If you’ve heard of VoIP, or even Voice over IP, you’ll have some idea that it’s a way of making telephone cheap international calls or even free international calls over the internet. But if you’ve looked into it, you might find it a little confusing. So what exactly do you need to do to implement VoIP either at home or at work?

Most of us are looking for easy ways to cut costs and balance budgets, whether it’s at work or at home. One of the most painless ways to save money is to look at your telephone bills, especially if you call abroad. If you’re looking for cheap international calls, or even free international calls, you may have come across VoIP: new technology that enables you to make cheap phone calls over your existing broadband connection.

If you want to implement VoIP, the main issue to consider is how much flexibility you want. As a rule of thumb, the more flexibility you want, the more you pay.

Not much flexibility: PC-to-PC.
If you want free international calls, and you don’t mind a few limitations, consider a VoIP provider that offers free PC-to-PC international calls. To implement VoIP in this way, you and the person you’re calling must have the following:
- a computer or laptop each;
- a broadband connection each;
- a headset/ microphone/ speaker (these may be integral to your computer) each;
- individual accounts with compatible VoIP providers that allows PC-to-PC calls, such as Skype or MSN.
As well as these set-up limitations, there are also restrictions in the way you use the service:
- you both need to sitting at your computers in order to make or receive a PC-to-PC Voice over IP call; this usually means agreeing a time and date for the call;
- the calls must be PC-to-PC; that is, you can’t just pick up your phone and dial;
- if you use this to make any calls to any other landlines or mobiles, you’ll be charged by the minute;
- you’ll probably find that the sound quality isn’t as good as that of a regular landline or mobile phone.
Lots of flexibility: phone-to-phone.

If you love the sound of VoIP, but aren’t prepared to put up with the restrictions above, it’s worth considering a completely different, much more flexible way of implementing VoIP and making cheap international calls. Using VoIP to make phone-to-phone calls is, basically, just the same as using a normal phone.

First, it’s just you who needs to get set up with the following:
? a computer or laptop;
? a broadband connection;
? a regular handset;
? an account with a VoIP provider that allows this kind of calls;

In terms of how you use this phone-to-phone VoIP service, it’s more or less what you’ve always been used to.
? you can just pick up your normal handset and dial;
? you can dial any number, not just other VoIP phones;
? you get unlimited calls to all landlines and mobiles featured in your particular call plan;
? you don’t need a headset;
? you don’t need to be at your computer;
? your computer doesn’t even need to be switched on;
? the people you’re calling don’t need a computer, broadband or any kind of VoIP account;
? the call quality is so good that they won’t even realise you’re using a broadband phone.

Bespoke flexibility: phone-to-phone and PC to PC
You can, of course, combine these two ways of implementing VoIP and tailor-make a system that’s perfect for you. It depends on your own needs and calling habits.

Say for example that you’ve got a family member you talk to frequently in France, but most of your friends live in the States. In this case, it might make sense for both you and the person in France to take the time and trouble to set up a free PC-to-PC VoIP service, and agree a regular time and day for speaking to each other. Then you could also sign up to one of the phone-to-phone VoIP providers and choose a call plan that offers unlimited anytime calls from the UK to, for example, landlines and mobiles in the States and Canada, for a low, fixed monthly fee.

Once you’ve decided how much flexibility you want, the next step is to go ahead and sign up with an appropriate VoIP provider. However you decide to implement VoIP, you can be sure of one thing – you’ll save money, whichever system you use.

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