With its long history and deployment to every corner of the globe, Internet Protocol (IP) is increasingly viewed as more than just a way to transport data, but also as a tool that simplifies and streamlines a wide range of business applications.
Telephony is the most obvious example, with voice over IP (VoIP) and IP telephony becoming increasingly popular with large corporations to consumers alike. However, VoIP is also the foundation for more advanced unified communications applications that can have an increasingly transformative effect on the way organizations do business.
Understanding the terms is a first step toward learning the potential of this technology:
VoIP refers to a way to carry phone calls over an IP data network, whether on the Internet or an organization's own internal network. One of the primary attractions of VoIP is its ability to help companies reduce expenses because telephone calls travel over the data network rather than the phone company's network.
IP telephony encompasses the full suite of telephony services enabled by VoIP, including the interconnection of phones for actual communications; related services such as billing and dialing plans; and basic features such as conferencing, transfer, forward, and hold. These services might previously have been provided by a private branch exchange (PBX).
IP communications evolves the concept another step to include business applications that enhance communications to enable applications such as unified messaging, integrated contact centers, and rich-media conferencing that combines voice, data, and video.
Unified communications takes IP communications a step further by using such technologies as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and presence along with mobility solutions to unify and simply all forms of communications, independent of location, time, or device. Users can reach one another at any time based on their preferences, and can communicate through any media using whichever device they prefer. Unified communications brings together multiple phones and devices, along with multiple networks (fixed, Internet, cable, satellite, mobile) to enable geographical independence, facilitate the integration of communications with business processes, streamline operations, and improve productivity and profitability.
Public Internet phone calling uses the Internet for connecting phone calls, especially for consumers. But most businesses are using IP telephony across their own managed private networks because it allows them to better handle security and service quality. Using their own networks, companies have more control in ensuring that voice quality is as good as, if not better than, the services they would have previously experienced with their traditional phone system.