Six Examples of VoIP Technology
VoIP has become ubiquitous because of its cost-savings and ease of use. You might be surprised by the sheer number of different ways in which VoIP is being used. In this article, we look at examples of VoIP technology. Common to all examples is that a VoIP provider or server needs to be present. Small businesses and individuals will go with a VoIP provider because it avoids having to maintain a VoIP server.
A softphone is one of the most widely used VoIP technologies. It may be a stand-alone application or embedded within a larger communications app. The softphone is a software VoIP phone. If your computer has a speaker and mic (or a headset), you can use a softphone.
In addition to desktop softphones, there are mobile softphones. They work in the same way as their desktop counterparts - either within a larger communications app or as a stand-alone mobile app.
A Session Initiated Protocol (SIP) based phone is a stand-alone VoIP phone. Unlike like a softphone, you don't have to be at the computer to use it. These phones come with features that you find on most traditional phones:
- Digital display
- Caller ID
While features may be available on the phone, whether they are enabled or not depends on your VoIP provider.
At the heart of VoIP is the server. The VoIP server is what end users connect to. It supplies phones numbers and extensions to groups of users. Without a VoIP server, users would not be able to call each other internally (within a network) or externally (across the Internet).
Some businesses maintain a VoIP server, which acts as a PBX. Inside the company, all of its users connect to the VoIP server. The server has a one or more phone numbers, while each user has only one extension. The phone number plus extension allows an external caller to reach a specific user.
It isn't necessary to host a VoIP server internally. Instead, the server can be hosted with a VoIP provider, which is our next example.
Unified communications (UC) providers offer a suite of applications that are all tightly integrated. The application suite is delivered as a service to end users. On the provider's premises is all of the hardware necessary to run the application suite. This also includes a VoIP server.
Because most end users don't host a VoIP server on-site, they use what's called a hosted VoIP server. End users install the service providers UC suite on their workstations and are able to then use VoIP. The application suite may have a softphone included, but often there is a "call" button within certain apps. The call button engages with VoIP technology. In this way, VoIP is basically hidden from the end user.
Adapters and Bridges
A VoIP adapter works with a traditional phone. Connecting the phone to the adapter converts the telephone's analog signals into digital so they can be sent across the Internet. These adapters need to be plugged into a computer.
A VoIP bridge works like an adapter but does not require a computer and has higher voice quality than an adapter. Bridges must be plugged into a power source to work. If the power goes out, VoIP will not be available. There is often a failsafe that allows you to use your regular phone through the telephone company's service. You can put the bridge on a battery backup or buy one that has a battery backup built in.
Streaming voice data is very sensitive to any degradation in traffic. You immediately notice this during a call. Any kind of lag creates a sub-optimal experience. For this reason, voice data should be prioritized as high.
Most standard routers do not prioritize voice quality over other traffic. Streaming voice data ends up competing with file downloads and surfing. A VoIP router uses Quality of Service (QoS) technology to give voice data the highest priority. This ensures your voice calls sound like a traditional telephone call.
VoIP technologies span the range of simple softphones to complex VoIP servers and bridges. These wide-ranging technologies are a testament to how ubiquitous VoIP has become. All of them work to provide a high-quality voice call experience. Whatever use you have for VoIP, there's a technology available to help enhance your voice call quality.
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