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What is VoIP?

Voice over IP conceptWondering about the latest communication models out there for businesses? Two communications tools you may have heard of are Voice over Internet Protocol ( VoIP) and Unified Communications (UC). Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably, but that really isn’t correct. This article will get you started on the fundamentals of what VoIP is all about.

VoIP is a pretty straightforward technology that you may have already integrated into your business systems. For well over a hundred years voice communication has been handled by the PSTN ( Public Switched Telephone Network). Voice was transported over copper wires, then newer materials, but the basics remained the same. Telephone signals (voice communication) were transported over public wires. With the rise of the Internet and the availability of broadband connections, an alternative technology developed to transport voice communications. Now, your voice “signal” can be transferred into a digital signal and then sent out over the internet to its final destination.

VoIP systems also offer the same PBX services business users expect, such as call forwarding, call waiting, voicemail, and caller ID. VoIP systems, since they run over the Internet and not a separate switched network, can start “talking” with some of our other communications tools. As a result, VoIP can offer instant messaging services, easier video calls, and voicemail-to-email translation. This last feature allows a voice caller to leave you a voicemail, which can then be transcribed into an email and sent to your inbox.

In short, VoIP is a technology upgrade that can send your voice across the Internet, not the PSTN, which can save you money. Its additional value is that by using the Internet, you can expand some of the features available, which can make business communications more convenient.

Why is VoIP the new standard for office telephony?

In the office and commercial environment, in-house Private Branch Exchanges (PBX) were on-site internal telephony systems that switched calls to individual users’ desks. A PBX allowed additional features such as 3-way calling and conferencing, and eliminated the need to lease a separate line for every single telephone in the office; since every line is never simultaneously in use, this cut down on fixed telephony costs. With VoIP, the PBX is replaced with an Internet version, and voice calls are shipped out over the Internet. If you haven’t already done so, it is likely you will eventually shift over to VoIP technology and abandon your PBX. At some point, your present PBX will reach the end of its expected life cycle, and the lack of available parts will force you into VoIP technology.

There are several advantages to VoIP that may encourage you to make the switch sooner. For instance,

  1. Moving phones and numbers to different desks, and configuring for new or exiting employees is dramatically easier and cheaper than with a PBX
  2. VoIP is much more flexible and customer friendly in the call center environment
  3. Voice conference calls are easier and of better quality than on a traditional PBX. They are also less expensive than using an outside provider
  4. The ease of forwarding to mobile devices is a part of good disaster recovery planning
  5. You will see a significant drop in per-minute telco costs (but not a complete elimination)
  6. A VoIP installation provides a good jumping-off point if you choose to transition to a more complete UC environment

As an aside, it is important to recognize we are referring to business-grade VoIP packages, not consumer-style applications such as Vonage or Skype. Last tip: Be sure to investigate the features available from different vendors who also offer UC systems, and be careful to select a VoIP service provider who offers UC services. So when that time comes that you choose to expand into UC, the move will be a smooth as possible.

Please contact us if you are interested in a demo or learning more.

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