How VoIP Works With Unified Communications

How VoIP Works With Unified Communications
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So now before we go into the final thoughts, weíve talked about basically everything we need to talk about for Voice over IP, the final thing that I just kind of want to get into just a little bit though, is something called unified communications. So in the old world, we dealt with telephones. And then we came to Voice over IP. So basically as most of us think of it, Voice over IP is telephones but they use Ethernet and TCP/IP standards.
Well, the idea with unified communications is people are sitting down and they are saying, ìWell, if telephones are now basically computers and telephones can talk to computers and the Voice over IP server is a server, what else can we do in the computer realm to make communications easier and to make communications better? And this is where the idea of unified communication comes up. So basically what this is is itís kind of turning some of these things on their head and basically giving more functionality for communication. So now, since you can have a soft phone on your computer, the idea is why not install an Outlook plugin so straight from Outlook you can make a phone call?
So letís say, somebody emails you a message, instead of emailing them back, you can click on their name, your computer can now make a call through that Voice over IP server. When it connects, you hear the people or you hear the person you are calling through your speakers and you are talking to the person through a little microphone thatís sitting on your computer. So now, your computer is acting as a telephone. And not beyond that, you are actually calling straight through Outlook so you donít need any additional soft phone software out there.
Or the idea of letís say, while that conversation is happening, you can have Outlook actually transcribe and write down everything that is being said especially a lot of the people are worried about legal issues, what got said, when did it get said. If you have an audio file, itís very hard to go back and dig through all of that. If all of that gets written into a text file, you can do a Google search anytime you want to see when things are said. So while you are having this communication, the text can be transcribed.
You have probably already seen with unified communication where if somebody sends you an email, you can have that turned into an audio file and sent to you as a voicemail. So somebody sends you an email, a computer reads it, turns it into a sound file and then you get a little voicemail on your telephone, you pick it up and goes, email from Bob Jones, ìHello! It was nice to meet you today.î Thatís a function of unified communication.
Or the idea of if you donít want to get bothered with picking up voicemail and such, people can call to your voicemail. When the phone ñ when the call gets recorded on to the voicemail system, your Voice over IP server can turn that audio file into a text file. So now, you call in, you leave a message, the computer turns all of that into text and then emails it to you. So instead of having to call in and get your voicemail, you now just get an email sitting in front of you.
Other features that they are talking about is things like instant messaging. You deal with AOL or ICQ. And if you want to have an audio communication with somebody, they would have to be using AOL Instant Messenger or ICQ or such. Now, the idea is you will just have this one instant message in your client and if you want to call somebody to a normal telephone line , if you want to call somebody using a different type of system, you can just click on them and you will be able to make that call through.
These are all the concepts of unified communication. Like I say right now, this is a conceptual thing. This is where we are going to. This is where we are moving to. The idea is now in the past as we talked about before, telephones were silo-ed in their own world. Computers were siloed in their own world. They could talk a little bit but they really couldnít talk too much. Now that we are using Voice over IP, ìtelephonesî now reside in the same world that computers reside in. So now, how can we get them to talk? How can we get really cool information to go back and forth and just make everybodyís life easier? Itís a pretty cool concept and itís something you should keep your eye on.
So that was a class on Introduction to Commercial voip lines. Hope youíve been able to follow along with us pretty well. Again as I always say, this stuff is relatively simple as long as you understand whatís going on. We talked about the Voice over IP servers. So Voice over IP servers act like the old telephone system PBXs did. Like I say, I call them Voice over IP servers because these are computers that provide services to other computers on the network. As we talked about with the Voice over IP clients, every Voice over IP client is a full-pledge computer. If you know how to hack it, you can probably start playing Space Invaders. Even on a Voice over IP telephone, they are all computers. You actually can figure them by going into a little web server interface that resides on the little telephone or the device. Itís really true.
We talked about the hard phones. So hard phones are these Voice over IP clients that look like a phone. They look like a telephone but they are really a computer. But we call them hard phones because basically they are single-used devices. Although they are a computer, all you use them for is for telephone calls.
We then talked about soft phones. Soft phones are pieces of software you install on to normal computers like a computer, a laptop, a netbook, even an iPhone and that allows you to connect to your Voice over IP server and use that computer just like you use a telephone.
We talked about the gateways. So gateways are what connect the Voice over IP world to the normal telephone world. So like I say, you have normal telephone lines that come in. They come in to one side of the gateway and then your Voice over IP connection comes into the other side of the gateway. If you need to call to the outside world, that gateway allows that Voice over IP traffic to get to the outside world.
We talked about the protocols. Like I say, protocols are very important and if I havenít said it enough, just remember SIP, SIP, Session Initiator Protocol. SIP is a standard protocol that lots and lots of manufacturers and vendors use for their Voice over IP servers and Voice over IP clients. Again, you can mix and match devices and servers. You can put a Cisco Voice over IP phone on to an Asterisk free open source Voice over IP telephone server with the other manufacturers. Like I say, Avaya, Nortel, etc. A lot of them use proprietary protocols, which means if you buy an Avaya phone system, you have to buy Avaya phones. Thereís no ñ I have ñ itís my opinion, I have not seen any quality improvement. I have not seen any good argument on why you should stick with one manufacturer. Itís not like if you buy only from one manufacturer, the equipment is just so amazing. I mean all of the phones and all of Voice over IP systems are very good. So I would say just stick with SIP.
We talked about the codecs. So the codecs are the pieces of software that actually encode your audio communications. So this is what determines the sound quality and the bandwidth used when you are on a Voice over IP call. So when you pick up the phone and when you start talking, that codec is what turns your communication into the packets to get sent off.
Now again, when you buy a Voice over IP phone system, they will come with codecs and normally they are fine. Like I say, your free open source phone systems come with free open source codecs and by and large they are fine and therefore you really shouldnít worry about it. If you are noticing bandwidth congestion or if you are noticing other problems, there are proprietary codecs that you can purchase and install on to your Voice over IP server that have better performance. So instead of using 10 kilobytes per second, it will use 4.5 kilobytes per second. Again, most of the time this doesnít matter especially for small networks but when you are dealing with a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand users, that can really matter. Generally from what Iíve seen, itís about $5 per device or per client for these codecs. So thatís where you are looking at paying for.
We talked about the network latency and we talked about QoS or Quality of Service. Network latency is important especially when you are using a hosted Voice over IP service. So latency is the ñ how long it takes from a bit to get from where you are at to where itís going. So when you are talking to your mom, a normal telephone call, it is 45 milliseconds from when you start speaking to when she hears it. With Voice over IP, they say somewhere between 75 to 100 milliseconds is OK. Itís considered good sound quality.
If you have more than 100 milliseconds in delay between when you start talking and when they hear you, you start talking over each other because you start talking, they havenít heard you so they start talking. I know if you ever used a cell phone, you get this every once in a while where thereís just a mismatch in the communication so you start talking but they havenít heard it so they start talking over you and then you start talking over them and itís just a mess. So this is network latency. And then as weíve talked about a lot, a lot, a lot is QoS, Quality of Service and basically this is that your network packets are prioritized based on what type of traffic they are. So make Voice over IP traffic far more important than normal computer traffic and you will be good.
Finally, we talked about the overall idea of unified communications. So this is where everything is going. Since we are now at Voice over ñ we now have Voice over IP, so we have something ñ we are in something called convergence. We had a class on convergence. So telephones now use the network, TCP/IP network. You can now have computers talking to telephones and audio communication and you can get a bunch of really cool fancy things. You can get instant messaging systems that you can make a telephone call through.
So back in the day, you could do an instant message audio call where if youíre on AOL Instant Messenger and somebody else is on AOL Instant Messenger, you can make an audio call to them. Well now since itís unified, through AIM or through some instant messaging service, you can actually make a call all the way out to the outside world. You can call whoever you want. If you are sitting in Outlook, you can make a call straight through Outlook and the call will be coming through your computer speakers and you talk into your computer microphone.
So the idea with unified communications is everything gets unified. So again like I say is if you are looking at the Outlook scenario, we all know about inboxes, we all know about sent messages, etc. Now imagine if Outlook can actually record the phone call that when you are talking to somebody. So when somebody calls you, you would automatically record that phone call in a file and keep it in your inbox or if somebody leaves you a voicemail, that file will be sitting in your inbox. Those are the types of cool things that can be done with unified communications.

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