Wednesday, 7 October 2015

VoIP Service Sub-Accounts And Extensions - What's The Point?

What do you do when you want to connect more than one VoIP device to your BYOD DIY VoIP account?  Many of these services only provide one connection or line per account.

The majority of DIY VoIP clients are satisfied with a single VoIP phone line that can replace their single-line incumbent POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) telephone service.  Just that move alone will save anyone bundles of money, annually.

Many BYOD DIY VoIP service providers only offer one-line service per account.  And, for those DIY consumers who only need a single line, this is certainly the cheapest and simplest solution way to go.

Now, let's suppose that you want to have multiple VoIP phones distributed about your home, or small office.  The following discussions offer examples of various typical scenarios to consider.

Multiple Phones - Single Account VoIP Service - No Sub-Accounts/Extensions

For this scenario, you could typically be just fine with a one or two-line ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) that has a standard Panasonic type DECT "expandable" phone system connected to its line-1 telephone port.  With expandable DECT phones, you can place expansion phones at multiple locations about your home or small office.

The problem with this scenario is that you really only have a bunch of phones sharing a single-line phone connection to your service provider.  This is basically like the old fashioned POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) "party lines" where everyone sharing the same line can listen-in on each others conversations, just by picking-up an extension phone.  And, only one of the shared phones can initiate an outbound call at any one time.  If someone else is using one of the expansion phones, then you have to wait until they are finished in order to make you own call.

Thus, if you want to allow multiple stand-alone phones in your house, or SOHO (Small Office - Home Office), you may want to consider opening multiple accounts with your VoIP provider.

Multiple Phones - Multiple Accounts - No Sub-Accounts/Extensions

In this scenario, if you want to have multiple VoIP phones that can individually and independently make VoIP calls (without disrupting any other phone users on the premises), you will need to open multiple service accounts with your VoIP provider.

The downside of this scenario is that each VoIP account needs to have separate access and login credentials for administration. Separate email accounts may need to be associated with each account. And, each account will need to be separately funded.

Really, this is not the best solution unless you absolutely have no other options at hand.

So, what is the best solution for BYOD DIY VoIP enthusiasts like myself who want to connect multiple Softphones, ATA's, and IP Phones to a single VoIP provider and only maintaining a single VoIP service account?

To keep things relatively simple, and without getting into the realm of IP-PBX's, for me the solution has been to stick with VoIP providers that are able to provide their customers with the options of enabling multiple sub-accounts, or account extensions.

Multiple Phones - A Single Account - Multiple Sub-Accounts/Extensions Available

For years now, my primary and secondary BYOD DIY (and low-cost) VoIP service providers have been able to support sub-accounts or extension lines on top of their "main accounts".  As well, they do not charge any extra fees for doing so (That is a BIG BONUS in my mind!).  And, among many other reasons, this is why I stick with them.

Of these two VoIP providers, one calls them "sub-accounts", and the other calls them "extensions".

Whatever you like to call them, they essentially do the same thing, which is to enable me to connect multiple VoIP devices simultaneously, without conflict, to the same VSP (Voip Service Provider) under one main account.

The Essence of Sub-Accounts/Extensions

Sub-accounts will allow you to connect a multitude of standalone devices to your main VoIP account.

In the case of my VSP's, I create a new sub-account (or extension) for each device I wish to connect to through my main account.  Each sub-account, or extension, is assigned a unique SIP User ID, or name.  This usually consists of the main account number appended by an extension name, or number, depending on the VSP's requirements.  Then, each sub-account extension must be assigned a SIP password (preferably a very strong PW).  The unique SIP Username and Password combinations are required in order to register each individual VoIP device under their own dedicated sub-account/extension credentials.

Once each sub-account is created and configured for each VoIP device you plan to use, each of your VoIP devices must now be individually configured with the SIP Username and PW of the unique sub-account they will be connected to.

At any one time, I have connected as many as 6 to 8 VoIP devices to my VSP main account.  These devices range from Softphones on my PC's and laptops, to one or two Cisco SPA112/122 ATA's around my home office, a Granstream DP715 IP Cordless DECT Phone, a Cisco SPA504G 4-Line IP Phone and a Cisco SPA508G 8-Line IP Phone.  All these devices have been simultaneously connected to my main VSP sub-accounts at one time or other and able to independently make inbound and outbound VoIP calls without conflict.

Now, with the ability to create a multitude of sub-accounts and extensions, we are getting into the realm of BYOD DIY IP-PBX's.  But, that's another topic for another day...