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Cloud Phones, VoIP, PBX, UC: What Does It All Mean?

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ShoreTel Unified Communications, VoIP, IP PBX, Cloud Phones

More businesses are moving to upgrade their legacy phone systems, which in many cases have been in place for decades. Consulting firm Frost & Sullivan says the hosted IP telephony and unified communications and collaboration market has reached mass adoption, and predicts the North American market for these services will reach 41.9 million users by 2021.

Companies just starting to research phone systems are likely to face a confusing alphabet of acronyms including VoIP, PBX and UC. What do these terms mean and, more to the point, how do these technologies make a business more competitive?

Let’s cut through the noise and define a few terms to help you understand the technologies underlying the modern phone system.

VoIP  Voice over Internet Protocol enables calls to be carried over the Internet using a telephone or computer. This type of phone system can reduce costs by eliminating the need for multiple carriers. It also enables access to applications and services delivered through the Internet or private cloud connection.

PBX and IP PBX  A PBX – or “Private Branch Exchange” – is a telephone switching system within an enterprise, where users share a limited number of outside lines to make external phone calls. Calls can easily be routed internally, by dialing a three or four-digit number. A traditional hard-wired PBX separates voice and data, but an IP PBX uses VoIP to combine voice and data networks.

Cloud Phone System  Also known as “hosted” or “software as a service” (SaaS), a cloud phone system opens up a wide range of possibilities. By hosting the communications platform in the cloud, a business reduces its cost and IT expenses. Vendors take responsibility for owning, configuring and managing applications and hardware. In addition, such systems allow companies to leverage technology and telephony across many locations.

UC –Unified communications integrates voice and data with critical business process applications, such as CRM, ERP and ATS. And, of course, communication features such as video conferencing, instant messaging (IM), mobility and online collaboration can be integrated into a single easy-to-use IP PBX solution. ShoreTel became a leader in UC by integrating our IP PBX with popular applications like Microsoft Outlook to create desktop call control, quick dialing, visual voicemail, automatic conference scheduling, and phone meeting invitation wizards.

By streamlining communications and enabling better collaboration, these technologies boost productivity and reduce costs, while helping businesses create competitive advantages. No wonder so many organizations are choosing to upgrade.