Thursday, September 23, 2004


Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is the rage, and one company after another is putting its telephone system into it because VOIP is less expensive and has advantages over a typical Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system. Most people don't know what VOIP is, however. This article, though technical, is about as good an explanation as you will find.

Why should PR practitioners know about VOIP? You may be using it and if not, there is a good chance you will be soon. Even major phone companies are moving into VOIP under the philosophy that if you can't lick 'em, join 'em.

Our family was an early adopter of VOIP about two years ago, and frankly, we didn't like it. We went back to analog lines because calls are clearer. No one claims VOIP is as consistently clear as a landline telephone call. The claim is that VOIP is as good as a typical cell phone call. That means one gets use to echoing and dropouts unless one is using a Virtual Private Network with matched routers. (You don't need to know what that means, but your calls are routed over a better-than-usual internet pathway.) We didn't want a system that sounded like a cell phone, but we may reconsider.

I have watched VOIP for about five years. We had a client who was an early purveyor of the technology when most companies were still saying it wouldn't work. Then along came Vonage and other providers, and opinions changed quickly.

With VOIP, every call on the internet is a local call even if you call around the world, and every extension is a local extension even if offices are thousands of miles apart. Moreover, if you unplug your phone, fly across country and plug it in again, your phone number and your calls follow you wherever you are. For these reasons, corporations want VOIP systems. It saves maintenance time.

Take a few minutes to skim the article, and you will understand why people are excited. Think how you might use VOIP in your client service.


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