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A Guide to SIP Phones for the Confused

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A Guide to SIP Phones for the Confused

July 02, 2014

  By Miguel Leiva-Gomez, TMCnet Contributor

IP communications and SIP have revolutionized the way that businesses communicate with their customers and each other, but very few people understand what these technologies really do. We live in a time when technology is advancing at such a fast pace, even the most savvy IT experts can feel a bit dizzy. That said, it's time we explore SIP phones and explain what you need to know about them.

SIP technology itself gives entire companies the ability to communicate with advanced VoIP features and gives way to powerful instruments like SIP phones and SIP trunks. To truly appreciate what this technology does for you, you will have to understand it.

Let's first talk a little bit about the IP phone. It was, as its name implies, a phone that connected to an Internet protocol (IP) network through its Ethernet LAN connection. Many businesses still use it, and it's working quite well for them. However, if you want to buy an IP phone, you might have to get it from the vendor that gave you your private branch exchange (PBX (News - Alert)). It’s proprietary, using signaling protocols that are unique to the particular PBX you’re utilizing. This has been the cause of much frustration in the business community as companies have jacked up their prices without warning because of the leverage they have. The other catch is that you can't get a better IP phone from another company without entirely changing your telephony infrastructure. What a pain!

Along comes SIP, and turns this entire system on its head. The session initiation protocol (SIP) is a standard in itself. To say you are using SIP means that you are using one particular protocol with a strictly defined set of rules. For this reason, if you'd like to get an SIP phone from another provider, you can do it without even asking your own provider for anything. This is why so many businesses get SIP fever!

So, SIP phones are just IP phones that follow a standard set of rules that are shared among all SIP providers. This makes them the prime target for companies wishing to switch over from proprietary IP PBX systems. If you're not switching over right now, you did not read this correctly!

Edited by Alisen Downey
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