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What is “The Cloud?”

The “Cloud” is software that is installed on a remote server somewhere in the world and you access via the internet. This is a shift from the past when you would purchase a piece of software and install it on a particular machine, and then access that software only from that machine at that particular location.

The Cloud allows access that same piece of software from any computer or device with an internet connection, opening up a whole new world in terms of productivity alone. Many of us are already using cloud-based software. Apple’s online storage account, Shutterfly, Dropbox, OneDrive are all examples of widely used cloud-based services.

What are the benefits of the Cloud?

There are many benefits to utilizing the Cloud including:

  • Flexibility & Accessibility
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Automatic Software Updates
  • Low Capital Expenditure
  • Collaboration
  • Remote Work Access
  • Security
  • Document Control
  • Competitive Pricing
  • Environment Friendly
  • Scalability

What is Hosted VoIP?

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a technology that works by converting sound into digital voice communication. Instead of sending and receiving calls over "traditional" copper landline telephone infrastructure, that information is instead sent over an active Internet connection. The way that voice data travels over the Internet in this situation is virtually indistinguishable from any other type of data, with e-mail being one of the more prominent examples. With VoIP, you have a wider range of options regarding who you can actually call at any one time. You can make computer-to-computer calls, you can call a cell phone, or a landline like you could in a traditional setup. 

What equipment will I need?

Unlike on-premise phone systems, VoIP systems do not require a lot of equipment since they are cloud based. A typical VoIP setup requires a router and a switch, but not always depending on the size of your operation. IP Phones can be utilized or with mobile apps, you may prefer to use your cell phone or computer to make calls. For any VoIP system to work, you need adequate broadband internet connection.

What is an IP Phone?

IP phones are digital telephones that connect directly to the internet via a router. These phones come in both cordless and corded models. 

What Are the Bandwidth Requirements for VoIP?

VoIP phone calls require a high-speed broadband connection. As a general rule of thumb, your broadband should be able to sustain an approximate rate of 80Kbps. However, if you want to use more than one VoIP line at the same time, then you should first make sure that your broadband connection can handle the additional calls. A good formula to use is 80Kbps x the number of phone lines = the sustained broadband connection speed that you will need for high quality calls. To check your current bandwidth, you can use an online tester like www.speedtest.net.

Do I need a computer to use VoIP?

No. With most VoIP service providers, you do not need a computer. You can just use the phone. You do need a computer if you are going to be using the softphone feature since your computer becomes the phone. You may also prefer to use a computer to manage your online account via an admin portal as it is easier to work on than a cell phone.

Can I make calls while using the Internet and my computer?

Absolutely. With VoIP, you can use your computer, be online, and use your phone all at the same time.

Can I keep my existing phone number?

Most providers will allow you to continue to use the same number when you start your VoIP service. If you want to keep your current number, ask about the process of porting (moving) it rather than starting with a new number.

What are my local telephone number options?

One of the greatest benefits of VoIP is that you can have a telephone number assigned to you no matter where your business is located. Businesses often want to have a local presence in many different cities with a local phone number for customers to call. Business VoIP service allows a customer to call a local number that can be directed to the company anywhere in the country. Businesses get virtual telephone numbers in local cities so that employees can call them without incurring long distance charges.

What about call quality on VoIP?

The quality of VoIP voice is typically better than or equal to the quality achieved by a traditional landline phone. Since most call quality issues are caused by network connectivity problems, as long as you have an adequate broadband connection you will experience crystal clear calls. Before you sign up for a VoIP service, you should test your broadband connection to ensure that it delivers the required speeds. 

What affects call quality and the causes?

VoIP technological advancements have made past call quality issues practically obsolete. But should you have a call quality occurrence, the following common issues should be considered: 

Jitter

VoIP technology works by converting sound into digital packets that are sent over an active internet connection. When data packets arrive out of order, you experience audio jitter which sounds like a stutter.

Choppy Voice

This is when the person you are speaking to can only hear about every third word of your conversation. 

Echo

This issue is when you hear your own voice talking back to you or when you hear the feedback of the person with whom you are speaking. 

One Way Audio

This is when a call is made and the caller can’t hear the other party but the other party can hear them.

Latency or packet loss can cause the issues above. The time it takes for a voice packet to reach its destination is latency; a delay causes call quality problems. When voice packets are dropped due to a congested network router or switch, or discarded by the jitter buffer, you can have packet loss.

My business might be moving offices. Will I have to buy a new phone system? 

No, VoIP phone systems are easy to move and change. As long as you have access to high-speed broadband, you can simply bring your VoIP phone system with you. All you will need to do is connect your computers and handsets at the new location, and you will be able to instantaneously start making and receiving calls.

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Telecommunications Glossary

API - Application Programming Interface.  An API allows two applications to communicate.  It's what enables data to be seamlessly distributed to different applications on different devices in different locations, and then updated and manipulated in real time.  They're at the heart of cloud-based Unified Communications.

Asynchronous Transfer Mode - A high-speed networking standard for voice and data.  It's typically used for private long-distance networks.  ATM utilizes fixed-sized cells rather than the variable-length packets Ethernet utilizes.  This makes it easier to manage bandwidth; however, it is typically more expensive.

Auto Attendant - Basically, this is a virtual receptionist.  Auto attendant allows callers to be automatically transferred to an extension without the intervention of an operator.  They typically have a simple menu system and are customizable.

Availability - Availability is based on the probability of a hardware failure, which is obviously bad.  Availability is determined by dividing the "mean time between failure" by the "mean time to repair" - in other words, how often things break down divided by how long it takes to fix them.  "Five nines," i.e. 99.999 percent, is the benchmark people often talk about.

Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) - this is a huge reality for most businesses today - their workforce is committed to using its personal smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices to access business information and applications.  On one hand, this is great, because it means employees can work anywhere and offers the promise of increased productivity.  On the other hand, data governance becomes a major issue.  A successful BYOD initiative requires a robust technology platform, good security and proper policy in place.

CALEA - The Communications Assistant for Law Enforcement Act.  This relates to electronic surveillance, which has been a very hot topic since 2013.  The act requires that carriers and manufacturers enable their equipment, facilities, and services to ensure that they have built-in surveillance capabilities so that federal agencies can monitor communications.

CPNI - This stands for Customer Proprietary Network Information.  This is the data collected about an individual user's calls, such as time, date, duration and destination number of each call.

Caller ID - Caller ID is used to allow the called party to see the calling party's name and telephone number before picking up the phone.

Click to Call - The ability to initiate a phone call from the contact list on your computer with the click of a mouse.

Cloud Communications - Voice and data communications over the Internet.  All applications, switching and storage are hosted by a third party outside the organization and accessed over the Internet.  With Cloud communications, there is no major capital expenditure for an in-house PBX system and ongoing costs are more predictable than with a traditional premise-based solution.

Computer Telephony Integrations (CTI) - Technology that enables integrated interaction on a telephone and a computer, such as click-to-call and screen pops.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) - software that manages all aspects of an organization's interactions with customers and prospects.  A unified communications solution can make a CRM system more accessible across an organization because it creates a heightened level of accessibility.

Denial of Service (DoS) - DoS attacks are favorites of hackers, criminals and other trouble-causing types.  A DoS attack is an attempt to make a network unavailable to its intended users.

Direct Inward Dial (DID) - DID is used for call routing.  Through DID, external callers are able to contact a user directly at his/her unique phone number.

Endpoint - An endpoint is an IP telephone, a softphone, or an analog telephone adapter device.

Extension - A standard extension is an individual user account on the cloud associated with a physical endpoint y a two to six-digit number.  A Cloud extension is not associated with a physical endpoint, i.e., a voice mailbox, etc.

Find me, Follow Me - Generally, this is used as a call-forwarding feature.  It improves worker productivity and customer service by ensuring that every call reaches the right person, regardless of where he or she is working.

Firewall - A key security feature that you've almost certainly heard of.  The firewall sits between two networks, such as a company's internal network and the Internet, and prevents unauthorized people from accessing the internal network.

Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) - This is exactly what it sounds like - the convergence of the fixed and mobile networks.  FMC solutions integrate cellular services with private communications networks, whether they are wireless or wired.

Frame Relay - A cost-efficient method of data transmission for intermittent traffic between LANs and between end-points in WANs.  They're less expensive than private leased lines because the carrier shares the frame relay bandwidth among many customers.  This can have a negative impact on quality, and therefore requires detailed attention to engineering the solution.

Hosted VOIP - Also called Hosted.  When we say "hosted" we mean that the hardware and PBX are hosted at an off-site location from where the VOIP telephone service is being used.  Many businesses are embracing Hosted VOIP because it provides them robust communications, cost certainty and future-proofing of their business, while eliminating major capital expenditures for new in-house phone equipment.

Instant Messaging (IM) - Real-time communication over the Internet using text-based messages.  Popular consumer-facing examples include G-chat, AIM and iMessage.  IM is usually a central feature of unified communications.

IP PBX - This stands for Internet Protocol-Private Branch Exchange.  It's a business phone system that delivers voice or video over a data network using IP.

IP Phones - IP phones plug directly into the network and perform analog-to-digital and/or digital-to-analog conversions.

IP Telephony - More commonly referred to as Voice over IP (VOIP).  IP telephony uses the IP network to carry voice communications, replacing the public switched telephone network.

ITSP - Internet Telephony Service Provider.  A company that provides VOIP services.  We usually break them down into Interconnects, MSPs and Carriers.

Jitter - Generally cause by network congestion, which can create timing issues for when packets arrive, thereby contaminating voice calls and creating poor and/or unacceptable voice quality.  This often manifests itself with "squawking" noises and other strange noises interrupting audio calls.

Latency - Latency is the time it takes for a caller's voice to be transported - packetized, sent over the network, de-packetized and replayed - to the other person.  Too much latency is bad, making for a disjointed conversation flow.  Ideally, latency should not exceed 100 milliseconds.  Geographical distance or a lower-speed network connection can cause latency issues.

Managed IP Telephony Services - Hosted services.  Typically, the end-customer business owns the IP PBX and related equipment.

Mobile Device Management (MDM) - MDM software secures, monitors and manages mobile devices.  It's used to enforce data and configurations for mobile devices, and includes the ability to lock or delete data from a lost or stolen mobile device.

Mobile Unified Communications (mobile UC) - A mobile UC solution seamlessly pulls together common telephony functions, voice, presence, chat, data, applications and other technologies from a smartphone or tablet.

Mobility Router - Allows users to make and receive calls from enterprise and personal mobile phone numbers by automatically selecting the best network (Wi-Fi or cellular) to optimize cost, call quality and batter life.

Origination & Termination - Origination refers to inbound calls or minutes from the PSTN.  Termination refers to outbound calls or minutes from the PSTN.

Packets - In VOIP, voice is converted into data packets that are transmitted over the IP network and then reassembled into voice by an endpoint VOIP device.

Packet Loss - Packet loss occurs when one or more packets of data fail to reach their destination, resulting in a metallic sound or conversation dropouts.  It can be cause by network congestion, distance and poor line quality.  Excessive packet loss is perceived as broken or missing communication.

Post Dial Delay (PDD) - The interval between dialing the last digit of the called number and hearing the ring back tone.

Presence Status - Or just "presence" for short.  This is the ability to see a colleague's presence status, whether he is in the office, away from his desk, etc.

Private Branch Exchange (PBX) - A term dating back to the days of switchboard operations, referring to an organization's telephone exchange.

Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) - The network of the public circuit-switched telephone lines, which allows any phone in the world to connect with any other phone.

Quality of Service (QoS) - A measure of the overall performance of the network.  It takes into consideration factors such as error rates, bandwidth, throughput, transmission delay, availability and jitter.

Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) - An IP standard for delivering audio and video over IP networks.

Reliability - Reliability is determined by calculating how often the system fails compared to the percentage of the time that the system is available.  The system should be available at least 99.999 percent of the time.

RespOrg - Stands for "Responsible Organization," the process of transferring "toll Free" telephone numbers from one carrier to another.

Service Level Agreement (SLA) - Part of a service contract that defines the level of service.  An SLA for voice quality typically includes call completion rate, PDD, and some measure of voice quality.

Session Border Controller (SBC) - Network device used to register, set-up, control and tear down VOIP multimedia communications sessions.  An SBC ensures that only approved traffic passed into the heart of your business.  An SBC also hides your internal network and your users IP addresses from the outside world, which provides additional security protection.

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) - SIP is a text-based signaling protocol used to control multimedia communication sessions over IP networks.  SIP handles call controls such as ring, hold, transfer, conference, etc.

SIP Trunking - VOIP service used to deliver communication services to a customer's SIP-based PBX or endpoint, usually to a publically routable IP domain.

Softphone - A softphone is voice software that emulates a VOIP telephone on a computer, smartphone or tablet.

Trunk Line - Trunk lines connect the PBX to a public switched telephone network.  With a Cloud-based solution, SIP trunks are used to make this connection.

Unified Communications (UC) - The seamless integration of voice, presence, chat, data, applications, and other technologies to improve communications, processes, and business productivity.

Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) - UCC integrates multiple communications channels to enable communications and collaboration across a company.

Unified Messaging - The integration of email, SMS, fax, voicemail and video messaging into a single interface which is accessible from a variety of devices.  It simplifies user experience because all types of messages are stored in one place.

Virtual LANs (VLANs) - Used to "logically separate" devices and departments on the same Ethernet wire.

Virtual Private Network (VPN) - A private network extended across a public network, i.e. the Internet.  It enables the sharing of data across public networks in a typically more secure and functional way.

Virtualization - Allows companies to consolidate servers, increase operational flexibility and deliver higher application availability.  Virtualization utilizes a group of servers in a way that allows for running multiple operating systems simultaneously on the same machine.

VOIP (VoIP) - Voice calls over the IP data network.  VOIP converts analog voice signals into digital data packets and supports real-time, two-way transmission of conversations using Internet Protocol.

WebRTC - Web Real Time Communications.  It is an emerging standard that gives web browsers Real-Time Communications (RTC) capabilities via simple JavaScript APIs.

 

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