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IP Telephony, VoIP & The Syllogistic Fallacy - Articles Surfing

To the telephony novice, the world of modern communication can be an intimidating place. In a world so acronym-laden and thick with trade-jargon, it can be tough to know just what it is that you're reading about in the first place. If you're a small business-person, it's even worse (and let's face it, who else is reading this?): not only are you supposed to be familiar with these technologies, you're expected to be able to make informed decisions regarding their use and implementation.

Faced with the daunting array of telecommunications options, you've turned to that trusted informant and advisor of the contemporary techno-savvy citizen, the Internet. A quick search for 'IP Telephony' or 'VoIP' will reveal that it's easy to find virtual heaps of *information* about VoIP or IP phones (try it now!), but it will also present as many problems as it solves. On the one hand you've got the technical articles that immediately lose the reader in thick forests of acronyms that only the technologically initiated can sift through, and on the other (in much greater abundance) you'll get hundreds of thousands of matches (seriously, try it) which at best are links to places to buy something and at worst are thinly veiled advertisements, clumsily disguised as informative articles.

On the Internet, as in the rest of life, nothing is free. The problem is that every company would love for you to believe that the *quality* content they churn out is an act of pure altruism for the benefit of the consumer at large. I won't insult your intelligence by pretending that I don't have an ulterior motive. But today, friends, is your lucky Internet-browsing day! That fact that I'm not pitching any particular brand of anything gives me the rare opportunity to furnish information that I think you might actually find useful. Now that I've gained your trust, let me proceed.

So what exactly is IP Telephony, and how is it differentiated from VoIP? If you refer back to your hypothetical search, you'll find that most companies simply don't distinguish between the two * it's just another synonym that their copywriters can use to avoid using the term *VoIP* too often. But there is a difference. IP Telephony, in it's strictest sense, refers to the use of VoIP, likely in conjunction with other products and services, in a company's communications network.

Let me put it another way. If a company is advertising VoIP and raving about what it can do for your business, take a good look at what it is they're offering to sell you. All that VoIP means by itself is the capability to send voice data over digital lines. This could be as simple as a media gateway, or an IP enabled phone. IP Telephony depends upon VoIP, but VoIP is not IP Telephony.

Don't get me wrong - this is a powerful tool, but by itself it is by no means the business revolution that is so often billed. If all you're looking for is a way to cut down long-term telephone costs a little, that maybe all you need. Most companies, however, are looking for something a little more useful.

All the fancy extras that you'll hear about * vemail, virtual call centers, mobile technology integration, and so on * are actually facets of an IP Telephony platform. IP Telephony refers to the actual service * the package deal from a provider including software, hardware, and knowledge that gives you something more than an advanced phone or a specialized router. When you really think about it, the idea of a company offering to sell you VoIP is an absurd one. That would be like a company advertising TCP/IP or trying to sell the concept of packet switching.

Most websites advertising VoIP are simply trying to capitalize of off a trendy buzzword. It is rare to find an actual IP Telephony platform for sale other than the industry standard (which for reference is Avaya IP Office), though they do exist. One such is a small business-oriented virtual call center affair by the company GotVMail called VirtualOne.

But of course, it's not that simple. There is no standard differentiation in the terms observed by all technology providers (there seem to be few standards on the Internet at all), and this will inevitably lead to confusion. Many companies are as already noted simply trying to sell you an expensive phone by impressing you with the word VoIP, but some more legitimate businesses simply refer to their entire IP Telephony platform as *VoIP service.* Frustrating. It would be nice if we could trust companies to be honest with us, but it's simply not the case. In the end, the burden of research falls squarely upon the consumer. Good luck.

Submitted by:

David Roberts

David Roberts is a VoIP and technology writer for http://voip-avaya.com/ where he tries to inform prospective users of both the caveats and the advantages of the VoIP phenomenon.



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