VoIP Simplified: A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Technical Terms


With so many modern communication tools at our fingertips and over 3 billion users worldwide, VoIP is becoming an increasingly popular choice. As businesses migrate from traditional landlines to VoIP, it’s crucial to take time to understand whether it would be the right choice for your business.

With its multitude of technical terms, navigating the VoIP industry can be challenging. If you’re new to it, and want to get a better understanding of some of the technical terms associated with the technology, we’ve put together a helpful guide that will walk you through everything you need to know.

What is VoIP?

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), also referred to as ‘digital landline’, is a cloud-based communications technology that enables you to make and receive calls over the internet, instead of using a traditional landline connection. It's widely used by businesses of all sizes and works on different device types, from computers to smartphones to native VoIP phones. Some VoIP providers offer their own app, allowing users to manage calls, access various features, and perform call logging and analysis effortlessly. We’ve got more information on what VoIP is and how it works right here.

When is VoIP used?

One of the best features of VoIP is that it can be used anytime you need to make a phone call, all you need is an internet connection. This gives you the flexibility to rely on it for business calls or for personal use wherever you are in the world. The VoIP service adapts to the way you want to work, in an office, at home or on the road, whether you make dozens of calls a day or only a handful every week, it’s ready to go at the touch of a button.

Do you need VoIP?

VoIP can offer numerous advantages for both new and existing businesses looking to create a robust communications system.

For businesses that are looking to upgrade from a traditional landline, switching to VoIP can offer a more flexible system.

VoIP can also offer a more cost-effective solution for your business, without compromising on quality, reliability or convenience. VoIP provides a modern, internet-based communication solution with advanced features like call forwarding and auto-receptionist as well as call management and analysis, making a move to VoIP worth considering for a professional communication system.

It's also worth noting that there are multiple VoIP suppliers, so for businesses that are unhappy with their current provider, there are other options out there, with superior call quality or a more reliable, UK-based support team.

Common VoIP technical terms

To give you a better understanding of how VoIP works and how it’s different from traditional phone systems, we’ve put together a list of common technical terms and what they mean:

ATA - An analogue telephone adapter (ATA) is a piece of hardware that enables VoIP calls using an existing analogue device.

Bandwidth - When talking about bandwidth in VoIP terms, this refers to how long it takes to receive and send data, using measurements such as Gigabits per second (Gbps), Megabits per second (Mbps), Kilobits per second (Kbps) and Bits per second (bps).

Call forwarding - An important aspect of VoIP calls, the call forwarding feature enables users to direct calls to any other telephone number or device.

Call Queues - VoIP call queues make it easier for users to manage incoming calls during periods of peak demand.

Codec - A VoIP codec is a piece of technology that determines voice compression used during a VoIP call, and helps to determine the audio quality and bandwidth required.

DECT - DECT is short for Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications and is a wireless digital technology that supports the use of a cordless handset.

IP telephony - IP telephony is a subcategory of VoIP, as it can also transfer voice calls as well as fax, messaging and other data traffic.

ISDN - Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) is the traditional method of making calls as the lines are fixed and hardwired, whereas you only need an internet connection for VoIP calls.

IVR menu - Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a feature within phone systems that assists callers with a series of pre-recorded menu choices.

PBX - PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange, which is a phone system that allows telephone calls within a company network. A PBX can be used with a traditional landline, or via IP for internet-based calling.

PSTN - Short for Public Switched Telephone Network, PSTN is a circuit-switched telephone system used for voice calls.

RTP - Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) is used to facilitate the delivery of audio and video calls over the internet.

SBC - A session border controller (SBC) is a device that manages how VoIP calls are started, managed and completed.

SDP - SDP stands for Session Description Protocol, which is typically used to support the streaming of media (voice, video, images etc.) in a VoIP call.

SIP - Session Initiation Protocol is a protocol used to initiate, maintain, and terminate communication sessions, which can include voice, video, and messaging applications.

SIP trunking - SIP trunking enables users with an existing PBX to connect voice, video, messaging and fax so it can work as a virtual phone line.

VoIP - Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a cloud-based communications technology that enables you to make and receive calls over the internet, instead of using a traditional landline connection.

How to choose a VoIP provider

We’ve produced a full guide on finding the right VoIP provider, but the main criteria to consider when choosing the VoIP provider for your business is:

  • System reliability: You require a reliable, robust system, as you’ll be using it to communicate with clients, colleagues and suppliers throughout the day. Look for a provider that has minimal service disruptions and a strong uptime history - online customer reviews can give you a clearer idea of the company's track record.

  • Ease of setup: A VoIP service should be easy to install and configure, causing minimal disruption to your business. In practical terms, this should mean an intuitive setup process and user-friendly interfaces that are easy to understand. A good provider should also provide assistance during the setup process to make it as hassle-free as possible.

  • Minimum terms: Many companies will tie you into minimum terms of 12 months. This means that, even if you’re unhappy with the service, you’re stuck with the company until the end of the year. Looking for a company with minimum terms will give you more flexibility.

  • Customer support: There will likely come a time when you need support with technical or account issues. A UK-based provider that offers multiple communication channels (email, live chat, phone) and allows you to speak with a real person should be the priority. Smaller providers that offer personalised and responsive support will also ensure you get the detailed assistance you need.

Communication in the modern era

Embracing new technology like VoIP can initially feel overwhelming, but it's essential as businesses transition from traditional landlines to a more flexible communications model.

When you’re considering whether VoIP is right for your business, the multitude of technical terms in the VoIP industry can present a challenge, making it difficult to understand and navigate seamlessly.

By taking time to demystify commonly used technical terms, you can confidently navigate the transition to VoIP while ensuring streamlined communication and enhanced efficiency for your business.

If you are considering a switch to VoIP and have any further questions, our team is on hand to answer your questions. Feel free to get in touch with us here.

A little bit about the author

Hey there, I'm Anastasia! My passion is marketing. I'm all about finding creative ways to tell our story and connect with our audiences. I'm hoping our blog will simplify your journey for the perfect cloud communications system!

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