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VoIP Jargon & Terminology

Learning about Cloud Phone Systems is awesome, but it can get confusing as documents tend to use words and phrases that are unknown to many of us. Here is a simple list of some of the most commonly used terminologies in the industry.

ATA or Analog Telephone Adapter:  A device that converts analog voice signals to digital signals which can then be transmitted over the Internet. When an ATA is used, it takes your analog phone line and allows it to be used digitally on a computer or VOIP phone.

Attendant (Auto Attendant) or IVR (Interactive Voice Response): An automatic response system, such as a voice presenting options such as press 2 for sales, 5 for Lisa, etc., which handles incoming calls and sends them to the appropriate phone or message. An IVR is the same as an Auto Attendant with the difference that it connects to an existing database. For example when you call your bank and by confirming your account details you can access your balance and other information.

Bandwidth: This is the amount of data that can be carried from one point to another in a given time period. Another way to understand this is to think of the speed of your internet connection, that is what your bandwidth is.

Cloud Communications: Cloud refers to the Internet.  Cloud Communications is a way to communicate that uses the Internet as a way to have users connect. It allows users to host equipment at a remote location which then connects to other users allowing phone calls.  This is similar to VoIP or Internet Phone Service.

Data: Synonym for information being sent and received over the internet, but when used as a description for network topology refers to all traffic other than voice.

DID Direct Inward Dialing: A DID is a phone number in the form of a service that allows an enterprise to allocate individual phone numbers to each person within a PBX system.

LNP (Local Number Portability) or Porting is when you go from one provider to another and your number is moved, that's the process called porting. The gives you the ability to retain your phone number even if you switch to another local telephone provider.

POTS Plain Old Telephone System: The familiar single phone line, a single phone number system that has been in existence for many years.

PRI Primary Rate Interface: This is a dynamic circuit that delivers both voice and data, giving preference for voice.  When a channel is not carrying voice it is automatically allocated for data. 

PBX Public Branch Exchange:  A private telephone switching system that allows outside phone lines from a telecommunications provider to connect to extensions within the office or building.  They usually have multiple features including call forwarding, rollover, paging, and voice mail.

PSTN Public Switched Telephone Service: The combination of local, long-distance, and international carriers that make up the worldwide telephone network.

Rate Center: The geographic area used by local exchange carriers to set rate boundaries for issuing phone numbers and for billing.  Rate centers are important when considering porting numbers through LNP to and from VoIP service providers.

SoftPhone: IP telephony software or application that allows end-users to send and receive calls over the computer or handheld smartphones over the Internet.  It is often used in conjunction with a headset and microphone. It can also be installed on your computer or mobile phone, similar to other known communications apps such as Zoom, Skype, or WhatsApp.

Switch: A switch is a device that keeps a record of the MAC addresses of all devices connected to it and then channels incoming data from any of multiple input ports to the specific output port that will take the data toward its intended destination. The purpose of the switch is to track data/information.