Internet Protocol (IP) telephony has become a critical part of Unified Communications (UC) technology as enterprises move on from traditional phone service and use the Internet to deliver voice, fax and other forms of communication.
Although IP telephony and Voice over IP (VoIP) are used interchangeably, VoIP is technically a subset of IP telephony. IP telephony takes advantage of the Internet to deliver phone calls, while VoIP is the transportation mechanism used to manage voice communications over IP.
UC can help companies in a variety of contexts, including:
- Traditional office environments, with users having PCs, desk phones or softphones and individual webcams.
- Enterprise conference rooms equipped with speaker phones, a shared display system, and a shared camera system (which might be traditional conferencing systems or high-end telepresence systems).
- Remote employees working from mobile devices including tablets and smart phones, using the audio and video native to the device.
Ideally, a UC environment is integrated with the back-end systems that provide services as well as the front-end clients that provide access. For example, the Web conferencing system would make use of the audio conferencing system, which in turn would be built on the core IP telephony platform, and a unified messaging email client would allow click-to-talk, click-to-chat, or click-to-video functionality.
UC tools and collaboration tool overlap significantly; collaboration tools such as those providing service desk automation or project management systems often incorporate UC features, like team chat, or integrate with external UC systems for those functions. UC also overlaps with contact center technologies - for example, in the form of automated call distribution (ACD) and interactive voice response (IVR) systems.
Wi-Fi is widely used in businesses, agencies, schools, and residencies as an alternative to a wired LAN. Many airports, hotels, and companies offer public access to Wi-Fi networks, the well-known hot spots. Many charge a daily or hourly rate for access, but some are free. An interconnected area of hot spots and network access points is known as a hot zone. Unless adequately protected, a Wi-Fi network can be susceptible to access by unauthorized users of the free Internet connection. Any entity that has a wireless LAN should use security safeguards such as the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption standard, the more recent Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), the Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), or a virtual private network (VPN).