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LAN & WAN Basics

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Introduction

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, is an attractive prospect to many. Who wouldn't want low-cost or even free telephone calls around the world? As with all exploding technologies, however, VoIP's biggest barrier to entry for most people is a simple lack of knowledge about how it works. So, this month, we're going to be doing a round of VoIP coverage. To kick it all off, we're going to answer many of your Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

What Is VoIP?

Very simply put, VoIP is a technology that allows telephone calls to be made over the Internet. These are far cheaper than normal telephone calls, though prices and services vary from company to company. Skype, for example, offers international phone calls from anywhere to anywhere for an average cots of just 2.1 cents per minute.

What's Free And What's Not Free?

Generally speaking, calls between VoIP users are free. For example, two Yahoo or Skype users can call one another directly online for nothing. Calls to traditional land lines are what you pay for.

What's The Difference Between Phone-based VoIP And Computer-based VoIP?

Phone based VoIP converts your home phone into a VoIP service using a special adaptor. Computer-based VoIP runs on your desktop or laptop computer; this makes it more flexible, because it moves around with the computer - this means you can take it anywhere in the world.

Can I Use The Hardware From One VoIP Service With A Different Provider?

In general, no. Most of the major VoIP providers, such as Vonage, AT&T CallVantage and Verizon Voicewing, "lock" their hardware so that it can only be used with their service. Some providers effectively lease the equipment to you and will refund part or all of a "setup fee" when you terminate service. If you buy the hardware outright via a retail package, however, you'll have a nice doorstop if you decide to terminate or change VoIP service.

VoIP services that run on your computer, such as Skype and Yahoo Messenger, do not require any special hardware, One can run any number of these VoIP services from the same machine (though not at the same time, obviously.)

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