What exactly is Voice over IP? There are many definitions floating around, but the most basic one is that VoIP is a collection of technologies which allow you to hold voice communication over a TCP/IP-based network.
VoIP has actually been around for quite some time. Instant messaging and collaboration programs like Microsoft NetMeeting and MSN Messenger have offered the ability to transmit sound through the computer speaker/microphone jacks, allowing remote users to actually converse.
But VoIP is ultimately reliant on networking technologies, and as it's only in recent years that reliable, high-speed TCP/IP networking has become so prevalent and affordable, it was never really considered much more than a gimmick.
However, with home users on high-speed broadband, and companies able to outfit their buildings with high-speed cabling and switches capable of handling massive throughput, the potential of VoIP as a dedicated carrier of voice communications is being realised.
VoIP does suffer from a popular over-simplification of definition. Many people think that Internet + Voice = VoIP = Free communication. As with many over-simplifications, there's an element of truth there, but the reality is always more involved.
This guide is designed to help you come to grips with exactly what VoIP is, what it does, whether it's any good for your business, and how to go about implementing it if you decide it is.