Is There a Difference Between SIP and VoIP?
Business communications is a world of its own, full of acronyms and technical terms that can be overwhelming for anyone not in the communications industry. Take the differences between SIP and VoIP, for example. You may have seen or heard something about them, but what are they, when do you use them, and for what?
We could write books on all of the technology involved in telecom, but we know you want something a bit more simple and quick to digest. You may have a network decision to make right now, and it’s essential for you to understand the basics of communications so you can feel confident in your investment.
First off, let’s define SIP and VoIP.
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. VoIP converts voice communications into digital data transmitted using a high-speed Internet connection.
SIP, on the other hand, is short for Session Initiation Protocol. It is a communications protocol (like a rule book) that defines the type of messages being sent between endpoints over the internet and establishes their connection.
Got it? Don’t worry. We’ll explain what all of that means.
What Is VoIP Used for?
You already know what VoIP is because you likely use it every day. You just may not have known what it was called. But if you’re trying to understand the difference between SIP and VoIP, it helps to know what VoIP is. VoIP is simply any call made over a digital landline or connection instead of a traditional analog phone line.
Analog landlines use copper phone lines to transmit voice from one caller to another. They have been around forever and haven’t changed much over the last 100 years. Digital landlines use an internet connection, not copper wires. While VoIP technology has been around since the late 1990s, it wasn’t common until about 2004.
Digital lines are gradually replacing analog landlines. From 2010 to 2018, U.S. VoIP business lines jumped from 6.2 million to 41.6 million. COVID-19 has only increased demand, as more people are working remotely from home and need different ways to communicate other than just by phone. Using VoIP, users can communicate over dedicated handsets, desktop and laptop computers, and mobile apps.
VoIP can be cloud-based, as well, making it the ideal platform for all digital communication, including videoconferencing, something you can’t do with analog phone lines. Gartner has some interesting statistics on cloud-based telephony and cloud-based conferencing.
End-user spending on cloud-based conferencing is projected to reach $4.1 billion in 2020, up from $3.3 billion in 2019, and is the second-fastest growing category in the unified communications (UC) market.
The fastest-growing category is based on cloud-based telephony, which is expected to reach nearly $17 billion in 2020.
Gartner says, “Cloud collaboration investments will buoy the UC market downturn as remote work initiatives spurred by the COVID-19 outbreak drive conferencing adoption and market growth. By 2024, in-person meetings will account for 25% of enterprise meetings, a drop from 60% prior to the pandemic, driven by remote work and changing workforce demographics. As a result, there is a higher demand for convenient access to videoconferencing and other collaboration tools.”
Related: Unified Communications vs. VoIP: Which Is Best?
Experts expect small and midsize businesses will increase their adoption of VoIP by more than 15% by 2025. Why the rush to VoIP?
VoIP is inexpensive and super flexible. Think about it. With an analog line, users have to be physically in the vicinity of the line. That means they are tied to their desks in an office or must be in their home to make or receive calls. Few people work (or want to work) that way anymore.
Many SMBs are switching to cloud PBX systems (Private Branch Exchange) managed by their VoIP service providers to further reduce costs associated with equipment implementation, maintenance, and training.
Analog phone lines come with a higher price tag, too. Because VoIP uses existing cable and internet connections, all you need is a computer with a microphone, speakers, and internet connection. Skype is a good example of a VoIP communications platform that is free.
Even paid versions of VoIP are cheap compared to standard phone plans, especially when it comes to international calls. Depending on how many users you have and calling features you want, you can save between 30% and 50% using VoIP instead of analog phone lines.
What Is SIP Used for?
SIP is part of business communications, but there is a difference between what SIP and VoIP do. SIP is one of the specific protocols that enable business VoIP – it initiates an IP (Internet Protocol) communication session between people using IP devices.
According to SIP.US, SIP “defines the messages that are sent between endpoints and it governs establishment, termination and other essential elements of a call. SIP can be used to transmit information between just two endpoints or many. In addition to voice, SIP can be used for video conferencing, instant messaging, media distribution, and other applications” over IP-based networks.
With so much and many different types of data being sent across networks at any time, SIP provides the structure of how that data gets from point A to point B (and C, D, and E, if necessary). SIP enables users to connect quickly and reliably across different networks. SIP allows people from anywhere around the world to communicate using voice, video, or data on computers, desk phones, and mobile phones over the internet.
Businesses need this capability more than ever, as people must be able to work from anywhere without limitations. SIP ensures your company can scale to meet the needs of your users, whether they want voice, video, instant messaging, text, and/or other modern business communications.
The Benefits of VoIP with SIP
Here’s where it can get a little confusing. As we said, SIP is just one of the protocols that enable business VoIP. It’s not the only protocol, but it is by far the most prevalent. There really is no difference between SIP and VoIP because they are two different things – they work together. VoIP with SIP enables you to enhance your company’s communications capabilities beyond voice-only to embrace a wide range of media communications.
The best part? You can consolidate all of the different media types and technologies under one Unified Communications roof for easier management and lower costs. A more streamlined network is a good thing for your users, your IT department, and your budget. Add on features and users as needed with a few clicks, and integrate with other cloud applications, such as Microsoft Teams. The flexibility of a VoIP with SIP network allows for easy customization so your network fits your needs now and as things change.
Related: 6 Reasons to Make the Move to a UCaaS Provider
Another bonus is that VoIP with SIP inherently offers many communication channels so if connection is lost on one device, users can quickly shift to another connected device. This failover can be critical in certain circumstances.
How to Get VoIP with SIP
As you can see, the technology may be complicated, but it greatly simplifies and enhances your network. Depending on your company’s IT telecom skills and bandwidth, you will need to determine if you can transition from a traditional phone system to a VoIP with SIP on your own or need experts to do it for you.
Whether you are switching over from analog telephones or PBXs, you may need SIP trunking services to get the most out of your VoIP telephony communications. By partnering with a SIP expert, you will know exactly what you need and they can do all of the legwork for you.
Choose a provider that uses a Tier 1 network with gateways in several disparate locations for the greatest reliability and disaster recovery. We also recommend choosing a provider that allows you to shop for the best price and service for internet connectivity instead of one that requires you to purchase it from them.
Also, look for a provider that allows you to add or remove lines without long-term contracts. You want to be able to make changes on your own as needed using a self-service portal instead of relying on them to do even the smallest things for you. This will save you time and ensure you’re getting exactly what you need.
Pricing is always a consideration, but be careful in how you assess pricing. Vendors all have their own pricing models and even a low per-channel price can come with all kinds of fees that aren’t always mentioned upfront. Work with a provider that is transparent with all costs so you know what you’ll be paying for when all are tallied.
Another point to note is that SIP trunking providers often require you to choose from their PBX selection. Instead, work with a provider that offers a SIP solution that can work with whichever PBX you want, including any existing PBX you may have.
Finally, partner with a provider that is working in your best interest, supporting you throughout your buying journey and beyond. They should take time to get to know your business and existing infrastructure, as well as custom design a plan that fits your business needs and goals. They can help you plan and implement the rollout so there is minimal downtime.