What are the differences between a VoIP ëhardí phone and ësoftí phone?

What are the differences between a VoIP ëhardí phone and ësoftí phone?
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Now when we are talking about the devices and we are talking about clients, you are going to hear two terms said a lot, and that is going to be hard phones and soft phones. So what is the difference between those two things?
A hard phone is a telephone. It looks like a telephone. It looks like a telephone that you would think is a telephone. Itís grey or itís white or itís black. Itís has got little handset on it. And it is an actual device that basically all it does is provide telephone service or real-time audio communication service. So if you look at a Voice over IP telephone, it looks like a telephone.
A soft phone is a piece of software that you install on to a computer to allow that computer to provide real-time audio communications, Voice over IP. So a soft phone is a piece of software that gets installed on to a computer or gets installed onto your little iPhone, any of these computing devices. If itís not normally considered a phone and you install a piece of software on it then it is a soft phone. So soft phones are software that allow computer devices to act as phones. Hard phones are Voice over IP phones that actually look like phones. So if you walk up to it, if it looks like a phone, it talks like a phone, itís a hard phone basically. If itís something that you would associate as a phone then it is a phone.
Now, the next big thing to understand with the Voice over IP is these are all computing devices. So whether itís your iPhone, whether itís your computer, or whether itís this hard phone that weíve been talking about, these are all computer devices. The dumbest, dumbest, dumbest Voice over IP hard phone is light years ahead than any phone that ever connected into any of the original PBXs. So if you have a normal telephone, if you have a normal telephone that plugs into a normal PBX in a normal telephone system, that device is dumb. Thereís not a whole hell of a lot to it. If you understood how to put parts together, you could probably build one in your home, right?
A hard phone is actually a computer device that looks like a phone. So this hard phone is actually a computer and when you go in to configure hard phones, so these are phones that look like phones, you will actually do so through a web interface. So I use to love the Polycom hard phones. You would go to the IP address for that phone. When you open it up, there is a little web browser because that little thing is actually a web server and you would configure everything through the web server that resides on that hard phone. So like I say, these things actually do have brain power. These ñ even the hard phones are computers that simply look like phones.
Now, the final thing to talk about with these Voice over IP clients or devices because like I say, it can be an iPhone, it can be a computer, it can be a hard phone, it can be any number of things, is that these devices connect to accounts within the Voice over IP server. So in the Voice over IP server, you set up the user accounts like you would in most other servers. So if youíve dealt with Windows servers or Linux servers, itís kind of the same way.
So in this Voice over IP server, if youíre setting up letís say extension 105, you would say, ìExtension 105, the username is X and the password is X.î And then you would set a whole bunch of other configurations. So if you are configuring an account in the Voice over IP server, there are probably 10 or 20 different configurations that you can do. But the big ones to understand is that you plug in the extension, you plug in a username and you plug in a password.
Why I say these are the most important things is because for a Voice over IP client, you then go to the client whether itís the iPod or iPad, whether itís the computer or whether itís this hard phone, and inside, even the hard phone you say, ìThis phone is extension 105 with a username of X and a password of X.î This is very important.
In the old PBXs, everything was configured inside the PBX itself. With a Voice over IP (VoIP) server, you now have a client server connection so you create the user account within the Voice over IP server and then for the device that will be connecting, for the client that is connecting, you have to give it the information it needs to provide the Voice over IP (VoIP) server.
So what will happen is you plug in this information, extension 105 username X, password X. When this phone gets on the network, it will connect to the Voice over IP (VoIP) server and it will say, ìHey, my username is X and my password is X. I want extension 105.î And the Voice over IP will say, ìOK, your username and password are correct. Here, you are now extension 105.î So if somebody calls in from the outside world, the dial extension 105, they will now go to this phone. Like I say, itís all pretty simple. The same thing with the little iPhone. If you need extension 106, you will plug in 106 to the iPhone, username X, password X. And so if somebody called in for 106, it will go here.
The very important thing and this is where you have to be careful about with VoIP, itís not complicated, itís none of that, but understand, if you make a mistake and you put username Y password X or you do username X, password W, if that is not the correct username and password combination this Voice over IP server is not going to allow you to get the extension. So that is something thatís very important to understand. So with these Voice over IP clients, like I say, these are now clients, these are computer devices that connect to a Voice over IP server. Hard phones are computers that are built to look like a phone. They are still computers but they are built to look like phones.
Soft phones are pieces of software you install into normal-looking computers to make them act like a phone. So like I say , if you have a normal computer, you have a normal laptop computer, you have netbook computer, you have an iPad or an iPhone, you would install a soft phone on to it and that allows that computer to now connect to the VoIP server and allows that computer to now act like a telephone.
One of the biggest things and the biggest things that Iíve seen that causes people to have problems in the real world is understand within this Voice over IP server you are now going to create user accounts just like you would create like I say for Windows server, for Linux server, etc. You are going to tell it the extension, you are going to tell it the username, and you are going to tell it the password plus about 20 or 30 other things.
The biggest point is this device out here you will have to go in and you will have to configure within that device and say, ìI want extension 105. The username is this and the password is this.î If any of this is incorrect, the whole kit and caboodle is not going to work. So this is Voice over IP clients in a nutshell. Like I say, itís not too complicated as long as you can follow all these little lines.
So weíve talked about the servers, so the Voice over IP servers, these are servers that provide services to other computers on the network. Those other computers are Voice over IP clients. Those clients can be either hard phones or soft phones. They are all computers. Like I say, even that thing that looks like a phone is not a phone. Itís actually computer that looks like a phone. They all communicate. There are usernames, passwords, etc.

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