Business Phone Systems 101

A SIP phone. What’s the difference between a SIP and a VoIP phone? See 5th point below. Use these terms to help the buying process.

Glossary of Terms

  • Protocol — This is your basis for understanding industry terms like VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) or SIP (Session Initiation Protocol). Protocols are shared standards for transmitting data packets among telephones, PCs, devices. Devices must receive and send data under the same standards.

  • SIP — This is a “signaling standard.” So this protocol initiates “sessions,” or multi-media communications experiences over a SIP phone, for example. These sessions can involve video or data in addition to traditional voice calls. SIP controls phone functions like ring, hold, transfer, conference, etc.

  • VoIP — This is the wider category encompassing many protocol technologies (SIP falls within this umbrella). These technologies deliver voice sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks by converting analog voice signals into packets of digitized data.

  • RTP — This is known as Real-time Transport Protocol a standard for delivering audio and video over Internet Protocol (IP) networks in real time.

  • SIP vs. VoIP Phones — SIP phones (which work over Voice over Internet Protocol) carry multi-formatted communications such as video, data, chat and voice. Today, most cloud- hosted telephone systems use SIP handsets. VoIP sets without SIP standards (such as some older models) will not work in a cloud-hosted environment since they do not have Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP).

  • PBX — An older industry term that means private branch exchange. It dates to the days of switchboard operators. It refers to an organization’s telephone exchange and equipment.

  • Trunk lines — These lines connect the PBX to an external public switch telephone network.

  • SIP trunking — This service uses VoIP to connect premise-based telephones to the internet. A broadband or internet connection replaces traditional lines, so don’t associate SIP trunking in terms of physical lines. SIP trunking can be used with just about any PBX system, including modern IP-based systems. Sometimes these older systems with PRI need an integrated access device (IAD) to bridge the PRI / T1 to SIP. This makes modern cloud-based communications possible.

  • Cloud-hosted PBX or Cloud-hosted VoIP — Same as “Cloud Communications,” these terms refer to voice and data communications over the internet. All applications, switching and storage are hosted by a third-party outside the organization or business using the system. No capital expenditure for an in-house PBX system is needed, except for the handsets themselves. Ongoing costs (monthly bills and addition of new handsets) are more predictable versus traditional on-premise systems.

Switching to Hosted Phone Systems

Studies show more businesses, especially smaller to mid-sized firms, have switched to hosted over recent years. Primary reasons include monthly savings with cost certainty, modern communications, flexibility with mobility, working remotely and future-proofing their systems. They eliminate capital or maintenance expenditures for in-house equipment as well, except for the handsets.

Before you purchase your next phone system, ask questions, Google the topic and get a list of telecom providers to evaluate. Of course, we want to be part of that list and have the opportunity to earn your business. We can prioritize your data network for voice quality and program your handsets so they reflect goals specific to daily call needs. To make this happen, we prefer doing an on-site survey.

This can benefit government offices serving tax payers, a busy restaurant or large organizations with multiple locations or call-center needs. It comes down to knowing your business goals then customizing your telephone solution to achieve specified objectives based on what you tell us.