VoIP: Basics on what this technology transition means for commercial users

VoIP is the acronym for Voice over the Internet Protocol. You've probably heard of this technology and are aware that it represents a shift from the traditional telephony network. This technology is moving us away from the telephone network that has been the standard since the invention of the telephone. VoIP represents a different way of connecting telephone endpoints. It also represents a change in the signaling used to carry those voice messages to those endpoints. In a standard telephone connection, voice is carried back and forth via analog signals. With VoIP, the voice signal is converted to digital packets. Then, instead of being carried along what is known as the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), the signal is carried over broadband Internet. Traditional telephone circuits now become concurrent paths in this new world.

To provide some background, office and commercial telephone users generally have always had their own on-site telephone system that could switch and carry calls in and out of the location. This internal telephone switch–either a PBX or a simpler key system–allowed an organization to have a separate telephone extension for everyone who needed it without actually having as many individual telephone lines as users. It saved on fixed monthly telephone connections and allowed for some additional features, such as headsets and some limited conference calling (Conference calls over a PBX can be a bit clumsy to set up.) These PBX and key systems are primarily hardware based. They also require that the administrator responsible for telephony be fully trained on the procedures for re-configuring the system. They aren't plug-and-play. Making any changes to the internal configuration (adding an extension for a new employee or moving individuals to a different desk, for example) is not a simple task. For smaller companies who don’t have in-house IT staff, that means paying for an outside rep to come in whenever a change needs to be made.

Enter VoIP. This technology represents a major break from the PBX-centered world of business telephony. VoIP phone systems are primarily software driven, not hardware driven. They offer significantly greater flexibility and a wide range of new features unheard of in the world of the PBX. It is an important that every business begin to explore what VoIP could mean for flexibility, cost savings, and their ability to meet the expectations of clients, prospects and customers.