Read these 13 Setting Up VoIP Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about VOIP tips and hundreds of other topics.
Need some confidence before trying to set up your first VOIP network? Consider a free online class in VOIP from a non-technical perspective. CNet offers this class for free on its Help.com site. Look around and you can probably find some others, too. The CNet class includes an overview of VOIP technology, different types of solutions, setting up VOIP at home, and where VOIP may be going in the future.
Most commercial VOIP providers will let you keep your old number when setting up VOIP. But the process isn't all that smooth. You're going to have to sign a form allowing the provider to take your old number. It can take 30 days or more for that old number to work on the new VOIP system, so the provider will give you a temporary number to use until then. It's much easier to set up VOIP with a new number. So consider this before assuming you can easily move your number around from provider to provider.
Make sure that any VOIP PBX system that you are considering purchasing has a much better range of services than the traditional PBX system that you are ready to replace. Any PBX system should do the following:
* Voice mail
* Caller ID
* Three-way calling
* Call forwarding
* Direct-dial extensions.
Since VOIP PBX systems are web-based and Internet-enabled, you should also make sure your system includes the following:
* Unlimited calling.
* Phone-to-email connections.
* Conference calling.
* Web-based administration.
Setting up Business VOIP can be a different animal than setting up VOIP at home. If you've got a home office, or a small business with a simple data network, it probably won't be that difficult to configure VOIP, if you have basic technical knowledge. But if you're looking to set up Business VOIP with a good-sized data network, or set up PBX services, you're definitely going to need the help of a professional setting up VOIP services.
When setting up VOIP, the only security considerations you can manage with are those on your own network. You should make sure your network is password-protected using 128-bit encryption and sits behind a firewall. But once the VOIP traffic leaves your network, there isn't much you can do. Security moves into the hands of the network provider and the person receiving your call on the other end. If you're connecting VOIP to your data network, your IT team or technical consultant should help you deal with setting up proper security precautions.
Now just because setting a a virtual PBX system is supposed to be easy, doesn't mean it will be. This is especially true if you have to extend your Internet network to make the phone system work. So if you think you might have trouble installing a VOIP PBX system yourself -- or if you don't have IT support to lean on -- consider hiring a professional consultant.
If you're setting up VOIP in your home, please make sure to set up 911 services. This is especially important if the VOIP phone is going to be your only phone. Some providers, like Vonage, require you to give the physical location of your VOIP network when you set it up over the Web. Others leave it up to you. And some services, like Skype, don't offer 911 services. This is important because VOIP is a virtual service, not tied to any one place. Therefore, traditional 911 services won't work -- unless you inform your VOIP provider where you are located.
Here's a problem that's more difficult to solve than it first seems:
You have a traditional land line that serves all the phones in the house. You switch to VOIP. Your phone that's connected to the router/adapter works fine. So how do you get all the other phones to connect to the same line? The not-so-easy way is to rewire the phone lines in your home. There are plenty of instructions available on the Internet for doing this, but unless you have technical savvy, you could end up making more of a mess. Consider hiring someone who knows how to wire to come in and help.
Or you could do it an easier way: For about $100, you can buy a wireless home phone with extensions you can put around the house. Connect the main phone to the adapter and the wireless extensions will connect themselves to the main phone. It's cheaper than hiring someone to do the wiring and you can get everything up and running with one quick trip to the mall.
If you want to set up your first VOIP network, here's what you absolutely need to have before you can make calls:
* A high-speed Internet connection.
* A VOIP phone service (like Vonage, Skype, etc.).
* A phone, microphone or speaker phone.
* An adapter to connect your phone to the Internet connection.
If you want to use a computer-based VOIP service, like Skype, or any of the MSN/Google/AOL/Yahoo talk clients, you will also need to have a computer connected up to the Internet. But if you're going to use a regular phone for VOIP, a computer is not required.
Most VOIP providers are going to want to you to do it yourself when setting up VOIP at home. Vonage, for example, allows you to order via the web and send out a kit for self set-up. If you need help, you can email or call Vonage customer service, but basically you are on your own unless you find your own technical help. Vonage and other major VOIP providers have great web sites that are very helpful, and customer service is also friendly and useful.
You can integrate VOIP into your existing home wireless network. There are two ways to go about setting up VOIP with a home network. If you're happy with your current wireless router, you can buy an adaptor that will plug into the current router. If you want to upgrade your router while setting up VOIP, you can buy a new wireless router that is VOIP capable. Usually, your VOIP provider can offer you a deal on a new router at lower cost.
If you're considering purchasing a VOIP PBX system to replace a current PBX system that uses the traditional land-line network, you're probably worrying about how difficult the changeover and set-up will be. This really depends on a few main factors:
* Do you already have an Internet network wired to each desktop that needs a phone?
* Do you need to keep the same extension numbers when you switch over to the VOIP PBX system?
* Do you plan to buy VOIP-enabled phones? Or will you use current phones with adapters?
* Do you plan to purchase a virtual PBX system, or one that you need to set up and configure yourself?
If you already have a desktop Internet network, hooked up to a high-speed connection, you are ahead of the game. And one way to avoid messy set-up and configuring of the PBX system is to consider purhasing a hosted or virtual PBX. With a hosted system, the provider takes care of virtually everything. All you have to do is connect your phones to the network and then configure the system via a protected web site.
The easiest way to set up VOIP is to simply download software and use a computer-based VOIP plan like Skype, or the talk services from MSN, Google, Yahoo or AOL. All you need to do is plug in a headset or microphone and you're ready. With a phone-based plan, the easiest way to set up your service is to use an adaptor -- almost always supplied by the provider. Just plug your phone into the adapter and the adapter into your cable or DSL modem. Setting up, or building onto, a data network is more complicated. It can be done by anyone with some basic tech knowledge. If not, you'll need some help so it's best to hire a professional.