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VoIP Explained
Voice Over Internet Protocol

What is VoIP?
Telecoms & computing Voice over Internet Protocol refers to the use of the Internet for making telephone calls. Two advantages for users of VoIP connections is that they generally only have to pay their usual (local) Internet connection charges regardless of where they are calling anywhere in the world. The second is the availability to connect anywhere there is Internet connectivity. VoIP telephony hence threatens the traditional distance and even time-based pricing model upon which all major voice line telephone services are currently based.

True VoIP System vs. Hybrid VoIP System
A true VoIP system has many advantages over the hybrid VoIP System. Let’s first look at some definitions of functions and then the differences between the two.

Voicemail
In it's simplest form, it mimics the functions of an answering machine, but uses a centralized system rather than equipment at the individual telephone. However, it can be far more sophisticated, with the ability to forward messages to another voice mailbox and send simultaneous messages to multiple voice mailboxes, add voice notes to a message, store messages for future delivery, make calls to a telephone or paging service when a message is received, transfer callers to another phone for personal assistance and play different message greetings to different callers. With a VoIP, recorded messages can be transferred to a PC, or e-mailed.

Automatic Call Distribution (ACD)
A telephone system application that handles heavy incoming call traffic. It sends a call to the first available answering position or if busy it sends the call to the second answering position, and etc., if all positions are busy, plays a recorded message and puts calls in a queue until an answering position becomes available. This gives your company the assurance that all calls are being taken, in the order that they called, and that the caller is talking to a live person rather than voicemail.

Call Center Reporting
Call Center Reporting allows you to track all calls, incoming and outgoing, and reports the status. It records and reports all calls made, the date and time, the extension or person that made the call, the number dialed and its duration. It also records and reports all incoming calls, the date and time, the incoming number, the extension or person that answered the call, and its duration. It also records all incoming calls that did not get answered and its originating number, date and time.

The Differences
A Hybrid VoIP system generally is a phone system that integrates a card into the system to allow some VoIP functionality. Its main function is to give you the ability to make calls across an internet connection; anywhere.

Additional functions are add-ons to a phone system, Voice-Mail, Automatic Call Distribution (ACD), Call Center Functionality. Each of these are available with a phone system however; additional equipment is needed, integration of this equipment can be an issue, integration of additional equipment and it’s software is dependant of your installer’s knowledge, and cost is invariability highly expensive.

The hybrid system is reliant upon periodic on-site maintenance, moves, adds and changes will require a technician on site, and of course additional cost.

A True VoIP system is a computer server built to operate like a phone system however; because it is a computer server, integration of additional function is normally completed and tested before it leaves the factory. Voicemail is always standard, ACD and Call Center reporting are additional applications however; additional equipment is not normally needed and the cost is reduced for these applications.

Once the system is installed, on-site maintenance is normally not required. Moves, adds and changes and periodic maintenance is done remotely, through a secure tunnel.

Another advantage is the ability to use one cable to supply a network connection to your keyset and your computer. Your PC plugs into the back of the keyset for it's’s LAN/Wan connectivity, instead of having two separate cables (One voice one data) again lowering the cost in cable installation and maintenance.

Security

Is VoIP Secure?

If you’re planning to deploy VoIP, you’ll need to take some steps to make the data network more secure, especially if you haven’t performed an overall security audit recently.

You might be shortchanging yourself. When it comes to outside communications with VoIP, weigh the potential cost savings and efficiencies gained by converging technologies against the risk.

If you’re already transmitting and receiving sensitive data over the Internet, you’ve gone to considerable lengths to protect that data, which is almost surely more sensitive than your voice traffic and no less vulnerable to attack. These safeguards can be leveraged to help secure VoIP over the Internet.

But What About Packet Sniffing?

While it’s technically possible to sniff voice packets, it’s a lot more difficult than tapping into a traditional phone transmission. Let’s consider what it would take to tap into VoIP.

The first step in sniffing a conversation is to gain physical access to the packets.
This means having access to the switches and/or the corporate backbone network. But those same switches carry critical corporate data, which is far more sensitive than your conversations. If you’ve secured data against sniffing, you’ve secured voice. If you haven’t protected your data, voice packet sniffing isn’t your most serious security problem.

But let’s say an intruder gains physical access, despite your best efforts. If it’s a traditional phone line, he’s practically listening already. But if you’re using VoIP, he really has his work cut out for him.

First, consider what it takes to tap a traditional phone line. If the conversation is still in analog format, the intruder simply taps onto the line using a “butt set”—which was formerly reserved for telephone repairmen, but now available at hardware stores—and starts listening.

Traditional telephony uses time-division multiplexing for trunk groups—as opposed to packet multiplexing— so picking out a single conversation from a digitally multiplexed bundle of conversations and decoding the 64 Kbps pulse code modulation (PCM) is relatively easy.

Compare that with pulling a conversation out of an IP transmission. Voice packets are buried deep inside a sophisticated protocol stack.

The intruder has to know what the physical format of the information is; decode the Ethernet packets to find a single flow between two points; decode the IP layer; decode the transport-layer (layer 4) protocol—probably UDP—and then, finally, decode the voice packets, which could be encoded in a wide range of formats. And he has to do it in real time.

So, Is VoIP Secure?

It’s a lot easier to listen to a conversation over a cubicle wall than it is to tap a VoIP call.
The odds are that you actually could improve your level of telephony security as compared with traditional telephony simply by piggybacking your voice onto the more secure data network.

There’s even a question as to how secure VoIP should be.
For instance, there are legitimate concerns from the law enforcement community about whether advanced voice networks are “too secure” for court-sanctioned wiretapping.

VoIP is probably as secure as traditional telephony and a lot more secure in most cases than your cell phone.