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What is VoIP?
By: Loren Sanderson
Labeling something as "VoIP" means that it uses an IP-based method to facilitate communications. IP-based devices use Ethernet or WiFi connections to send and receive data. These same signals can be used for telephony, which is where VoIP is derived from. VoIP is actually an acronym for the longer term, "voice over Internet protocol."
The IP devices that use VoIP include phones, gateways and ATAs. Other equipment includes IP conference phones, VoIP-enabled surveillance systems, paging systems and more. Computers and cell phones can also be provisioned to work with a VoIP service.
All VoIP devices utilize your existing network infrastructure (Ethernet, wireless, etc.) to establish telephony.
That's a lot of information to process out of just a couple of paragraphs, so let's break down VoIP a little further.
Comparing VoIP & Analog
Let's compare a VoIP phone or IP phone to the traditional way we think of phones. They're plugged into a wall, you dial a number and then your call is connected. VoIP works similarly (but not exactly) to this when you use a device called an IP phone.
These traditional or older phones have an analog connection, whereas IP phones have an Ethernet or wireless WiFi connection to the phone system.
Basically, VoIP lets you use IP or Internet to make phone calls. Because of the more dynamic nature of IP environments, VoIP gives phone systems many more features and functions to use. For example, higher audio quality, connecting to voicemail or extensions from remote locations, and even sending texts or communicating via video.
By now you might be wondering, "well, what about my analog phones?" They are not worthless. VoIP gateways and ATAs let you connect your analog phones to a VoIP service or IP phone system.
The hosted VoIP service or IP PBX is where your telephony originates and terminates. Either method often saves businesses money when compared to the old method of paying an analog telephone carrier.
How a VoIP phone system is set up is a topic for a different article. It can get very complicated and there's many different configurations.
VoIP in Your Business
The point to take away from this article is that VoIP uses Ethernet and an IP-based connection to provide telecommunications. There are myths surrounding the reliability of this method, particularly because VoIP had a few rough edges when it was first introduced. Since then, VoIP has improved and evolved into the go-to means of telecommunications.
Most businesses with an existing Ethernet infrastructure can quickly integrate a VoIP solution because it utilizes the same network as your computers and other important IP-based equipment.