What are the disadvantages of using VoIP?

What are the disadvantages of using VoIP?

The current Public Switched Telephone Network is a robust and fairly bulletproof system for delivering phone calls. Phones just work, and we've all come to depend on that. On the other hand, computers, e-mail and other related devices are still kind of flaky. Let's face it -- few people really panic when their e-mail goes down for 30 minutes. It's expected from time to time.

On the other hand, a half-hour of no dial tone can easily send people into a panic. So what the PSTN may lack in efficiency it more than makes up for in reliability. But the network that makes up the internet is far more complex and therefore functions within a far greater margin of error. What this all adds up to is one of the major flaws in VoIP: reliability.

Determining the actual location of people during emergencies can be difficult when using VoIP lines.

One of the advantages of VoIP is that you can purchase a local number from any state, with any area code, even without a physical address. That gives you the chance to establish a virtual presence anywhere. The problem is that during emergencies, responders typically use your phone number to identify your location. With your phone number and actual physical location not necessarily matching, emergency responders will have trouble finding you when you need them to.

Another consideration is that many other systems in your home may be integrated into the phone line. Digital video recorders, digital subscription TV services and home security systems all use a standard phone line to do their thing. There's currently no way to integrate these products with VoIP. The related industries are going to have to get together to make this work.

Emergency 911 calls also become a challenge with VoIP. As stated before, VoIP uses IP-addresses phone numbers, not NANP phone numbers. There's no way to associate a geographic location with an IP address. So if the caller can't tell the 911 operator where he is located, then there's no way to know which call centre to route the emergency call to and which EMS should respond. To fix this, perhaps geographical information could somehow be integrated into the packets. Emergency calls can be a problem for some VoIP users. The 911 system was built with the traditional telephone system in mind, and because a phone line is fixed to a certain location, the system will alert first responders to your location when you call (you don't even need to tell them). While portability is definitely a plus with VoIP, calling 911 from a VoIP line will only transmit whatever address you provided at the setup for 911 services.

If you forget to change this and find yourself in an emergency where you call but can't speak to confirm, help may be sent to the wrong address, and/or you might be sent to the incorrect 911 facility for your area.

Because VoIP uses an Internet connection, it's susceptible to all the hiccups normally associated with home broadband services. All of these factors affect call quality: latency, jitter and packet loss. Phone conversations can become distorted, garbled or lost because of transmission errors. Some kind of stability in Internet data transfer needs to be guaranteed before VoIP could truly replace traditional phones.

VoIP is susceptible to worms, viruses and hacking, although this is very rare and VoIP developers are working on VoIP encryption to counter this.

Another issue associated with VoIP is having a phone system dependent on individual PCs of varying specifications and power. A call can be affected by processor drain. Let's say you are chatting away on your softphone, and you decide to open a program that saps your processor. Quality loss will become immediately evident. In the worst-case scenario, your system could crash in the middle of an important call. In VoIP, all phone calls are subject to the limitations of common computer issues.

One of the hurdles that were overcome some time ago was the conversion of the analog audio signal your phone receives into packets of data. How is it that analog audio is turned into packets for VoIP transmission? The answer is codecs.

There are many compelling reasons to switch from analog phones and on-premises PBX hardware to cloud-based VoIP communications. You can subscribe to services which offer unlimited international and long distance calls to countries in North America and Europe. You can integrate your voice calling with other digital channels like instant messaging, screen sharing and video. You can even forward call to mobile devices and enable employees to work where they are most effective, including from:

  • Customer sites
  • Home offices
  • Tradeshows and conferences
  • Project sites for construction or scientific research

Frequently Asked Questions

Does VoIP Work Without an Internet Connection? No, because it relies on Internet Protocol (IP) to exchange digital data, VoIP does not work without an internet connection. You need a high-speed broadband connection rated for at least 100 kbps per phone line up and down, which is a breeze for most broadband connections.

You can now use any phone to make Voice over Internet (VoIP) calls. ... Simply wait for the dial tone, and you're ready to make and receive calls.

VoIP allows for normal phone calls through the internet with all of the options usually enjoyed by business's traditional PBX systems including voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding, conference calling, caller ID, and more. In addition, VoIP software integrates well with desktop computers for use as “softphones”.

What are the common challenges in using VoIP?

Yet despite these compelling benefits, the disadvantages of VoIP communications should not be taken lightly. 

Stable Internet Access is Mandatory

Whether you and your employees work from home, your office, or are constantly on the road - for VoIP services to work, stable internet access is required. Their desk phone might be hardwired to your office fibre-optic network. Their laptop can be connected to a public Wi-Fi hotspot, or their mobile device can stream communications over LTE or 3G/4G/5G mobile broadband. These are all viable options for VoIP communications. Yet if internet access is unstable, or not available at all, VoIP services aren't available.

There are a number of devices which can pull down cellular broadband access to mobile devices, which can then act as mobile Wi-Fi hotspots. Yet if there is no Internet Protocol available, VoIP isn't a viable communication method. Fortunately, we live in a time where we are rarely out of range from cellular towers or other internet access. This challenge is less of a concern than in the '90s when VoIP services were first commercially available.

Because VOIP relies on an Internet connection, your VOIP service will be affected by the quality and reliability of your broadband Internet service and sometimes by the limitations of your PC. Poor Internet connections and congestion can result in garbled or distorted voice quality. If you are using your computer at the same time as making a computer VOIP call, you may find that voice quality deteriorates dramatically.

This is more noticeable in highly congested networks and/or where there are long distances and/or internetworking between endpoints.

Another factor to consider is the reliability of the internet connection. Even if there aren't power outages, inclement weather can still impact ISPs. If users' internet connections or networks are slowed, VoIP service will lose reliability, as well as quality. Since VoIP uses an internet connection, it is susceptible to all the issues associated with home broadband services—i.e. latency, jitter, and packet loss. All of these affect the VoIP service causing calls to be distorted, garbled, or lost. Additionally, VoIP is also vulnerable to issues typically associated with home computers, including viruses, worms, and hacking. This, however, is a very rare occurrence, and many VoIP developers are working on encryptions to combat this.

Processor speed can also put VoIP users at a disadvantage. VoIP phone systems are dependent on individual PC's varying specificities and power. With that, a call can suffer greatly by processor drain. Processor drain can occur when a user, who is using a softphone, opens another program. If the second program opened uses too much of the processor, the quality loss will become apparent—your system could even crash.

Consumption of Cellular or Internet Data Bandwidth

VoIP services travel through internet networks through data services. For businesses that don't have unlimited data plans on their smartphones and other mobile devices, this could be problematic. Employees should be encouraged to seek out Wi-Fi or hardwired internet access wherever possible, so there aren't any punitive overage charges on your bill.

Some cellular carriers have shared data plans for businesses, so remote employees who can't always access internet services should be prioritized for data use. Use of video calls should be limited for remote employees to critical situations, and instant messaging can be used instead.

As we've already mentioned, VoIP uses the internet to complete your call. While most of us have an Internet connection that is sufficient to use VoIP these days, other factors may reduce the bandwidth available to your calls, such as activity on your local networks, like streaming or file transfers.

If your VoIP system doesn't have sufficient bandwidth, you might find your call quality significantly reduced, or it may have trouble maintaining a connection or connecting to your VoIP provider's servers. You may need to check your network speed during times of high use if you plan to use a VoIP service.

VoIP Requires Power - Battery or Wired

First of all, VoIP is dependent on wall power. Your current phone runs on phantom power that is provided over the line from the central office. Even if your power goes out, your phone (unless it is cordless) still works. With VoIP, no power means no phone. A stable power source must be created for VoIP.

Though analog phones get enough "phantom power" through the phone line, IP phones and mobile devices running apps like Virtual Office need a sustained power source. When video, voice and screen sharing is running on a mobile device, producing HD visibility and transmitting quality audio through speakers saps more power. If there is a local power failure, IP desk phones can't operate.

During a blackout, a regular phone is kept in service by the current supplied through the phone line. This is not possible with IP phones, so when the power goes out, there is no VOIP phone service. In order to use VoIP during a power outage, an uninterruptible power supply or a generator must be installed on the premises. It should be noted that many early adopters of VoIP are also users of other phone equipment such as PBX and cordless phone bases that also rely on power not provided by the telephone company.

Ensuring mobile devices always have sufficient battery life helps business users avoid dropped calls. Battery backups and power-over-ethernet switches can save the day in the event of a power failure. Processor drain can happen with multiple apps running, especially with video, audio and other content streaming through.

Latency and Hiccups Can Occur

Depending on the load, reliability and throughput capacity of the internet access being used to enable VoIP, calls and/or video conferences might have periods of latency throughout the day. Some devices are sensitive to interruption from microwaves being run close by. Phone conversations can be garbled in spots, or a call may drop entirely if the internet is too choppy.

Hosting and participating in calls from local numbers is one way to minimize latency. You can test local network internet speed with your ISP's native testing website, or through Speedtest.net. PingPlotter is another troubleshooting tool which can check for packet loss or latency. Check the service levels of the VoIP.

Latency is also another factor users should consider. Latency, which typically sounds like an echo, is the delay between speech leaving the speaker's mouth and reaching the listener's ear. This can be due to various delays such as:

  • Propagation Delay: this accounts for the delays between the speed of light and electrons through fibre or copper—this is almost invisible to the human ear. Still, in conjunction with handling delay, it could cause a noticeable loss of quality.
  • Handling delay: this occurs when devices forward the frame through the network. While this can affect traditional phone networks, it is a much bigger issue within packet environments.
  • Queuing delay: this occurs when packets are held in a queue due to congestion of the outbound interface. This delay is greater when the amount of packets is greater than the amount the interface is capable of handling.

VoIP Services from Some Providers are Vulnerable to Worms, Viruses or Hackers

Just as with web hosting and Software as a Service application, security is an important factor to be considered in selecting your VoIP provider. Certifications like the Privacy Shield Framework, Cyber Essentials, HIPAA, and FISMA should give you peace of mind that your services are protected from threats.

Security: As with many internet technologies, security is a big concern with VoIP. Though there are many providers developing methods and practices to better manage and implement security in their systems, there are still a variety of threats VoIP users should be aware of. As mentioned under reliability, VoIP is vulnerable to viruses and malware, as well as denial of service, spamming, identity theft, service theft, call tampering, and phishing attacks. While traditional phone calls are unlikely to be intercepted, VoIP calls are transmitted over the internet, which makes interception (theoretically) possible. Despite this possibility, users should not worry too much, as some traditional phone carriers use the internet to carry some long-distance calls.

As mentioned above, phishing attacks represent a serious threat to VoIP security. They are an attack against data privacy in which the victim gives out his or her personal data after being baited. For example, a data thief sends an e-mail that appears like an official message (i.e. Facebook, your bank, PayPal, eBay, etc.) from a company you have interest (financial or otherwise) in. In the e-mail, a problem will be mentioned that needs your personal data (i.e. credit card, passwords, etc.) to fix. This would be the bait. Users that provide their information are then subject to this attack. This technique is becoming increasingly common, and while there are some techniques to help users avoid this, it is still a common occurrence, and therefore a substantial security risk.

Another good example of a VoIP security issue can be found with Google Voice and privacy theft. The Google Voice service gives you a free number and many features; however, the provider stores your call transcripts in a massive database, which can be indexed on Google's web searches. Additionally, hackers, government officials, and other third parties can gain access to your personal data as well.

What is the quality of VoIP Voice?

Put simply, Quality of Service (QoS) in VoIP is the level of 'quality' offered by the VoIP service to place calls in a decent way. QoS varies according to technology. What we call good QoS for VoIP is strict, this can allow you to make a decent call without suffering from delays, weird sounds, noise, and echo. You want to converse just like you would over a landline phone.

VoIP has a bit to improve on QoS, but not in all cases. VoIP QoS depends on so many factors: your broadband connection, your hardware, the service provided by your provider, the destination of your call, and other factors.

More and more people are enjoying high-quality phone calls using VoIP, but still many users complain of hearing "Martian," having to wait a long time before hearing an answer, and other issues. Regular telephone service has provided so good quality that the slightest shortcoming with a VoIP call does not go unnoticed.

While it offers more advantages, VoIP technology proves to be less 'robust' than that of PSTN. Data (mainly voice) must be compressed and transmitted, then decompressed and delivered. All this must be done is a very short amount of time. If this process takes some milliseconds more (due to slow connection or hardware), the quality of the call suffers. This gives rise to the echo, which is the phenomenon whereby you hear your voice back some milliseconds after you speak.

However, if you can be sure of a good broadband connection, high-quality hardware, and an excellent VoIP service, you can use VoIP without fear. Some service providers do things to prevent echo, but it also depends on your connection and the quality of your hardware.

The service provider's safeguards are important for VoIP security; however, users should follow device security best practices like using strong device passwords, endpoint protection and Single Sign-On authentication on all their devices.

VoIP services are excellent for businesses (and consumers) that want to have engaging, dynamic, multi-channel collaborations with their colleagues, customers, and partners. Yet these VoIP communications disadvantages should be considered, and where possible addressed before they derail the many advantages and benefits which these services offer.

How a VoIP Can Become More Expensive?

While VoIP is a cheaper option, it requires certain conditions in order to deliver its worth. Often, failure to meet the basic requirements for a VoIP system finally makes it more expensive to communicate through VoIP than otherwise.

Many factors can make such a scenario happen, like the Internet connection (which can be expensive in certain circumstances), the hardware, mobility, the nature of the call, the distance, the service plan, government-imposed restrictions etc. So, whenever VoIP becomes more expensive, it is not the VoIP, itself, that is more expensive, but the use of it.

Here are some scenarios where VoIP won't be the cheapest communication method:

You need to invest in a $20 per month Internet connection in order to make free Skype calls on your computer. However, if you only make a handful of not-so-long calls, better grab your traditional phone.

You want to use your mobile phone to make free or cheap calls. For this, you need a 3G data plan, because Wi-Fi is limited in range. The plan can cost more than what you would pay had you made the calls through your GSM network.

There are Internet and Phone service providers that come with quite a lot, accompanying the Internet connection, including international calls. If you are planning on choosing a bundled service, it might be unnecessary to also invest in a VoIP.

You want to deploy VoIP in your small business and invest in costly phones and equipment, while your company doesn't really need it.

You pay for a VoIP package with a monthly fee of $25 (with Vonage, for example), and you use only a few of your unlimited number of minutes.

You register with the wrong type of VoIP service or plan. You end up either using much less than what you get, squandering most of what you pay for, or use more than what you're entitled to, thereby increasing your expenditure on minutes above what the package offers.

There are plenty of other reasons in which using VoIP might yield a result contrary to the intention. Think and plan well before engaging in a VoIP subscription, hardware, or habit. It is important to be well informed.

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