VoIP is one of the latest technologies creating a buzz…
How is Voice over Internet Protocol used?
VoIP is everywhere nowadays, it has gone from being a hobby for knowledgeable techies to being so ubiquitous that no one even mentions it anymore. A few years ago, switching to VoIP meant that consumers had to seek out a VoIP provider and specifically purchase a new number and line. Nowadays most households use VoIP even if they don’t realize it – they may simply be getting the service from their traditional carrier but it is still VoIP nevertheless.
The consumer VoIP market may be huge but the real growth is now happening in the business segment. Over the years, organizations woke up to the fact that traditional phone plans were costing them thousands of dollars needlessly. Additionally the old school enterprise systems could not adapt to the realities of modern business workflows.
Gradually at first and then more quickly, companies started upgrading to VoIP i.e. Voice over Internet Protocol. VoIP offers scalability, flexibility and a whole slew of innovative features that could not have been implemented over the older PSTN.
But what is VoIP exactly?
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and that’s exactly what it does – the technology allows for voice calls to be transmitted over the Internet and other data networks instead of traditional copper lines. To the actual user, there is not much of a change when it comes to making or receiving calls. Any person just has to pick up the receiver and dial a number as usual. But underneath it all, the technology and the infrastructure is completely different.
VoIP can be implemented via a variety of protocols but the most common and widespread is SIP. The Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) takes care of starting the session, setting the parameters, determining what media and channel will be used, ending the session etc. These functions are called signaling and can be implemented with other protocols as well. In addition to SIP, several other standards such as RPP, SRTP, MGCP may also be involved.
Why is VoIP so inexpensive?
Enterprises use VoIP to provide voice calling for their internal and external communication needs. With PSTN calls, operators used to charge different rates for internal communications and external calls but both would have to be paid for. With VoIP, calls between employees in the same organization are completely free irrespective of where they are actually located.
The reason behind this is simple – internal calls only travel over the enterprise data network which the company is already paying for separately. This means the VoIP provider does not have to pay any termination charges and the savings are passed on to the client. This is also the reason why international calls are extremely inexpensive. Since the call travels for the most part over the public Internet, it does not incur any costs. Only the portion where it travels over the PSTN is charged for.
VoIP can be deployed in a variety of ways. Larger organizations generally prefer to design and deploy their own implementation using SIP trunks while smaller businesses go with hosted VoIP services, although it is not a hard and fast rule. Increasingly even multinational corporations are choosing hosted VoIP to power their communication systems as it is easier to set up, maintain and upgrade.
Hosted services are especially useful in particular situations such as when the workforce requires mobility, a large percentage of employees telecommute or work remotely, temporary offices, construction sites etc. Many vendors offer native applications for mobile devices, making it easier to extend phone services in places where physical wires would not be feasible or practical.
How can VoIP be useful?
Switching to VoIP is almost always a more cost-effective option with many organizations saving hundreds or thousands of dollars on a monthly basis. It can be a boon to companies facing financial hardship or an economic recession, although even successful businesses would not say no to a technology that offers them significant cost benefits.
VoIP is also used to improve employee productivity and collaboration between multiple offices, teams and project groups. The technology enables useful functionality like presence information, group audio calling and video conferencing so that individuals or teams can easily stay in touch without fear of interrupting important tasks. Instead of wasting time in conducting meetings where not much work gets done but people still have to take the time to attend, a simple video or audio conference can resolve issues much more quickly.
Another unique feature of VoIP is its ability to integrate easily with other enterprise applications. It means that VoIP is often used as a bridge between other forms of media such as allowing customers to directly call a business from its website, enabling sales agents to contact clients from within Salesforce etc. Such features were simply not possible over the PSTN as it did not use Internet protocols. There are many other ways in which VoIP can be utilized by organizations and its role is constantly changing as new innovations are put forward to clients.
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