Back in the day, most businesses had an in-house PBX system connected to the public switched telephone network (“PSTN”), operated by a manual or automatic switching system. Then came the Internet and digital communications. The in-house PBX was connected to the PSTN and the Internet using a SIP Trunk.
Strictly speaking, SIP Trunks were not necessary since a PBX could connect using standard landlines. However, a SIP Trunk could provide additional functionality such as call forwarding. Then came VoIP, connecting a digital phone system running on an internal corporate network to the Internet, again often over a SIP Trunk.
Over the last few years, businesses have been steadily embracing remote access to their systems, either supporting working from home or remote access to eCommerce systems. This is often in addition to implementing VoIP systems to accrue their costs and operational benefits.
Other remote access systems used increasingly over the last few years have been collaborative communications systems, both free-standing and supporting integrated voice and videoconferencing, like Messenger, Zoom, and NetMeeting.
This has often meant a mix of different and perhaps incompatible applications platforms meeting different collaborative and communications needs.
Many companies are today looking at migrating to Unified Communications as a Service (”UCaaS”) to pull all the services together under one umbrella.
What is UCaaS?
UCaaS stands for “Unified Communications as a Service,” and it is a type of cloud-based communications service that provides a range of features, including voice and video calling, instant messaging, and more. Its main purpose is to integrate all communications services onto a common or fully integrated platform to ease usage, compatibility, and maintenance issues.
What is SIP?
SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol. It is a signalling protocol used for initiating, maintaining, modifying and terminating real-time sessions that involve video, voice, messaging and other communications applications and services between two or more endpoints on the Internet. SIP is used for signalling and controlling multimedia communication sessions in applications such as voice and video calls, teleconferences, and online games. It is a text-based protocol, similar to HTTP and SMTP, and is designed to be independent of the underlying transport layer.
UCaaS – Does it Need SIP?
Yes, UCaaS typically uses SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) for signalling and controlling multimedia communication sessions. SIP is a key component of UCaaS because it allows different communication devices and applications to interoperate and connect with each other, enabling users to communicate and collaborate using various modes such as voice, video, and instant messaging. UCaaS providers typically offer SIP trunking services to connect an organization’s existing PBX system to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and enable the use of UCaaS applications and services.
One thing to remember is that not all devices can be migrated to a digital network. For example, some modems, fax machines and alarm systems need analogue connectivity.
A common question is that if UCaaS is based on VoIP, is SIP still necessary? The answer is again yes, and for two reasons, the interoperability of different communications modes, and providing mobile users with the ability to use smart devices as handsets.
SIP is a key component of VoIP because it allows different communication devices and applications to interoperate and connect with each other, enabling users to make and receive voice and video calls over the Internet. VoIP providers typically offer SIP trunking services to connect an organization’s existing PBX system to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and enable the use of VoIP applications and services.
UCaaS Migration – Practical Considerations
Quite apart from questions about appropriate software and execution of the implementation project, some practical issues can be overlooked. Managing connectivity and capacity on a UCaaS network is very important. Patchy or dropped services can be extremely frustrating. Some organisations separate multimedia traffic into separate logical or physical networks.
- Network Connectivity. Everywhere that needs a communications capability must be able to connect to the corporate network. That requires network points, and possibly power points wherever connectivity is needed. That is usually carried out for conference rooms and offices that host multimedia meetings; and
- Network Capacity. Multimedia applications that use both video and voice are quite heavy on network bandwidth. The network configuration must cater for this to ensure an adequate level of service. This may mean a network upgrade to Gigabit switches.
It is increasingly becoming the connection type of choice. It has a few extra considerations if you intend to run multimedia applications over it. First, you will need Power over Ethernet switches to power up WiFi access points. Your network audit must reflect this.
Second, you will need 1GB switches, especially in high-density areas.
An organisation considering implementing UCaaS must carry out physical and network audits to make sure that the network is capable of handling multimedia applications wherever they are needed. To answer the question, you will need SIP Trunks.