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What is VOIP and how do I make use of it?

An introduction to VOIP

VOIP stands for "Voice Over IP" - sometimes called VON - Voice Over Networks. Both refer to the same thing.

Since the invention of the telephone, we have grown used to dealing with "the phone company" who, even in these deregulated times, controls as much as provides our access to telephone services. We have become accustomed to paying for calls according to how long we talk for and how far away the other party happens to be. In business, providing phones to even a amall office involves expensive PABX equipment and multiple line rental charges.

VOIP overturns these rules. Calls to Australia or the USA need cost no more than a local call. Anyone with a PC or a network connection can be given a phone extension that works the same whether the user is in the office or on the other side of the world. Calls to a local number can be routed anywhere allowing you to run a UK based business from rural France, set up a 24 hour help line that automatically diverts to different offices around the globe to match day time working hours or just ensure that calls to your desk reach your mobile when you're out of the office.

Integration with other business systems such as CRM, help-desk is generally easier than with POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) equipment - which leads to the concept of Unified Communications (UC) that aims to tie the phone system together with other forms of communication such as email or instant messaging and 'availability' data (in/out of office or meeting) so that the most appropriate form of communication can be chosen without having to play "telephone tag" or wonder why you aren't hearing from a colleague who is actually on holiday or visiting a branch office.

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