VoIP is known as Voice over Internet Protocol. This technology is used to transfer voice and packet-switched networks over the internet. This technology was used almost since the first computer network in 1973. Voice was transmitted through the internet since the very beginning. This technology was available for the end users since the early 1980's.
This technology offers some major facilities which would be otherwise difficult to transmit through any other form of transmission. Some of these facilities are.
"The ability to transmit more than one telephone call over the same broadband connection. This can make VoIP a simple way to add an extra telephone line to a home or office. Conference calling, call forwarding, automatic redial, and caller ID; zero- or near-zero-cost features that traditional telecommunication companies normally charge extra for. Secure calls using standardized protocols (such as Secure Real-time Transport Protocol.) Most of the difficulties of creating a secure phone connection over traditional phone lines, like digitizing and digital transmission, are already in place with VoIP. It is only necessary to encrypt and authenticate the existing data stream. Location independence. Only an Internet connection is needed to get a connection to a VoIP provider. For instance, call center agents using VoIP phones can work from anywhere with a sufficiently fast and stable Internet connection. Advanced Telephony features such as call routing, screen pops, and IVR implementations are easier and cheaper to implement and integrate. The fact that the phone call is on the same data network as a user's PC opens a new door to possibilities." (www.wikipedia.com, 23/07/2008)
Let us look at the reliability factor of VoIP. Normal phones are connected directly to the telephone company. If a power failure occurs the line is kept functional because the telephone company has back up generators. IP phones and IP infrastructure connect to routers and services which depend on the main power source or back up generators which can be set up in case of an emergency. Voice travels over the internet in almost the same way that data travels through the net. They all travel in packets. So when you're talking over the internet your voice travels in small packets. The data, information and voice travel through fixed bandwidths over the internet. So the fact of congestion might come into play during heavy traffic.
Many consumer VoIP solutions do not yet provide encrypted lines. So it is quite easy for an intruder to drop in and listen to your conversations and do many other harmful things. This security breach could lead to Denial of Service (DoS) attacks which could cause your phone line to produce a continuous busy signal and eventually force the line to disconnect.
The technology has come a long way since first it was implemented, but there is still room for improvement. Despite the drawbacks VoIP is used all over the world for personal and business purposes alike. This technology will definitely be used in the years to come and we might be able to see more improvements in its technology, which in turn will cause VoIP to become a very powerful source of communication.