The magic is in moving the complicated switching equipment to a service provider who keeps it up to date, well maintained and easily expanded when your needs change. The name of this service is Hosted VoIP or Hosted PBX. The hosted part means that someone else provides the bulk of the telephone system and the connectivity to the public switched telephone network. What you have in-house is the telephones.
These aren’t just any phones. They are IP phones designed to connect to computer networks rather than plugging into a phone outlet. The electrical signals are completely different, but then so are the connectors. That little RJ-11 telephone plug? It’s been replaced by a fatter RJ-45 plug. Does it look familiar? That’s because this is the same connector used by most computer equipment. In fact, your telephone has become a networked device, just like a PC or printer.
In a typical hosted VoIP system, you have a converged voice and data network that connects to both your telephones and other computer equipment. There are no separate telephone wires. Convergence is the process of making sure that one network can handle the very different requirements of data and voice. Phone conversations are very sensitive to network limitations such as latency, jitter and congestion that don’t bother data transfers or Internet access.
Does that mean that there is a problem with having broadband Internet access on the same network with your telephones? Not necessarily. In fact, the best enterprise VoIP solutions have voice, video, Internet, file transfers and other processes running simultaneously without conflict. The trick is engineering QoS or Quality of Service into the network so that different classes of packets don’t interfere. Just plugging everything into the LAN and hoping for the best is going to cause problems.
One trick in making VoIP work for business is to keep the telephone service off the Internet but allow the two to co-exist otherwise. Why? Because the Internet is great for data connections and one-way downloads of media such as audio and video. It’s the instantaneous two-way nature of phone conversations that can get compromised on a network designed for one way transfers that take whatever time is required to ensure every packet is sent and received correctly.
There’s a service of special interest to small and medium size businesses called SIP Trunking. A SIP trunk is the broadband connection between you and your service provider. This is a private line connection that is engineered to carry both phone service and broadband Internet. The two share the line but don’t Interfere. They are split at the service provider’s end, with the phone lines going to the hosted PBX and the broadband routed to the Internet.
Would you like to have only telephones to deal with in your business and leave management of the telephone system to someone else? If so, then it pays to look into Hosted VoIP Solutions to get the features you want without the cost and complexity of an in-house phone system.