This post is part 2 of a 2-part series. Part 1 was posted on Tuesday.
The Evolution of IP Telephony, IP Phones, and VOIP Phone Systems
Up to this point, business telephone systems consisted of proprietary digital phones that connected to the central PBX via telephone wire (usually Category 3 cable). However, there were massive strides in the data networking world. Internet Protocol (IP) and Ethernet beat out Token Ring and other networking protocols to become the world’s networking standards. Computing devices all over the world could seamlessly communicate over IP networks. It was apparent that all forms of communication would eventually use an underlying IP network – including voice and video communications. Businesses were demanding various forms of phone system – to – IP network integration features like remote IP phones and voicemail-to-email. Business phone system manufactures rushed to equip their legacy digital phone systems to connect or “talk” to an Ethernet or IP network. This usually consisted of “bolt-on” technology like circuit cards that had an Ethernet port and internal DSP (Digital Signal Processing) resources that could convert legacy digital voice communications to IP packets and sent across the businesses data network. These legacy / IP phone systems were called “hybrid” systems. Most of your traditional business phone system manufactures had hybrid options (Avaya, Nortel, Tadiran, Toshiba, etc). This allowed these manufactures the ability to offer newer IP features but also continue to support their very large existing base of digital customers. Additionally, newer pure-IP phone system manufactures began to emerge. These phone systems usually consisted of all IP phones and a central processor, server, or “brains” that controlled all call routing. Pure IP phone manufactures were 3Comm, ShoreTel, Cisco, and Asterisk (to name a few).
In the early part of the decade – hybrid phone systems were very advantageous. In fact, I only recommended them to my clients. This is because the technology was new, relatively untested, and unstable. Furthermore, traditional telephone system integration companies knew nothing about the network in which they installed their new IP phone systems on, resulting in stability and voice quality issues. The result: all of the horror stories you’ve heard about with early VOIP phone system deployments. Hybrid systems allowed companies to “dip their toe” in the VOIP river. They could start playing with newer IP features, but could fall back on the stable digital phone network. Unlike legacy digital systems that had purpose-built operating systems and solid state processing, newer pure VOIP systems were server based with fail-prone hard-drives and unstable, off-the-shelf operating systems like Windows. Businesses that were used to solid phone systems that lasted over 20 years and were never down now had phone systems that had to be rebooted daily, were down for hours a day, and had hard drive / processor failures within the first couple of years.
Over time, networks became more stable, the technology matured, vendors and IT staff became knowledgeable, and the hardware became more reliable.
A quick plug for us and ShoreTel – they keep all of their core call processing on solid-state appliances with purpose-built Operating Systems. This allows them to deliver world-class IP telephony features on a platform that will be up 99.999% of the time and a meantime-between-failure (MTBF) of 15+ years. Oh, by the way, we are the Northwest’s premier ShoreTel integration partner.
Back to your history lesson: Now, there is NO research and development that goes into legacy digital or hybrid phone systems. Almost all businesses that upgrade their technology move to a pure-IP phone system.
SIP, SIP Trunking Providers, VOIP Phone Service, Internet Phone Service Providers, etc
At this point, many businesses have state-of-the-art IP phones and IP Telephony systems. However, they’re still connected to the outside world with legacy digital or analog phone lines. Wouldn’t it make sense that the next evolution of business telephone system technology would be to leverage IP networks to deliver business phone service? Yes, it does make sense, a lot of sense. Using SIP, a SIP trunking provider, or VOIP phone service provider, business dial tone can be delivered over any IP connection (private, public, T1, fiber, Ethernet, etc). For all the reasons posted in my last blog, this technology is superior to traditional services in many ways including dramatic cost savings, disaster recovery options.
This is what Inflow Communications has been doing for the last 3 years. We’ve mastered the technology, developed best practices, and have a large, happy customer base we’ve deployed SIP trunks and world-class IP phone systems. This is truly our niche; nobody understands it better than us. In addition to understanding the technical complexities on the PBX side, we work with a large number of SIP trunking providers that can meet a number of various organizational needs.