VoIP stands for “voice over IP (Internet protocol).” Sometimes referred to as “IP telephony,” “voice over broadband (VoBB),” or “Internet telephony,” VoIP describes communication serveries—voice, fax, voicemail, texting—that travel via the Internet, rather than the public switched phone network (PSTN, also known as “the phone company’s wires”).
Internet and telephone communication have been intertwined since the days when users dialed into the Internet via the legacy telephone network. As the Internet’s infrastructure became more widespread and robust, the relationship reversed as phone companies increasingly routed voice traffic through the Internet’s pipes and satellites. This works because, at some point in the path between sender and receiver, the signal is digitized, broken into packets, and transmitted over the Internet, just like any other web traffic like emails, websites, or instant messages (IMs).
You’ve probably used VoIP yourself, perhaps without knowing it. Is your home phone service provided by your cable company? That’s VoIP. Ever used Skype or Vonage? Also VoIP. Google Talk? Ditto.
If you have home phone service that gives you flat-rate calling across the entire country (i.e., no long-distance charges), you’ve already seen the cost savings that VoIP can offer. However, the potential cost savings to business are even greater.
A myriad of VoIP providers and options currently exist, each offering services and features tailored to businesses of various sizes and market segments. Since VoIP relies on the Internet to function, some potential pitfalls do exist (latency and other quality-of-service issues chief among them), and it might not be the best solution for every business.
To find out how moving to a VoIP-based telephone solution might specifically benefit your business, contact your trusted technology advisor.