VoIP systems introduction
VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) represents the latest in phone system technology. It allows voice calls to be transmitted over computer networks rather than traditional phone lines, making for significantly less expensive phone bills and allowing for new types of features.
VoIP has been touted as "coming soon" since the first PC-to-PC telephony applications were introduced in 1995 - but it's finally arrived. Recent years have seen the audio quality of business VoIP calls improve drastically, the technology grow cheaper, and business adoption surge.
There are two basic varieties of VoIP. The consumer variety employs a regular telephone, an adapter, broadband Internet service, and a subscription to a VoIP service. When a VoIP call is placed, it is transmitted as data packets over the Internet until it nears the recipient's destination where it is translated into a more traditional format to be connected over standard phone lines. Called Internet telephony, this version of VoIP often allows for less expensive long-distance and international calling.
The second form of VoIP, which will be the subject of this buyer's guide, is business VoIP systems. Intended for use primarily by businesses, a VoIP system uses special equipment to route voice traffic over computer networks. This way, remote offices can be united on a single phone system, providing extension-to-extension dialing and what is known as "presence" (the ability to see how another party is interacting with the system). It does not, however, replace your existing phone service for external calls.
VoIP systems can be highly effective for both small and large companies. In fact, as prices fall and reliability improves, VoIP for business will likely replace traditional phone systems altogether, which explains why so many internet protocol private branch exchange (IP PBX) manufacturers are familiar telecom heavyweights.