VoIP FAQ

VoIP Frequently Asked Questions: A VoIP Primer

Got a question about VoIP? You came to the right place.
If you have a question about a specific VoIP features (what it is or what it does), use our VoIP Feature FAQ.

  • General VoIP Questions

    Q: What is VoIP?

    A: Basically, VoIP uses the Internet to make phone calls, instead of the old-fashioned phone network (known as the PSTN, publicly switched telephone network).

    Q: What is Internet Protocol?

    A: Internet protocol is what allows you to access web sites and the Internet. It allows you to exchange data with other sites on the web. Basically, VoIP converts your voice into data and then sends and receives data on the Internet.

    Q: How does VoIP work?

    A: VoIP converts the sound of your voice into data and uses Internet Protocol to send that data. For a much longer explanation, visit our VoIP simplified page. It's, ironically, the technical explanation.

    Q: What do I need to use VoIP?

    A: You need a high speed internet connection and a VoIP phone. A VoIP phone can be an IP phone, which is a phone designed to work with VoIP. Or a VoIP phone can be a standard telephone, with an ATA phone adapter. Or you can use a softphone, which is a computer program that allows you to make VoIP calls from your computer. You also need a high speed internet connection. This is so that you can make clear calls. You can check your connection speed here.

    Q: How do I use VoIP to make a call?

    A: Pick up the phone and dial the number you'd like to call. You do have to sign up with a VoIP provider first in order to get service. If you're using a softphone, you will have to have the program open on your computer. Then you can dial the number you want to call. It's pretty easy, we think.

    Q: How do I use VoIP to receive a call?

    A: Pick up the phone and answer the call. A greeting is usually appreciated. Kidding aside, VoIP should seamlessly replace your current phone service. If you are using a softphone, you will need to have your computer on and the softphone program open in order to receive the call. Then you should just have to click to answer.

    Q: Who can I call with VoIP?

    A: Anyone with a phone number. You can also conference call more easily and call internationally for much less when using VoIP.

    Q: I've heard bad things about call quality with VoIP.

    A: We have, too. We're happy to say that call quality, overall, has improved with VoIP and is now as good as or better than call quality on a land line. Most call quality issues are caused by network connectivity issues which have been solved by improved technology. Didn't understand that? Neither did I. Basically, both VoIP companies and consumers have access to better, faster Internet networks. This means that calls sound better. Did the call quality on your latest VoIP call stink? Look for your VoIP provider and write a review.

    Q: Does TheDigest.com sell VoIP?

    A: No. But we can help you find it. We can help you find competitive VoIP quotes for your business and information of business VoIP service, residential VoIP service, and wholesale VoIP service.

    Q: I am moving soon. Can I take VoIP with me?

    A: Yes. VoIP phones work with an IP address. IP addresses don't have physical locations, so that means that you take your IP phone to any physical location that has high-speed Internet.

    Q: Do I need a computer to use VoIP?

    A: No. With most VoIP service providers, you do not need a computer to use VoIP. You can just use the phone. You do need a computer if you are going to be using a softphone — because a softphone uses your computer as a phone. You will also need a computer if you are going to use MagicJack (which we don't recommend). Most VoIP providers allow you to manage your account online. That's easier to do with a computer.

  • VoIP Expectations

    Q: What are the benefits of VoIP?

    A: VoIP saves you money VoIP has great features VoIP gets you more phone numbers VoIP gets you phone numbers outside your area code VoIP is mobile High competition means better deals and lower prices VoIP piggybacks on your high speed internet Visit our article of the advantages and benefits of VoIP to learn more about these benefits in detail.

    Q: What are the disadvantages and problems associated with VoIP?

    A: VoIP did have a few disadvantages and problems associated with it, in comparison to traditional telephone service. Most of these have been solved/can be easily solved. Just because the problems can be solved doesn't mean they aren't issues, though. VoIP doesn't work when the power is out VoIP doesn't have built-in 911 VoIP can have network outages VoIP call quality problems VoIP and security We have an article that explains these problems - and the solutions to these problems - associated with VoIP in specific: VoIP problems.

    Q: Do I need to be tech-savvy to use VoIP?

    A: No. Not with hosted VoIP. With hosted VoIP, the VoIP provider takes care of installation and maintenance of the VoIP system. You do need to be tech-savvy if you're installing an IP-PBX business phone system or a SIP trunking system.

    Q: Can I keep my phone number with VoIP?

    A: Yes. If you stay in the same geographic area, your VoIP provider or phone service provider must let you keep your local phone number. With other numbers, like toll-free numbers or virtual numbers, you may or may not be able to take your number with you. With some VoIP providers, they won't allow you to take 800 numbers with you.

    Q: Can I get a new number with VoIP?

    A: Yes. You can also get a number outside your geographic area code by using a virtual number.

    Q: Can I get a new number AND keep my old number with VoIP?

    A: Yes.

    Q: Can I get a new number, a toll-free number AND keep my old number?

    A: Yes.

    Q: Can I take my number with me if I travel?

    A: St—Yes. You can. It can be a new number, your old number, a toll-free number, even an international number. This is called mobile VoIP.

    Q: Can I use VoIP on my smartphone?

    A: Yes. You will need an app or a combination of apps in order to do this. Most business VoIP providers develop apps to allow customers to use VoIP phone numbers with their smartphone.

    Q: Can I try VoIP before I buy it?

    A: Usually. Most VoIP providers offer a risk-free, 30-day money-back guarantee. Make sure you read the guarantee carefully before you try VoIP. Sometimes, the risk-free, money-back guarantees aren't so risk-free and won't give you your money back.

    Q: I've heard that VoIP has great features.

    A: VoIP does. Check out the complete list of VoIP Features. We add new features as new features come out; let us know if we've missed one.

    Q: Are VoIP calls secure?

    A: Yes. Almost all VoIP calls are now encrypted. If you are interested in learning more about VoIP security, please read our forthcoming article on VoIP security.

    Q: Is free VoIP a scam?

    A: No. In almost all cases, calls between users of a service are free. These are called Network Calls, In-Network Calls, or User-to-User calls. Skype is particularly well-known for these calls. Calls to the PSTN are never free – the VoIP provider actually has to pay something to the phone network that the call terminates with. Google Voice is the only VoIP provider that allows free calls to the PSTN in the United States, but these free calls may not last very long and they do cost Google some money.

    Q: I already have a phone system; I just need cheaper service. Can VoIP help me?

    A: Yes. Check out our SIP trunking VoIP providers.

  • Getting Started with VoIP

    Q: How do I sign up for VoIP?

    A: Visit a VoIP provider's website. You can find the websites of business VoIP service providers here, residential VoIP service providers here, and wholesale (carrier) VoIP service providers here.

    Q: What equipment do I need?

    A: A high-speed internet connection An IP phone or an ATA adapter If you're using hosted PBX or residential VoIP, those are the only pieces of 'equipment', you'll need. If you are setting up your own VoIP phone system, you will need an IP PBX phone system, several routers, and SIP trunking/IP PBX VoIP Service. If you're using a softphone, you'll want a VoIP headset. You'll need it in order to use the softphone. You'll also need a computer or smartphone in order for the softphone to work.

    Q: Do I have to buy the equipment?

    A: It depends. Some providers offer equipment for free (but you have to return it); other providers will sell you equipment (which you can keep). Most residential VoIP providers and many business VoIP providers will give you IP phones or ATA adapters for free (ATAs are more common for residential service; IP phones are more common for business). You may have to return these phones if you cancel the service. Other VoIP providers will not offer you free phones, but they will sell them to you. If you need to get phones or any other equipment, please check our VoIP Equipment Store.

    Q: How fast does my Internet connection have to be?

    A: Yes. A VoIP call doesn’t use very much bandwidth, so you can surf the Internet and talk on the phone at the same time. Additionally, some VoIP service providers have a QoS modem that ensures your voice traffic goes first: this means you have a clear call.

    Q: Does my computer need to be on for me to make a call?

    A: No, unless you are using a softphone. All you need to call with VoIP is an active broadband internet connection. (To get an active broadband internet connection for multiple phones, you may need some kind of router in order to get enough Internet connections available for your phone).

    Q: Can I use my Internet and my phone at the same time?

    A: Yes. A VoIP call doesn’t use very much bandwidth, so you can surf the Internet and talk on the phone at the same time. Additionally, some VoIP service providers have a QoS modem that ensures your voice traffic goes first: this means you have a clear call.

    Q: What should I look for in a VoIP provider?

    A: We explain what you should look for here and here.

  • VoIP Terminology

    Q: What the heck is Asterisk?

    A: Asterisk is an open source software that allows you to use a computer for VoIP and other communications. Asterisk is free. Most VoIP providers use it. Asterisk is produced by digium.

    Q: What does VoIP mean?

    A: VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol.

    Q: What does SIP mean?

    A: SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol. In VoIP, it is used in the context of SIP trunking, which is a way of replacing (almost in a literal way) a phone line with the Internet. Check our SIP trunking page for more practical information on SIP trunking.

    Q: What does PBX mean?

    A: PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange. A PBX is a computer that runs a business phone system. Most businesses use hosted PBXs because PBXs are complicated, expensive, and require special technical expertise. Hosted PBX means that the PBX is administered and maintained by the Hosted PBX provider. Most business VoIP providers offer Hosted VoIP PBX.

    Q: What does PSTN mean?

    A: PSTN stands for Public Switched Telephone Network. It refers to the world-wide network of telephones.

    Q: What does E911 mean?

    A: E911 stands for Enhanced 911. It associates your phone number with a physical address so that emergency services can quickly and easily reach you.

    Q: What does PIC Code mean?

    A: A PIC code is a long distance company's code, which is used to identify the company. PIC codes were very important in the 1990s, when telecommunications was deregulated and lots of long distance service providers came into existence.

    Q: What does SOHO mean?

    A: SOHO stands for Small Office/Home Office. It is used by VoIP service providers to designate services designed for very small operations.

    Q: What does POTS mean?

    A: POTS stands for Plain Old Telephone Service. POTS always means traditional landline service (even though companies providing POTS may be using VoIP).