Think of networks as similar to the highway system. There are high speed freeways, that's computer networks, and lower speed county roads, the telephone network. They exist at the same time in the same areas but serve different traffic needs.
While it’s true that analog telephone networks have been used to carry data via analog modems and that computer networks carry packet voice traffic, each of these networks was built for a specific purpose and they are generally incompatible. Technology advancements have now made the gravel roads of the analog telephone network largely obsolete.
They’re being replaced by high speed, high capacity LAN, MAN and WAN networks that easily transport voice, data and video simultaneously. Some use copper, some use fiber. Some even used repurposed phone lines for high speed digital transport like bonded T1 and Ethernet over Copper (EoC). It's the old low speed analog circuits that are on the way out.
Many companies still have two separate networks in-house. One for the phones and one for the computers. This is true even if the telephony connection to the outside world is handled by digital ISDN PRI trunks or packet based SIP trunks. The interface that joins these two technologies is the PBX or Private Branch Exchange, your in-house telephone switching system.
What’s wrong with this arrangement? After all, the facility telephone wiring has been in place for decades and is fully paid for. It works just fine for telephone calls and fax messages. Why go to the trouble of moving your phones onto the computer network?
There are a couple of good reasons why companies are combining or converging their networks. Having only one network to maintain is less of a staff burden. Perhaps you even have a separate staff to manage the telephones or an outside contractor who comes in and does this. Every time a phone is installed or moved, wiring has to be changed or the PBX system reprogrammed. You can’t just pick up a phone and plug it into a different phone jack and expect it to ring at the same number. The physical connections determine the address of each device in the network.
Contrast this with Ethernet networks that connect the computers. The address of the computer is contained within the machine, not a function of the network. You can pick up your computer and take it anywhere in the building. Find an Ethernet jack, plug it in and it will work just as well as it did on your desk.
The same is true of IP phones, which are telephones with a computer network interface. The IP phone or SIP phone looks like any other computer or peripheral on the network. They each have their own address assigned either manually or automatically. The network will find them wherever they happen to be plugged in.
Ease of managing moves, adds and changes is one big advantage of IP telephony. Another is that your phone can now perform more sophisticated operations than just taking and making calls. It is possible to integrate computer and telephones in a call center to work as a team once both are on the same network.
IP phones are the basis of VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol. In a complete enterprise VoIP system, both the phones and the PBX, called an IP PBX, are connected to the LAN. The IP PBX communicates with your telephone service provider over a WAN connection called a SIP Trunk. Since you are free of the telephone company’s analog phone wires, you can get your VoIP service from any provider you can connect to via SIP Trunk.
One further advance is called Hosted PBX or Hosted VoIP. This arrangement eliminates the PBX or IP PBX at your location and replaces it with an IP gateway. A SIP trunk connects to a cloud-based PBX system that handles all the switching, both internal and external. You avoid the investment in expensive PBX equipment and the ongoing maintenance as well as any maintenance of old school telephone wiring. Your cost is a fixed fee per phone. Just add or remove phones from your network and pay for only those in service.
Are you ready for a modern business phone system? Get competitive options and pricing for SIP trunks and Hosted VoIP to meet your business needs.