SIP, UC, telecoms are all words you might have come across intertwined with VoIP, but what on earth is VoIP? How does it relate to these other terms if at all As a business knowing what each of these means can help you determine which business telecoms solution is right for you, get it wrong and you could be wasting money using s solution you don’t need.

We take a look at VoIP what it is, how it can benefit your business and more importantly where other terms like SIP and UC fit in.

What is VoIP?

In its truest sense, VoIP aka Voice over Internet Protocol is voice communication over the internet rather than over a landline, how phones typically operate. VoIP simply swaps out a landline with an internet line to transmit audio – but the interesting part, is because VoIP phone systems rely on internet, they are cheaper than a standard telephone system, can be extended to video communication, and with the wide availability internet, you can make, take, have video meetings anywhere in the world, no boundaries.

Now that you know what VoIP is, with the rest of this guide you’ll learn some of the most important aspects of VoIP communication systems.

What are the benefits of VoIP for business?

Reduced Operational Costs

VoIP phone systems require no landlines so there’s no need for separate networks for phones and internet. Using a single network to carry both voice and data can offer significant cost savings especially if your current broadband is under-utilised.

Applications are fast-moving to the cloud and VoIP is no exception, there is not only the convenience of accessibility associated with the cloud but with cloud-hosted VoIP providers hosting and managing all the infrastructure on your behalf, there are no hardware costs.

Alon Cohen, businessman and entrepreneur, is considered the inventor of VoIP.

Free VoIP services

VoIP relies on good business broadband, the better the internet the better the call quality, with internet so widely available the cost of business broadband has come down significantly, having to pay for just a single, reliable network can be seen as freeing business from paying for two services.

VoIP providers will usually charge a monthly fee for their service and charges for outbound calls, but many VoIP providers offer call packages which offer free minutes and calls to certain networks.

Employee freedom

Mobile working is fast becoming the norm for business, it offers employees the freedom to work from anywhere, home, a different, office or even country. Employers gain from greater productivity, better decision making and a workforce that can span the globe.

Traditional phone systems cannot keep up with this change and are ill-suited to the way modern workforces operate. With VoIP phone systems, as long as you have access to reliable broadband, you can manage calls anywhere providing freedom and tremendous benefit.

Staying Competitive

Employees have a great reliance on web-based services to carry out day to day tasks, from email to instant messaging and video conferencing, having a communication service that works on this medium like VoIP enables more streamlined working and increased productivity. Switching effortlessly between voice, voice and instant messaging without leaving the web-browser or mobile-app is part of many unified communication solutions.

VoIP phone systems can be extended to include video-conferencing, text-based communication file sharing, group chat and even screen sharing; dialog360’s CISCO-backed unified communication solution can integrate with cloud applications as well such as Office 365, G-Suite, Salesforce.

If the above two points do not convince you of the benefits of voice over IP phone systems then bare in mind Openreach, the business which runs the telephone network in the UK will be phasing out ISDN lines, the type of telephone lines popularly used over the last twenty years. Stage 1 of the phase-out will be from 2020, customers will no longer be able to order new ISDN connections. By 2025 the second phase will be to remove the ISDN product from the Openreach portfolio entirely and so will no longer be maintained.

Faster, more reliable internet connections are becoming the norm with many businesses having already embraced VoIP solutions and the forward momentum only continuing. The need to manage and maintain old copper cables that have been in the ground for nearly 100 years is no longer viable, Openreach is now focused on fibre optic-based products.

The benefit of VoIP for businesses looking to the future is clear.

Using VoIP Boston City Council made a 41% savings over 5 Years

How do VoIP phone systems work?

VoIP business calls behave much in the same way as any other data that is sent over the internet, voice communication is converted into data packets and sends over an IP network. Since VoIP uses the same network as your internet data to transmit voice communication, there is no longer a need for traditional landlines.

Voice is turned into data

When VoIP calls are made the voice message is encoded into digital data which is sent down through the internet, at the other end of the line that same data is re-coded back to voice signals for the recipient to hear. The encoding and recoding process is achieved by software known as codecs.

Codecs enable communication data to be encoded and compressed small enough to be transmitted faster down the internet and then, re-coded back into large voice signals at the other end of the line.

Locating the recipient

When a user dials a number the data is sent to a call processor which translates the phone number to an IP address, every device on the internet has a unique identifier called an IP address. VoIP uses this unique id to locate the recipient of the call and connect the two devices, a call session is then established and the conversation begins.

Communication flow

Throughout the call data packets are shared through the normal internet infrastructure just as if it was managing an email or instant message: packets are encoded, delivered, re-coded back to sound, in a continuous process until one party hangs-up.

When the call ends a signal is sent to both devices which enables the VoIP processes to end the session and terminate the virtual connection.

Call devices

Making a call using a VoIP phone system is not dissimilar to a traditional phone system, VoIP uses IP phones which are VoIP compatible phones enabling a user to make calls but on a VoIP enabled phone system. Like traditional phones IP-phones sit on a desk and visually look very similar, some may have video screen to share video messaging but apart from that, they behave much the same way as traditional phones. However unlike traditional phones, IP-phones have an ethernet port on the back rather than a phone line port, this enables them to be connected to the internet router to send and receive calls from.

One device which really sets VoIP phones apart from traditional phones is softphones. These are apps which integrate with VoIP phone systems that are installed on a mobile phone which enable the user to make and take calls through the app via their mobile phone, as long as you have good internet wherever your mobile phone goes too does your softphone enabling you to make calls anywhere in the world.

This agility makes VoIP so important to businesses that want to be agile and forward-thinking.

CISCO positioned as a market leader in Unified Communications

— Gartner’s UCaaS Magic Quadrant 2019

Where does SIP fit into all this?

VoIP is a term used to refer to the general communication of voice over the internet, Skype, FaceTime, business phone systems are all classed as VoIP, however under-the-hood VoIP relies on other parts to function. To get the full multimedia experience one of those components needed is SIP which provides the ability to manage multimedia communication sessions, enabling the communication of voice, video, instant messaging and text.

VoIP is backed by SIP-technology but it does not have to be, there are other technologies that perform a similar function to SIP such as Skype, H.323 and SCCP. However, SIP has become the standard method for managing and controlling multimedia messages, which provides vendors the stability they need to build products supporting SIP and know it will integrate with any VoIP/SIP-enabled phone system, for example, IP phones, unified communication solutions that can provide feature-rich web-portal to integrate with your VoIP solution.

What do I need to get VoIP working?

VoIP business phone systems are now widely available in the cloud this means no more internal hardware or servers to manage or maintain by the business, so what do you need?

The first thing is a good business broadband internet connection, VoIP relies on the internet to send voice packets so it is essential to have reliable, fast broadband, not only will your data be using this but all your voice communications too (you can offload voice data to a dedicated SIP trunk). High call volumes demand higher internet bandwidth you will need to have at least 80 Kbps of upload/ download speed per concurrent phone call, your VoIP provider can determine what is right for your business.

The second thing is a phone to receive and make calls over VoIP. IP phones come with an ethernet port on the back rather than a phone line socket allowing the phone to be connected to the router. In addition, you can use a softphone for your smartphone or desktop computer to make calls from anywhere.

The final item you need is a good VoIP provider, partnering with the right provider can ensure seamless setup and integration but also good customer service that can deliver the ideal solution for your business.

What is unified communication and how does it fit in with VoIP?

Unified communication is a suite of applications that facilitate communication and collaboration, under a single unified platform they provide a rich, seamless experience enabling business users to go from one form of collaboration/ communication to another effortlessly, for example from instant messaging to an impromptu video call, from a voice call to a screen-share session, group messaging to sharing files between colleagues. unified communication provides a complete integrated way of staying in touch with team members however and wherever you are without barriers or limitations.

VoIP provides the communication part of a unified communication platform and is the first step a business take on their unified communications journey. A business will start by replacing their phone systems with VoIP, many providers will also offer some part of the unified communication experience. As a business grows unified communication solutions become more attractive, adding more and more features as they go and the need for increased productivity and streamline processes becomes more important.

Benefits of unified communication

Upgrading to VoIP phone systems is not a big undertaking and the benefits and cost benefits are easily and quickly realised with lower monthly bills and no equipment to manage. Unified communication solutions, by comparison, take much longer to realise and might not be as tangible. Benefits include faster decision making, streamlined workflows, increased collaboration and integration into 3rd party applications. Unified communications can prove to be more beneficial and offer a greater return on investment for a business than VoIP phone systems alone.

VoIP is not a direct competitor to unified communication, it is a core part. Due to its scalability and breadth of features not every business needs to go straight to it, a more measured approach benefiting from VoIP phone systems first then gradually adding more unified communication features can be more beneficial. Unified communication solutions are a long-term project and a business needs to be prepared for bigger changes.

Big business telecoms at small business prices