How to talk to telephone suppliers


Date: 26 July 2011

Old telephone representing telephone jargon

If your phone system looks like this, it's time to upgrade. (Photo: Clemson on Flickr.)

There is no doubt the internet is a vital tool for today’s businesses, but there is more to it than emails and websites.

Using the internet for your phone line can save you a lot of money on calls and line rental, while also providing more flexibility and remote working options.

However, the world of internet telephones is one full of confusing jargon. So, what does it all mean?

  • VoIP: A phone call made using the internet. VoIP (voice over internet protocol) sends your phone conversation across the internet instead of using the traditional phone network. VoIP calls are usually cheaper and - because there's no physical phone line - allow you to direct telephone calls to wherever you happen to be.
  • PBX: This stands for private branch exchange, which is basically your entire business phone system. A PBX is the exchange that allows you to make and receive internal and external calls. A PBX can either be server in your office, or a server that you rent from another provider and access over the internet.
  • Codecs: A codec – short for coder-decoder – converts the sound of your voice into a digital signal which can be sent across the internet as a VoIP call.
  • SIP: Session initiation protocol, which is basically the way two systems talk to each other in order to handle a telephone call. For example, if two VoIP users need to call each other, SIP makes sure those systems talk the same language, so they can make and receive calls.
  • Unified communications: A system that combines multiple communication methods into one. Most unified communications (or 'unified comms') systems are like normal phone systems, but with added extras. These might include the ability to direct calls to wherever you are, to send instant messages or to access voicemail on the internet.

Peter Gradwell is a MD at Gradwell.

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