What options do businesses have when considering VoIP telephony? What major types of VoIP systems are available?
When thinking of a VoIP system, there are two basic elements. First is the VoIP service, which runs over a data network, much like legacy telephony runs over the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The second element is the phone system, which often takes the form of an IP private branch exchange (IP PBX). Different partners will provide each of these components, either as separate pieces or as a complete solution or "VoIP system."
With VoIP, the starting point is the service, which you will usually get from a telecom provider. This could be your incumbent carrier, but it could also be a competitive operator, such as a competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) or a cable operator. There are dozens of competitive operators in the market who specialize in VoIP telephony for business.
For the phone systems, there are two basic options. The most common scenario is to keep using your existing phone system. Legacy systems are built to last, and it's hard to justify swapping them out for more modern phones if they're still working well. To make these phones compatible with VoIP, you need to add an adapter to "IP-enable" these phones. These adaptors aren't expensive and will help in two ways. First, they allow you take advantage of VoIP right away, without making any big changes. Second, you can keep using your legacy phones until they're ready for replacement.
The second type of phone option is to use IP-based phones, which natively support VoIP. These can take the form of a full-fledged IP PBX system, or less costly standalone IP phones that will work from any broadband connection. With this range of choices, there are VoIP system options for any size business with any type of existing configuration.
This was first published in January 2013