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Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)  

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a general term for a family of transmission technologies for delivery of voice communications over IP networks such as the Internet or other packet-switched networks like a Contact Centre. Other terms frequently encountered and synonymous with VoIP are IP telephony, Internet telephony, voice over broadband (VoBB), broadband telephony, and broadband phone.

Internet telephony refers to communications services—voice, facsimile, and/or voice-messaging applications—that are transported via the Internet, rather than the public switched telephone network (PSTN). The basic steps involved in originating an Internet telephone call are conversion of the analog voice signal to digital format and compression/translation of the signal into Internet protocol (IP) packets for transmission over the Internet; the process is reversed at the receiving end.

VoIP systems employ session control protocols to control the set-up and tear-down of calls as well as audio codecs which encode speech allowing transmission over an IP network as digital audio via an audio stream. Codec use is varied between different implementations of VoIP (and often a range of codecs are used); some implementations rely on narrowband and compressed speech, while others support high fidelity stereo codecs.

Consumer market: Example of VoIP adapter setup in residential network

A major development starting in 2004 has been the introduction of mass-market VoIP services over broadband Internet access services, in which subscribers make and receive calls as they would over the PSTN. Full phone service VoIP phone companies provide inbound and outbound calling with Direct Inbound Dialing. Many offer unlimited calling to the U.S., and some to Canada or selected countries in Europe or Asia as well, for a flat monthly fee as well as free calling between subscribers using the same provider. These services have a wide variety of features which can be more or less similar to traditional POTS.

There are three common methods of connecting to VoIP service providers: A typical analog telephone adapter (ATA) for connecting an analog phone to a VoIP provider

* An Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) may be connected between an IP network (such as a broadband connection) and an existing telephone jack in order to provide service nearly indistinguishable from PSTN providers on all the other telephone jacks in the residence. This type of service, which is fixed to one location, is generally offered by broadband Internet providers such as cable companies and telephone companies as a cheaper flat-rate traditional phone service.

* Dedicated VoIP phones are phones that allow VoIP calls without the use of a computer. Instead they connect directly to the IP network (using technologies such as Wi-Fi or Ethernet). In order to connect to the PSTN they usually require service from a VoIP service provider therefore most people also use them in conjunction with a paid service plan.

* A softphone (also known as an Internet phone or Digital phone) is a piece of software that can be installed on a computer that allows VoIP calling without dedicated hardware. An advantage of using a softphone with a VoIP service provider is the ability of having a fixed phone number which you can move to any country or location (This is also possible with ATAs and VoIP phones, however requires the physical relocation of the hardware).

Corporate use

Because of the bandwidth efficiency and low costs that VoIP technology can provide, businesses are gradually beginning to migrate from traditional copper-wire telephone systems to VoIP systems to reduce their monthly phone costs.

VoIP solutions aimed at businesses have evolved into "unified communications" services that treat all communications—phone calls, faxes, voice mail, e-mail, Web conferences and more—as discrete units that can all be delivered via any means and to any handset, including cellphones. Two kinds of competitors are competing in this space: one set is focused on VoIP for medium to large enterprises, while another is targeting the small-to-medium business (SMB) market.

VoIP also offers the advantage of running both voice and data communications over a single network which can represent a significant saving in infrastructure costs.

Other advantages that appeal to business is that the per extension prices of VoIP are lower than those of PBXs or key systems. Also, VoIP switches rely on commodity hardware, such as PCs or Linux systems, so they are easy to configure and troubleshoot. Rather than closed architectures, these devices rely on standard interfaces.

VoIP devices also have simple, intuitive user interfaces, so employees can often make simple system configuration changes. Features such as dual-mode cellphones enable users to continue their conversations as they move from an outside cellular service to an internal Wi-Fi network. The bundling means employees no longer have to carry a desktop phone and a cellphone, so companies can reduce their telecommunications equipment costs. Maintenance also becomes simpler, because there are fewer devices to oversee.

Most recently Skype, which originally marketed itself as a service among friends, has begun to cater to businesses. If a company's clients, contacts and employees join the Skype network, they can be called for free, wherever they are in the world. Skype makes this simple; find the name of your contact, click and call, and all calls cost the employer nothing.

Benefits: Operational cost

VoIP can be a benefit for reducing communication and infrastructure costs. Examples include:

* Routing phone calls over existing data networks to avoid the need for separate voice and data networks.

* Conference calling, IVR, call forwarding, automatic redial, and caller ID features that traditional telecommunication companies (telcos) normally charge extra for are available for free from open source VoIP implementations such as Asterisk.

Flexibility: VoIP can facilitate tasks and provide services that may be more difficult to implement using the PSTN. Examples include:

* The ability to transmit more than one telephone call over the same broadband connection. This can make VoIP a simple way to add an extra telephone line to a home or office.

* Secure calls using standardized protocols (such as Secure Real-time Transport Protocol.) Most of the difficulties of creating a secure phone connection over traditional phone lines, like digitizing and digital transmission, are already in place with VoIP. It is only necessary to encrypt and authenticate the existing data stream.

* Location independence. Only an Internet connection is needed to get a connection to a VoIP provider. For instance, call center agents using VoIP phones can work from anywhere with a sufficiently fast and stable Internet connection.

* Integration with other services available over the Internet, including video conversation, message or data file exchange in parallel with the conversation, audio conferencing, managing address books, and passing information about whether others (e.g., friends or colleagues) are available to interested parties.

Security

As a computer-based technology, Voice over Internet Protocol telephone systems (VoIP) are as susceptible to attacks as PCs. This means that hackers who know about these vulnerabilities can institute denial-of-service attacks, harvest customer data, record conversations and break into voice mailboxes.

Another challenge is routing VoIP traffic through firewalls and network address translators. Private Session Border Controllers are used along with firewalls to enable VoIP calls to and from protected networks. Skype uses a proprietary protocol to route calls through other Skype peers on the network, allowing it to traverse symmetric NATs and firewalls. Other methods to traverse NATs involve using protocols such as STUN or ICE.

Many consumer VoIP solutions do not support encryption, although having a secure phone is much easier to implement with VoIP than traditional phone lines. As a result, it is relatively easy to eavesdrop on VoIP calls and even change their content. An attacker with a packet sniffer could intercept your VoIP calls if you are not on a secure VLAN.

There are open source solutions, such as Wireshark, that facilitate sniffing of VoIP conversations. A modicum of security is afforded by patented audio codecs in proprietary implementations that are not easily available for open source applications, however such security through obscurity has not proven effective in other fields. Some vendors also use compression to make eavesdropping more difficult. However, real security requires encryption and cryptographic authentication which are not widely supported at a consumer level. The existing security standard Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (SRTP) and the new ZRTP protocol are available on Analog Telephone Adapters(ATAs) as well as various softphones. It is possible to use IPsec to secure P2P VoIP by using opportunistic encryption. Skype does not use SRTP, but uses encryption which is transparent to the Skype provider[citation needed]. In 2005, Skype invited a researcher, Dr Tom Berson, to assess the security of the Skype software, and his conclusions are available in a published report.

The Voice VPN solution provides secure voice for enterprise VoIP networks by applying IPSec encryption to the digitized voice stream.

Premiercallcenter.co.uk’s mission is to provide a professional, consistent, positive experience for all our customers who utilize our services.  We will maintain this level of performance by consistently reassessing our procedures and ensuring we are doing all we can for our customers. Call us today to find out more about VoIP.
 

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