VoIP, IP Telephony, and Unified Communications are terms that are regularly thrown about in conversation. And you might notice how people pay no mind to the nuances involved with each concept. Some assume these to be synonymous.
So is there a difference?
In truth, these three concepts could not be more different. Similar, sure—but, in a technical sense, they pertain to different things.
To clear things up, let’s start by going over each concept.
What is VoIP?
VoIP (or Voice over IP) is a technology that uses the Internet Protocol (IP) to deliver voice signals.
Think of it as modern voice calling technology. Whereas traditional phone systems (PSTN) would transfer voice calls over copper-wire telephone lines, VoIP communication does so using the internet.
The apparent advantage of VoIP is cost-effectiveness. Traditional phone systems are usually a pain in the pocket. Each minute spent while calling is charged up to 65p. And when the nature of your work requires you to keep on the move, phone bills can quickly add up.
VoIP, on the other hand, apart from the up-front internet connection cost, is free of charge.
What is IP Telephony?
IP Telephony is an infrastructure that also uses the internet for telecommunications. It provides reliable, secure, fast, and consistent communication for both ends. An IP telephony system uses various technologies (like VoIP or faxing) which are carried over IP to achieve greater productivity.
By leveraging the internet, IP Telephony isn’t bound by the limitations that come with traditional phone systems such as PSTN. It’s more cost-effective and comes with greater scalability.
What is Unified Communications?
Unified communications tools provide users with a single user interface, resulting in streamlined user experience. To make this easier to understand, let’s use one of the examples of Unified Communications at work.
Perhaps a customer is interested in one of your products. Their first action is to enquire via call. Unfortunately, business hours are over, so their message is sent to voicemail. Your UC system then notifies you of this call through email, so, in the morning, during business hours, you can respond by calling the client back.
As you can see, through the “unification” of various communication systems (voicemail, email, and VoIP), things like customer relationship management (CRM) are streamlined, facilitating a better experience for employees and customers alike.
Microsoft Teams is a popular app that utilizes Unified Communications. By allowing users in each team to chat, meet, call, and collaborate over a single user interface, it significantly decreases the hassle involved with mobile and remote working.
VoIP vs IP Telephony vs UC:
What’s the difference?
If you’re in charge of setting up the phone system for your company, you might already be familiar with the different VoIP services available in your area.
But contrary to what you see in the table above, you know that VoIP packages include more than just voice calling and voicemail.
The thing is, people regularly use these terms interchangeably. Most times, the context isn’t serious enough for the differences to matter. That’s why the lines between the three are so blurry.
However, it is important to take note and understand what makes each concept unique so you can make more informed choices for your company.
VoIP, as we discussed earlier, is a technology. Think of it as a “vehicle” for voice to travel through.
IP Telephony is the “expressway” that the VoIP vehicle travels on. It encompasses everything that utilizes IP for telecommunications purposes. This includes technologies like VoIP and fax, technologies we know are dependent on IP.
So what does this mean?
It means that VoIP is part of IP Telephony. IP Telephony is a general term for technologies which utilize IP’s packet-switched connections to exchange information—VoIP is one such technology.
And, because IP Telephony vendors have hardly any reason to exclude VoIP from their packages, these two terms have become almost synonymous and are used interchangeably by vendors without much consequence. They come hand in hand.
Unified Communications (UC), meanwhile, is a cut above the others in terms of streamlining enterprise communication.
This is because UC consolidates different real-time (VoIP, audio, web, & video conferencing, screen sharing, etc.) and non-real-time (voicemail, e-mail, SMS, fax, etc.) communication services into one consistent, unified user interface.
As shown in the example in the previous section, a user can utilize UC to receive voicemail through email then respond through real-time voice call. A unified user interface makes this inter-medium communication possible.
One of the best benefits of unified communications solutions is it enables B.Y.O.D.—Bring Your Own Device. Using cloud communications technology, your team can install a mobile application on their phones which allows for more flexibility, mobility, and cost-efficiency.
But while it’s true that UC hosts the most features, this doesn’t mean it’s what your business needs. Some businesses might benefit from using smaller-scale solutions. But for larger enterprises, the line is more clearly drawn.
So how do you know which solution suits your business best?
Which solution is best for my business?
In business, you want to maximize your gains while minimizing your losses.
To do this, an essential step you have to take is to understand your current situation as well as your expectations, so you can make a more informed decision.
To see which solution suits you best, let’s conduct a short assessment of the circumstances of your business.
1. Does it fit your budget?
Although investing in UC provides businesses with greater flexibility, it also comes with a greater cost. Deployment of unified communications products can be really expensive and time-consuming because UC products are unique, often customized to suit your business requirements.
That’s why you have to weigh whether it’s worth allocating a chunk of your budget to access the features that UC products provide. If not, it’ll make more sense to stick with IP Telephony.
At VoipTech, our IP Telephony packages go as low as £9.99 per month and include more basic features such as HD voice, voicemail, and hunt groups which allow you to kickstart your voice communications for a low price.
If you’ve decided that UC is the way to go, our Communicator package comes at a similar price range while offering you better flexibility in your communications. The package comes with a subscription to Microsoft Teams, Microsoft’s own UC product and our personal recommendation.
2. Can you wait?
Unlike VoIP, where you can see immediate results in the form of lower bills and zero maintenance, implementing unified communications is more of a long-term deal.
IP Telephony systems are easier to implement since they’re designed to work right out of the box. If you don’t need any heavy-duty equipment, something like this will be enough to get the job done. Anyone can set it up, and if you ever come across anything unusual, customer service is very helpful and efficient.
If you’ve decided that the flexibility and mobility that UC products provide is something your business needs, remember that it isn’t something you can implement overnight.
The reason why it takes such a long time to implement is because UC integrates all your communication channels into a single interface so that your business can seamlessly communicate through any medium.
3. Do you need multimedia?
Studies show that remote work has grown 159% from 2005 to 2017, and because of COVID-19, this number is bound to surge in 2020 moving forward. This development will seriously alter the way organizations communicate, as a huge part of communication is non-verbal.
And, since IP Telephony doesn’t include multimedia (only UC has this feature), one thing you have to think about when deciding which solution you need is whether you need it to ensure effective communication in your workplace.
4. Is troubleshooting a pain?
Starting out, you might have tried different vendors for your telephony solutions. If your business is fairly small-scale, this won’t be a problem.
But, when your business scales (and, with it, your need for more efficient solutions), having to contact different vendors to pinpoint a single problem becomes a chore you’ll be tired of dealing with.
If this sounds familiar, perhaps you need to start deploying UC solutions.
UC enables you to leave your troubleshooting and maintenance to a single vendor, helping you avoid the constant back and forth of contacting different vendors to fix your problems. And the faster you can get your system back up, the more time you can spend giving customers the quality service they need.
5. You already have an analogue phone system. Should you upgrade?
If you’ve already deployed an analogue phone system for your business and you’re wondering whether you should upgrade, consider the following factors:
- Internet speed
- Business-scaling expectations
- Nature of your work
In order to effectively deploy VoIP into your telecommunications system, the most important aspect that you have to consider is your internet speed and whether it can support your call load.
Always remember that compromising call quality due to bad internet connection will likely injure the overall experience of your employees and clients, so it’s essential to prevent this from happening at the onset.
Meanwhile, if you’re optimizing your business for scalability and mobility according to your expectations and the nature of your work, transitioning to VoIP is a smart move. Adapters simplify the transition by making use of your existing analogue equipment.
Knowing these subtle nuances is crucial if you want to make the right choices for your company moving forward. So take some time to determine the current situation of your business so you can implement the right solutions.
Ultimately, your decision to understand your company to make a more informed decision will be what sets your company apart from the others in terms of efficiency and customer experience.
You can check the price plans for VoipTech’s monthly UC subscription packages (which use Microsoft Teams) using this link.
If you still need some help understanding which solution your business needs, give us a call for a free consultation today. We’ll personally recommend a solution that suits your business—and fits your budget.