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Translating Business VoIP Tech-Speak

November 06, 2008
By Michelle Robart, Business VoIP Editor

In order to find the right business VoIP service for your company, it helps to understand the common terms used by providers and vendors. With the long list of acronyms and terms used to describe business VoIP, decoding this other language may seem like a daunting task. However, in order to read between the lines, companies need to be aware of what all these words mean in order to understand the major pros and cons when making the network transition to VoIP.
To better grasp what type of business VoIP service you need, read on for the most commonly used words in the VoIP language.

One major benefit of VoIP is its ability to connect multiple callers on one conference bridge. This allows people working from home to not miss out on meetings held in the office, and enables group collaboration no matter where users are located. Thanks to IP audio conferencing, people can communicate with one another through their telephones, softphones or computers. IP audio conferencing relies on packet switching to transmit data from one point to another. Those in the market for a business VoIP service should be aware that every audio-conferencing solution does not offer security options to protect against network intruders. To keep audio conferences confidential, look for a VoIP network provider that protects its IP infrastructure with multilayered defense mechanisms.
 
Another VoIP term to become familiar with is bandwidth, also referred to as a data-transfer rate. Bandwidth measures the largest amount of data that can be transmitted from one point to another across a network. Usually measured in bits of data per second, bandwidth is important in order to create revenue, enhance productivity and maintain a happy consumer base. Before selecting a VoIP service provider, companies should know what their bandwidth needs are. The total amount of bandwidth a company can provide is based on its network connections.
 
A technology innovation that is getting more recognition in the news with the advent of text-to-speech (TTS) features on smartphones is Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology. Using a normal phone, IVR lets consumers automatically interact with a company’s communications system through a touch-tone telephone keypad or voice commands. Callers are greeted with prerecorded audio instructions and menus with further information or the steps needed to proceed. Specifically equipped to handle large volumes of calls,
 
IVR solutions were created to help manage large call volumes, and are commonly used to get information such as account balances. IVR can also be used to make outbound calls to provide details on appointments or bills that are overdue. One problem with IVR though is that many consumers just want to talk to a live agent, and get frustrated and annoyed when they have to follow lengthy pre-recorded instructions. Companies need to also allow their customers to speak with live agents when needed.

Tying in with IVR is speech-recognition technology, which allows callers to say words or phrases to control applications. For VoIP, speech recognition is used instead of a phone’s touch-tone keypad. For example, when calling in to get a credit card balance, the pre-recorded voice might say “what can I help you with today?”, instead of citing a long list of options for which you would press the corresponding number on your keypad – “press 1 for account balance; press 2 for next bill due date; press 3 to speak to an agent…”

Made up of data transmitted back and forth between two computers, packet switching divides a call into packets, which are then sent across the Internet one-by-one. As soon as all the packets arrive at final destination, they are assembled into the original call.

Business VoIP shoppers should also be familiar with H.323, a standard that defines how audio and video conferencing data is transmitted over IP networks. The International Telecommunication Union approved this standard in 1996. It enables users to take part in the same conference call even when they're using different conferencing applications.
 
Another common term to know is VoIP switches, which enable the connection of multiple phone lines to one Ethernet port. With VoIP switches, every telephone connected to the switch can make VoIP calls.
 
A protocol for Internet telephony, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) allows businesses with a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system to use VoIP. When a SIP trunk is connected to a traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN), companies can communicate over IP within and outside their own walls. SIP also enables businesses to rid themselves of their traditional, fixed PSTN lines and switch to PSTN connectivity through a SIP-trunking service. This creates one pathway for voice, video and data, providing cost savings and dependability.



Michelle Robart is a contributing editor for business-voip. To read more of Michelle's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Michelle Robart

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