In all cases, let your VoIP provider know. It's a good test of the provider's support staff (who should make sure a such hiccup doesn't happen again) and a good test of the provider's customer service staff. If they treat you well and solve the problem, the provider is a keeper.
If they blame you for something that isn't your fault, treat you poorly, or ignore your complaint, it's time to look for a new provider. We recommend you start here if you're looking for a new VoIP service provider. If it's not too much trouble, we'd also appreciate it if you could write a review.
VoIP Security Issues
VoIP uses Internet Protocol, which means that it can be vulnerable to attacks from the Internet.
For the most part, hosted VoIP providers defend their private networks and their subscriber's service simultaneously. If you are using SIP trunking and/or a premise-based IP PBX system, you should make sure you know how to protect your VoIP network. You'll be the only guarantor of your security.