Doesn't everyone dream of free? Whether it's lunch, a cup of coffee, or avenues of communication, low or no cost is usually top of the list. Luckily, free and reliable communication is possible. With VoIP, businesses can cut costs with a high-speed internet connection and web-based applications. The road to free is littered with research, but the result is worth the effort.

Price is always a concern, a pivotal piece of any budgetary puzzle. Deciding on a method or service of communication is no different. And that's where VoIP corners the market. Not only does VoIP communication remove boundaries, like landlines, but it also removes the financial barrier. The creation and wide reaching inclusion of VoIP means there is little to no cost to the user. Wading through the expansive list of VoIP providers can be intimidating, however. That's why understanding what you're looking to have and where to look is key.

Basics of VoIP

When deciding on a VoIP platform, it's important to examine the needs of your business. Different platforms offer different functionalities and, in many cases, can be tailored to meet the needs and operation of your business. Perhaps the biggest factor to consider is business size, or the amount of users. Some platforms operate more effectively with fewer people involved, while others can handle larger numbers. Also, consider the various functions needed or desired. VoIP platforms can streamline business operations, but not all platforms are created equal. Whether it's simple VoIP calling features, or more advanced additions like instant messenger and scheduling abilities, different VoIP providers offer packages at different costs. Prices range anywhere from $10 to $40 a month, which could be viewed as cheap or expensive depending on your budget.

If you're looking for more advanced features, these add-ons usually incur an extra charge outside of any start up or recurring monthly fee, but that additional cost could be worth the increased productivity. Regardless of provider, no additional hardware is needed to use VoIP, lowering the cost of operation further. And in many cases, free trials are available. Researching the myriad of providers, and seeking out trials, is an important step in the choosing process. During that search process, however, free options begin to surface.

When VoIP Means Free

Now, time to talk about free VoIP, what you came here for. Yes, it is possible! P2P, or peer-to-peer, networks allow individuals to connect and share information through high speed internet, without a central server or host. It's these systems that provide VoIP communication at low or no cost.

If P2P doesn't ring a bell, maybe Skype does. Skype is one of the largest VoIP communication companies and operates as a P2P network. Whether through voice calls, video chat, or instant messenger, individuals can communicate freely and quickly through the Skype network. Creating and maintaining a Skype account is free and there is no cost to call other Skype users.

Even with these benefits, there are still a few limitations to be considered before taking the plunge. Skype is known to struggle with larger conferencing sizes. Functionality in both presentation and audio features can suffer when more than 25 people join a Skype call. Additionally, voices can be muffled or distorted when spontaneous sounds or noises break out during a call. Depending on the needs and size of a business, Skype can still be a very viable and effective communication tool. There are a number of other companies that provide P2P communication between users at no cost and can be considered in addition to Skype, such as Vonage or Viber.

Another widely used and well-known VoIP application is FaceTime. This and similar apps, like Google Hangouts, allow individuals to place voice and video calls through high speed internet rather than traditional phone lines. Downloading and operating these applications is free, providing another cheap and effective means of communication for many businesses. Once again, limitations must be considered before committing to any one platform. FaceTime is specific to the Apple operating system, so calls cannot be made to those on the Android system. Additionally, there is no chat function within the FaceTime application. If chatting is a necessity for your business, then other VoIP applications should be considered first.

No matter the size of the business or workforce, VoIP is a viable option for fast, budget-friendly communication. Though the research process can be lengthy, the end result is more than worth it. Finding the right fit and capabilities is key, but they are out there ready to help take your business to the next level.