How are VoIP and IP PBX Solutions?

Eric Altman
Sales Engineer at Vodia Networks
Vodia PBX

Two acronyms we are seeing tossed around a lot these days are VoIP and IP PBX.  Are they the same thing? They both have “IP” in them. Are they solutions? To what problems?  Do I need a solution if I don’t even see that I have a problem? Without understanding what VoIP and IP PBXs are, there is no way to know whether they are a good solution.  And even if they are, how do I get them? How do I know which company to choose? And what exactly am I asking them for? This article will help clear these things up, and help determine whether VoIP and/or an IP PBX can provide the solution that we need.

Let’s start with VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol).  In a nutshell, VoIP is carrying your voice over the Internet rather than a telephone line.  So when you are placing or receiving a call, the voice is converted to data, sent over the Internet, and then converted back again to voice on the other side.  

There are a few ways to accomplish this.  

One way to experience VoIP is to use “SIP Trunks”, where “SIP” (Session Initiation Protocol) refers to the protocol used to set up an IP phone call, and “Trunks” is just the industry’s term for phone lines.  Instead of voice travelling over traditional copper lines (trunks), SIP trunks would carry the calls over the Internet. And it’s worth mentioning that SIP trunks can carry calls initiated by analog or any phones as long as those phones are connected to an IP PBX.

Another way to use VoIP is based on the endpoint - referred to as a VoIP or IP phone. An IP phone is a device on your network, complete with a MAC address and an assigned IP address (either manually or through DHCP).  An IP phone can also be a “softphone” which would involve using a PC (or mobile app) to make and receive calls - an IP phone without needing to actually purchase a handset; using the speakers and microphone built into your PC or mobile device and an on-screen dial pad, calls can be made and received.

Both SIP trunks and IP phones need a phone system (IP PBX) to process the data.  The phone registers with the IP PBX, which in turn registers with the SIP Trunk provider.  So when a call is made, the voice and data go through the IP PBX where features can be added to the call - hold, park, transfer, conference, record, etc..  The IP PBX itself can be a proprietary physical piece of hardware, software loaded onto a server, or hosted in the cloud.

So are these solutions? Yes!  

VoIP phones are the standard in a hosted system.  Even if one decides to use analog phones, they are still connecting to the system with an ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) so that they can connect via VoIP.  And since VOIP phones can usually connect from anywhere there is an Internet connection, this provides a solution for remote workers. Another solution this provides is the ability to just have one wire to each desk in the office.  One ethernet connection is all that is needed since the phone can also be used as a pass-through to your PC for your Internet connection.

SIP trunks allow you to save money over analog lines or PRI.  They can be set up quickly and easily compared to waiting 30-60 days for Ma Bell.  You can order the amount of lines/channels you need with different pricing plans from metered to unlimited, and all for a better price than you would get for analog or PRI.  And combining IP phones and IP trunks, you get a clean pure IP system with less data/voice conversions going on, so better call quality and easier troubleshooting.

All this does run through an IP PBX, so that is a necessity to take advantage of the 21st-century technology that is available.  When it comes to choosing which vendors and carriers, there are a multitude of choices. For SIP trunks, find the carrier who can give you a plan that fits your business - metered, unlimited, x amount of minutes...  I assure you that they’re out there. Don’t settle for less if there are other options to explore. As far as the IP PBX goes, I’ve discussed what’s involved in the decision making process in some other articles that I’ve written.  The most important thing though is to ask the right questions and do the necessary research on a potential vendor and what their product can do for you and your business in terms of time-savings, better productivity, and improved business practices.