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By Jack Bogle, Access Business Communications, Inc.

VoIP stands for "voice over internet protocols". It is a technology used to transport a normal telephone call (voice) using an established Local Area or Wide Area Network.

A good example of a practical application using VoIP is where a company has more than one site and regularly communicates between them, sending and receiving data traffic over existing inter-company data circuits. By having a VoIP, IP telephony solution, you could also use these existing data circuits to send and receive voice traffic between sites for no additional cost as if all the sites shared the same telephone system.  

Why is everyone talking about VoIP, IP Telephony?

As companies strive for greater efficiency and to promote the optimum in cost effective working structures, the chance to increase functionality and at the same time save money is an extremely appealing possibility. Communication systems are the life blood for most thriving businesses, and it can be a term used to describe a wide variety of methods that we use today.

Two obvious candidates for this category are telephony and our computer networks, and although we see them as crucial to our day to day activities, we have up till now seen them as separate entities. Great benefits can be gained if ways can be found to unify these two methods of communication from an operational point of view.  

Is VoIP the way forward?

VoIP is a here-and-now technology and will most certainly be the way forward in the long term. The benefits of using VoIP will be different for most companies depending upon their every day needs and business processes, but there are many generic benefits. Infrastructure that is comprised of a single network should lower installation and maintenance costs, minimize charges from network providers and in theory should make any office moves and changes easier to manage.

As working practices change for us all, more and more people are breaking away from the idea of traveling into the office and are taking up the idea of working from home or on the move. Home or mobile workers can take advantage of such things as unified messaging where voice messages delivered into their mailbox at the office, can be sent to them as an e-mail and replayed via their email client application.  

Quality of Service Quality of Service can be an important factor when considering a move to a VoIP solution. Unlike data, which is sent chopped up in packet form from one point to another, voice is a real time application and any packets sent containing it must arrive in the correct order and in a timely fashion if they are to be of any use at all. Any existing hardware and topography may well need to be upgraded and pre-planned to achieve an acceptable level.