The fast-paced communication revolution has greatly challenged the dominance of the traditional landline telephone. VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is a big part of this changing tech landscape, and has risen to become one of the main landline replacements. Businesses looking to cut back on costs often pursue a free VoIP solution, but is this really a change for the better?
Here are four of the most popular free VoIP apps available and a look at what they can offer businesses.
Skype is one of the pioneering apps that revolutionized VoIP. As a leading VoIP app, It has a large user base, with about 50 million users logged-in at least once during January 2013.
This service lets users make free Skype-to-Skype audio and video calls, group calls, and instant messaging. But, if you want more advanced calling features like call forwarding, SMS messages, caller ID, calling landline or other mobile phones around the globe, video conferencing, and having your own Skype number, you are going to have to subscribe to a business plan.
ooVoo, another free app, offers the optimal basics like free audio and video calling services to other users, instant messaging, and even 12-way video conferencing, which can be great for individual users and small businesses.
The biggest downside to this app is that while it does allow calls to landlines and other numbers, you need to purchase credits or a premium account which can prove a bit expensive for many users.
Viber offers users free calling and instant messages to other Viber users and is one of the most popular VoIP services for mobile users.
Although Viber has already released a version for Windows and Mac, this app is definitely made for Smartphones. You need to have a Viber mobile account before you can use its desktop version. This is a good solution for individual users, but may not be the best option for businesses that need to make calls to landlines or non-Viber users.
Jitsi is a free open source VoIP program formerly known as SIP Communicator that is primarily written using a popular Java script. Jitsi supports multiple operating systems as well as a variety of internet telephony.
Aside from video calling, Jitsi also offers you the features of instant messaging, desktop streaming, call recording, encryption for calls, and file sharing. Jitsi’s broad compatibility and powerful encryption support may make it seem like a great tool for business. However, because it is open source it could pose potential security risks and be a challenge to manage for your business.
Is free really better?
In all honesty, the free aspects of the services above will satisfy many of the communication needs of individual users. The problem is, that many businesses still rely on traditional landline style communication e.g., people calling the business. This means that you need a service that can port – transfer – your number from the old provider to the VoIP one, while also allowing others to call the business. Many of the free services don’t allow this. What this means for your business is that you will be able to call people with the program for free, but others who don’t use it likely won’t be able to call you so easily.
The VoIP systems provided by IT partners like us however are designed for business use and can offer the same benefits as many of the free solutions – video calls, text messaging, etc. – along with the traditional phone requirements, only delivered through a digital connection and at a cost that is usually far below traditional landline subscriptions.
The other main problem with choosing free services is that they may not be able to handle a high volume of communication, largely because many of them are designed for personal or home use, rather than a business environment. Adopting the business features will usually require a paid subscription that could end up costing you more, especially if you subscribe on a per-user basis.
If you are looking to use one of the free apps above or are considering another solution, we strongly recommend you talk to us first. We can talk you through the process, and help ensure that any service is truly right for your business. Beyond that, we can also make recommendations for a system that will truly fit your business.
If you want to know more about VoIP, contact us today.