VoIP is shorthand for a telecommunication technology called Voice over Internet Protocol, and it’s a modern alternative to traditional phones. For a century or so, landline telephone systems have carried voice data over a network called the public switched telephone network (PTSN). VoIP, on the other hand, allows voice calls to be transmitted over the internet. Your VoIP phone is simply a node on the internet with an IP address, much like your desktop computer.
Although VoIP phones work over the internet, they behave almost exactly the same as traditional landline phones – they use area codes and phone numbers, not usernames or passcodes.
It’s also worth noting that even though your smartphone is an internet device and uses the cellular network to connect to the internet, phone calls you make with your voice plan are not VoIP – instead, cellular calls are transmitted using the voice cellular network. This is why most plans track voice and internet data usage separately.
How VoIP works
To use Voice over IP, you generally need a dedicated VoIP desktop phone (usually called an IP phone) which, instead of plugging into a phone jack, connects to the internet – usually by plugging into an internet router with an Ethernet cable or another form of high-speed internet connection.
To enable the phone, you need to subscribe to a service plan with a VoIP service provider. Generally, businesses have VoIP accounts which are substantially less expensive than traditional landline phone plans.
When you dial a phone number using a VoIP phone, the phone sends packets of data to the internet, which is transmitted much like any other kind of internet data. The VoIP service provider sends the data from your phone to the phone that was dialed, where the data arrived and is turned back into audio information.
In a perfect world, there would be no need for safes to exist. In this magical place, thieves would never break into our homes or workplaces, fires would never break out, and we would never simply misplace a priceless family heirloom or, say, a birth certificate. In the real world, safes are a necessity for any home or business that cares about protecting valuables against theft, damage, or loss.
And they’re nothing new, by the way.
Archaeologists have discovered safes in ruins all around the world and in many a sunken ship. One ancient safe unearthed in Nanjing, China dates back to the Han Dynasty, meaning it may be more than 1,200 years old. In the year 1835, a company called Chubb Locks began producing the first modern safes. Today known as Chubbsafes, the company remains in business. But now they have a lot of competition, which is good news for anyone on the hunt for a good safe.
In fact, there are quite a few safes to choose from, of varying styles, sizes, and prices. We’ve done the work of narrowing down the best safes for every type of need.
Thanks to the low cost of this line of safes, now you can enjoy the same level of security that hotels offer in your own bedroom, office, or anywhere else you need to keep valuables under lock and key. Or, in this case, keypad. The safe is operated using an easily programmed numeric touchpad, though a backup key can open it as well.
Inside the Security Safe, you’ll find a shelf splitting the storage space into two sections, the bottom one being carpeted to protect against scratches. This design makes the safe ideal for a couple that shares it, or for keeping items separated and sorted. You could use the lower half for jewelry and watches, while the top shelf could hold cash, documents, or even a firearm.
The AmazonBasics Security Safe comes with mounting hardware included, so you can easily bolt it to the floor, the wall, a shelf, or anywhere else you want to secure it. Just note that while rugged and durable and a great way to protect possessions against theft, this safe is not rated as waterproof or fireproof.
The best lockbox-style home safe
The affordable, compact SentrySafe Fire Resistant Chest will bring much-needed peace of mind, as it’s fire-resistant, durable, and small enough to tuck out of sight or even bring with you during travels.
Pros: Fire resistant, compact and easy to conceal or transport, easy to use key lock
Cons: Easily carried off by thieves
A dedicated burglar is going to eventually break open the SentrySafe Fire Resistant Chest. It’s not a Fort Knox level security device. And in fact, a criminal with half a brain is just going to carry the thing away and crack it open later. So if you need a super-secure, 100% fail-safe device to protect priceless diamonds or ancient artifacts or something, look elsewhere.
If you need a place to keep some cash, passports, a few pieces of jewelry, and some irreplaceable mementos, this affordable lockbox is a great choice. This is why my wife and I keep one of these very safes tucked away in a place that will go unmentioned.
The SentrySafe Fire Resistant Chest is, as the name suggests, fire-resistant. It can protect its contents from blazes reaching temperatures as high as 1,550 degrees Fahrenheit for more than a half-hour, and this fire resistance is the primary reason we use one, in fact. But while not amazingly strong, the key-operated lock is certainly tough enough to deter a quick breaking attempt by a thief, and it will absolutely defeat the attempts of curious kids.
As the safe is small enough to be readily portable — it even has a handle — it can come along with you, serving to protect valuables in a car, in a hotel, or wherever else you want to keep things secure and safe from fire.
Pros: Concealable, cannot be removed from premises, features three shelves
Cons: Installation required, not fire-resistant
A good safe keeps valuables protected because it’s difficult to break open. A great safe keeps things, well, safe because it’s not only hard to open but hard to even locate in the first place. With a bit of effort (or the assistance of a handyman), the Paragon Lock and Safe 7700 Flat Electronic Wall Safe can be installed in your home or business, and it will lie nearly flush with the wall once in place.
It can be covered with a framed piece of artwork, a mirror, a sign, or anything else, really, and therefore avoid detection by anyone with ill intentions. Even once located, the unit still provides more protection than most compact safes simply because it can’t be carried away unless the burglar has the time and tools to cut away a large section of the wall. Which probably won’t be the case.
The Paragon Lock and Safe 7700 Flat Electronic Wall Safe features a keypad that can be programmed with codes as short as three numbers or as long as eight, and the keys are lighted for easy use in the dark. The safe requires four AA batteries to operate, and a low battery light tells you when it’s time for new ones. It can also be opened with a key.
Pros: Amazing fire resistance, too heavy to be carried away, spacious interior
Cons: Combination cannot be changed, very expensive
Yes, the Steelwater Gun Safes’ 2-Hour Fireproof Safe is quite expensive. But when it keeps your valuables safe during a fire that rages on for more than two hours, it will have paid for itself many times over. And when a burglar is unable to open the solid steel door or carry off the 115-pound safe, same story. This is a great example of getting what you pay for, which in this case is great quality.
In order to be considered fire-resistant, a safe has to be able to protect its contents against extreme heat for at least a half-hour. The Steelwater Gun Safes’ 2-Hour Fireproof Safe beats that four times over, offering amazing fire resistance.
Just make sure to fill the anchor hole on the bottom with fire-resistant caulking if you’re not using it to bolt the safe down. Inside you’ll find an adjustable and removable shelf and a slide-out top drawer, making organizing your protected possessions easy.
Opening the safe requires coordinated use of the combination lock and a key, so it’s not a great choice for super fast access if you’re storing a firearm, but that locking system adds even more security against theft. The combination is pre-set and can’t be changed, however, so be careful with whom you share it.
The best covert home safe
The JSSMST Book Safe with Lock hides in plain sight, tucked away among the other books on the shelf without drawing any attention.
Pros: Covert design hides in plain sight, good price, comes in several colors
Cons: Relatively weak lock
Once a thief figures out that the JSSMST Book Safe with Lock is indeed a safe, the jig is up. It’s easy to carry this dictionary-sized lockbox away, and its lock will be easily pried open by anyone with a bit of determination. But here’s the thing: The safe looks like a dictionary, so the chances of a burglar locating it as they race through your home are quite low.
The combination lock is, however, likely enough to ward off a nosy roommate or a kid looking to find something you’d rather remain unfound, like keys or cash.
The JSSMST Book Safe with Lock comes in three different colors, so you can choose a “book” that will best blend in on the shelf. The interior of the safe is large enough for cash, passports, small electronics, and jewelry or watches. Plus, the lockbox’s price tag is small enough for any budget.
What to look for in a safe
If you’re in the market for a safe, you’ll need to consider several factors, such as:
Type of protection needed: When considering the best small safe to buy for your home or office, first think about the type of protection you need. If you live or work in an area known for high rates of property crime, you need to buy a unit that can resist safe cracking attempts and that can be secured in place. Even the best locking system in the world won’t do you any good if the whole safe has been carried off. If you are primarily concerned about protection against fire and/or water damage, then look at safes based on their rated duration of fire resistance, which will usually be an hour or so, but can reach up to and past four hours with top quality hardware. Finding a fully waterproof safe should be simple, but check to make sure the option you’re considering resists other environmental factors.
Location: Next, think about where the safe will be. Must it be small enough to fit on a closet shelf or under the bed? Are you going to stick it in the corner of an office in relatively plain view? And do you have a place to put your safe where you can secure it to the floorboards or wall studs? Where you’re consider storing your safe will determine the size and type of safe you’ll want to buy. For small spaces, we recommend a covert or lockbox-style safe. If you have the room, a floor or wall-mounted safe will offer some more protection.
Price: Small safes vary widely in cost based on the level of protection offered. And while there’s no reason to buy a safe that offers much more security than your situation merits, don’t go for a cheaper option that might not be up to the task: If it’s swiped, breached, or burned through, those pennies saved will lead to untold dollars lost, not to mention diamond rings, deeds, and your grandma’s wedding pictures.