Thursday, December 21, 2006

Internet Telephony vs. IP Telephony – Why is Skype not a business tool

People tend to confuse Internet Telephony, Voice-over-IP, and IP Telephony. Even if you search the term on Wikipedia, they are considered the same terms, but in reality they are not.
In a nutshell, Internet Telephony is a service like Skype or Jajah. That is a service where you use a connection to the Internet to generate a call to another Internet connected end-point or legacy land-line telephone termination point. On the other hand, Voice-over-IP (VoIP) is the “action” of using an underlying IP network to carry Voice traffic on top of it. This could be using the Internet or any other IP network (e.g. a corporate IP network). Finally, IP Telephony is the term used for the “technology” of using any IP network as media for telephone calls. Here are some examples:

Cisco CallManager
When combined with the whole suite (e.g. IP Phones, MeetingPlace, Unity) Cisco CallManager is a true IP Telephony System. Every feature that can be done in a legacy PBX or Key System, is done at an IP level (call routing, messaging, conferencing, trunking). But in addition to that, the business benefits are much greater: lower operational expenses with toll bypass, lower total cost of ownership (that is the solution as a whole, in time, is less expensive), and an IP based layered model for building unlimited application services on top (e.g. Music-on-hold and ring tones, XML services, true high-availability with spatial redundancy, clustering, greater scalability, video, etc.)
One of the most common benefits is Toll Bypass. Whenever anyone talks about IPT or even Internet Telephony, Toll Bypass is what you are looking for: inexpensive long distance calls. Well, the key thing to understand here is that IPT is much more than just Toll Bypass. It’s the potential that the IP network brings to the communication system, through applications and design practices.

In summary, if you are considering moving to IPT for your business, look into this kind of solutions instead of Vonage or Skype. IPT systems are enterprise level solutions with lots of business benefits.
It’s a low-cost (free between subscribers) long-distance phone call system using your regular land-line or mobile phone as the termination points. That is, an Internet Telephony service. You tell the service what number you are calling from and what number you would like to call. The service then calls both parties and connects them.
Its target market is consumers who live abroad and call their home countries with relative frequency. It’s not meant for business, because it is an Internet Telephony service, with a stronger value proposition than Skype or Vonage. You need no special software in your computer to make a phone call, or any adapter. You simply create an account, and use your regular phone.

IP PBX or IP Key System
This is just a band-aid to an old technology. Some Key Systems and PBXs have special cards that you can use to connect it to an IP network. It is typically used for administration of the system and for H.323 trunks between key systems for toll bypass. They don’t build on top of a layered model as an IPT system, but instead attempt to offer some of the benefits.

In summary, if you are looking for a voice system for work, then choose an IPT solution like Cisco Unified Communications which brings IPT to the fullest and even expands it to video if you want. On the other hand, if you are looking for a service to lower your phone bill at home, contract an Internet Telephony service provider like Vonage or Jajah.

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