A softphone (software telephone) is an application program that enables voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone calls from computing devices. In the enterprise, softphones are sometimes referred to as soft clients.
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Most softphone applications work in conjunction with a headset and microphone, a specialized VoIP phone (sometimes called a hardphone) or by using a device called an analog telephone adaptor (such as magicJack) which enables VoIP calling from a standard telephone handset.
Although softphones are most often associated with mobile or home users, office workers are also choosing to use softphones as a convenient replacement for traditional desk phones. This can be problematic for network administrators because the traffic generated by softphones has the potential to flood a network.
In many cases, the network management system cannot differentiate traffic generated by a softphone from traffic generaged by other software applications. To complicate things, sometimes IP phones use the same protocols as softphones and compete with each other for bandwidth.