How many times have you called your VoIP or IT provider for help only to find you feel like you are speaking two different languages? Well, in a way you are. Your VoIP provider is using technology terms that they take for granted you already know. This is something we take into account at Mercury Communications of Austin and will ensure that you know what is going on with your system and how we can help. To start, we’d like to explain three common technology terms that you need to understand to know what services you are receiving and how they benefit your business.
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
A good majority of people, when they hear the term VoIP, automatically think about a cloud or hosted phone system, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, which is simply a language that technology hardware uses to speak to one another. With that understanding, a VoIP phone system can either reside locally in an office (usually referred to as on-premise or “on-prem”), or can be hosted in the cloud.
An on-premise VoIP phone system can still utilize your standard analog phone lines, a PRI or even SIP trunks to provide the dial tone service. The phone system then utilizes a company’s internal data network to connect all of the phones back to the phone system. That utilization of a company’s data network is what would classify the system as a VoIP system since it is using the IP data network to communicate between the phone system and the telephone endpoints.
As opposed to an on-premise phone system, a cloud or hosted VoIP phone system does not have any hardware at an office except the phones themselves. The phone system software resides in a data center somewhere (usually) in the country. The voice traffic for phone calls is delivered over the internet from the data center to the office using SIP trunks.
We’re not here to debate which solution is better (that’s a blog for another time), just to educate business owners and decision makers on what VoIP actually is. The next time a vendor starts discussing a VoIP phone system with you, make sure to ask him or her whether it’s an on-premise VoIP system or a hosted phone system.
Managed Service Provider or MSP
MSP stands for Managed Service Provider, which is a company that manages your IT needs as part of a monthly service agreement. The benefit of this is that instead of a traditional break/fix model of IT company, where your vendor is hoping something goes wrong with your network or hardware, an MSP provider puts tools in place to monitor your network and take care of issues proactively. For a fixed fee per user, an MSP provides features such as desktop support, patching, backup and network administration.
Again, the big benefit of an MSP, as opposed to a break-fix IT company is that your MSP doesn’t want you to have problems – that’s costlier for them. A good MSP will also provide a company with a vCIO (Virtual Chief Information Officer), to not only help a company’s network and computers run smoothly but to also help advise on the direction a company should be moving when it comes to technology and networking. This vCIO should be sitting down with the business owner on a quarterly basis to discuss the current status of the network, what has taken place over the last quarter, and what should be implemented moving forward.
Session Initiation Protocol or SIP Trunks
SIP trunking (Session Initiation Protocol) is becoming an ever more popular method of voice communication, even displacing PRIs and analog phone lines. What exactly is a SIP trunk, and what are its benefits versus a PRI or analog lines?
Back in the days when Mercury Communications of Austin started, analog lines were really all that there was for telephone lines. These were typical phones lines, just like you would use in your house, so if a business wanted multiple phone lines, then multiple physical cables would need to be installed and connected to the phone system. There weren’t, and still aren’t, a whole lot of features on an analog line, and the quality isn’t quite as good as a digital or IP signal. As companies such as AT&T continue to phase out copper lines, the cost of analog phone lines continues to rise, usually hovering around $30-$45 per line.
Years later, PRI (Primary Rate Interface) technology was developed, which is a digital signal, as opposed to analog. Instead of having a separate cable run for each phone line, a PRI can handle up to 23 channels (phone lines) on a single cable. This technology allows companies to have additional features, such as DID (Direct Inward Dial) numbers, and automatic forwarding in the case of line failure. If a company needs all 23 lines, then it is also a much more cost-effective solution than getting 23 analog lines, as a PRI will usually range from $350-$450 for a full PRI.
The latest technology in phone lines is SIP trunking, which is phone lines being delivered over your internet connection. As internet speeds and reliability continue to increase, popularity of SIP trunks has continued to increase. They are much more cost-effective than other options (usually ranging from $15-$20 per line), and can be added in individual increments (as opposed to a PRI, where you have to get all 23 channels). The downside to this is your phone lines are tied to your internet connection, so if your internet connection goes down, then your phone lines also go down. Depending on your provider, SIP trunks usually have the ability to be auto-forwarded to a cell phone, in the event of this happening, however.
Now that you know a bit more about three common technology terms, the main thing is to find a company that can assist you with all three, which is where Mercury Communications of Austin can assist. We can provide you with either an on-premise or hosted VoIP system, we can provide you with MSP services, and we can provide you with SIP Trunks. If you would like to learn more about any of these options, please contact us right away!