If you’re just starting to familiarize yourself with virtual phone systems, all the new terms and features you’re encountering might have you scratching your head. Usually they are quite self-explanatory, but to make things easier we’ve created this VoIP term glossary. Most providers use the same terms, but please note that some might make slight differentiations in what the term or feature exactly means.
- ACD Queuing
- Auto Attendant
- Call Block
- Call Forward
- Call Hold
- Call Reports
- Call Screening
- Call Transfer
- Cardless Calling Card
- Conference Calling
- Dedicated Toll-Free Number
- Dial By Extension
- Dial by Name
- Direct Connect
- Fax On Demand
- Follow Me
- Group Voice Messaging
- Hold Music
- Hunt Groups
- IM Console
- Integrated Fax
- Local Numbers
- Non-Blockable Caller ID
- Number Portability
- Personal Hold Message
- Random Hold Music
- Remote Office
- Return Calls
- Schedule Enabled
- Speed Dial
- Virtual Office
- Visual Call Parking
An Automatic Call Distribution Queue or ACD Queue allows incoming callers to be put on hold until someone is able or free to answer the call. Also known as virtual queuing, this feature places callers in a virtual line or queue determined by the order the call is received. Once a phone line is available, incoming calls are answered in the order they were received. Calls are automatically distributed to free lines within the business by the queuing system. This is a particularly useful feature for call centers or businesses with a large amount of incoming calls.
An auto attendant is a virtual receptionist that helps a business or any other service provider improve a customer or client’s experience. You setup the auto attendant feature with dial-by-name and customized menu systems, which are catered to individual needs. This features allows you to create a more professional and personal experience for callers.
When receiving a call from an unwanted number, you may block all future phone calls from a specific number. This is done by blocking individual numbers. All incoming calls from blocked numbers will be denied access. This is a useful tool to reduce unsolicited calls and selectively filter calls to avoid unwanted calls. You can remove phone numbers from a blocked list at any time.
Call forwarding lets you forward all incoming calls to another telephone number or to voicemail. This is a useful feature when you're busy, in a meeting, away from your office or desk, or on holiday. Certain service providers may allow call forwarding to multiple numbers, such as a home or mobile phone number. When forwarding calls to a number outside a local area, long distance charges may apply.
Call hold allows you to press the hold button and put a caller on hold while talking on the phone. This is done without disconnecting the call. To rejoin the call, you press the hold button again. Call hold may also be used with call waiting, which notifies you that another incoming call is being made.
Call reporting is a web-based feature that permits you to access call detail records and filter reports. Information contained in call reports includes details on area codes, time of calls, department calls and extensions, and other data. These details can help determine service standards, such as average hold times, dropped call totals, and unanswered call totals.
You may accept or reject calls from specific numbers with call screening. Caller ID information appears onyour phone, helping you identify the incoming caller or department. Caller ID also identifies whether an incoming call is from a number within or outside the business or organization. This provides you with greater control to filter incoming calls. Incoming calls may be accepted or rejected, or they may be redirected to voicemail.
In order to direct an incoming call to another user, the call transfer feature allows you to redirect an incoming call to another extension or any phone number. Unlike the call forward or forwarding feature, where transfers are made automatically when a call comes in, call transfer is typically used when an incoming call has already been answered.
Cardless Calling Card
A cardless calling card removes the need for a prepaid calling card. When using a cardless calling card, you typically pay a setup fee to commence the service and a yearly fee. In addition, you are charged a price per minute for individual calls. A cardless calling card eliminates the need for topping up prepaid calling cards.
CTC, or Request-a-Call (the Click-to-Call term is incorrect), covers any means for a client to request a recall. This feature usually appears on websites in the form of a button, which allows clients to provide their phone number in order to be later (or immediately) redialed by a company employee.
Conference calling allows you to set up conference bridges using dedicated numbers. These phone numbers may be temporary or permanent, and are associated with pass codes for moderators and participants to control access. This is a useful feature when organizing meetings over the phone with callers from various locations or when physical meeting space is limited. Conference bridges may be limited by the number of simultaneous callers.
Dedicated Toll-Free Number
Dedicated toll-free numbers are generally provided as a part of the VoIP package. These numbers are given to your business with the purpose of delivering toll-free traffic to a single access circuit only. The dedicated toll-free numbers act as internal identifiers for locating the network that is responsible for dealing with particular toll-free calls.
Dial by Extension
The beauty of dialing through an extension is the fact that the employees are just a couple of digits away. These extensions are typically given a two-, three- or a four-digit number, with an individual phone being placed on each desk. Quite often, a single phone is shared by multiple employees. You can easily call employees and transfer calls within the business organization, and that too in a much lesser cost in contrast to the traditional phone lines.
Dial by Name
Dial by name allows you to make calls to the list of extensions or people added in your address book, just by inputting their names. While making the directory, you can save the name of your callers via their first names, last names, or both. This makes it easy to just locate the name and make a call, thereby saving the hassle of remembering or penning down the number.
Direct connect is a feature that enables you to bypass calls through your VoIP service and connect them directly to another VoIP user. This proves to be an essential feature, and helps in saving time that would have been expended in routing calls from different channels. However, this feature requires you and the receiver to be on the same routers or connectivity adapters in order to make the communication smooth.
Fax On Demand
Fax on demand is a unique feature that enables you to fax pre-loaded faxes stored in the system memory to the callers, as soon as the call is disconnected by entering certain pre-decided digits while making the call. This comes in quite handy for a business that needs to provide instant and constant information to customers, rather than using only the website for the same. You can send product, sales and other required information to callers by faxing them to their numbers as and when required.
Also known as find me, follow me allows you to configure your VoIP desk phone with a single or multiple other phones to avoid missing on any important call when you're not available at your desk. You can configure the phone with your mobile, home, or any other number to stay connected all the time. In case you're not around your desk, the phone call will be transferred to all the other configured numbers in a pre-defined systematic order, until the call is attended.
Group Voice Messaging
Group voice messaging refers to setting up voice mail messages for all the extensions added in a particular group. You can easily record one personal message or use a pre-programmed message, and make it default for every number on your extension or in the group. Group messaging comes handy when there are a large number of extensions to be attended and it is impossible to record separate messages for every one of them.
Hold music is a music file or piece that the caller usually gets to listen to when a call is being put on hold. This music could be anything from your company’s tag line music to any other popular music track. You can select from a long list of high-quality songs to keep the callers entertained while being on hold, rather than making them put up with dead silence.
Hunt group is a feature that enables your callers to find an available (not busy) line automatically from among all the VoIP extensions. When a call is received, each and every extension is tried until the call reaches a free extension. Extensions are automatically skipped if the person is attending to another caller and reaches the available extension easily. The hunt groups are mainly organized in sequential or round-robin style.
IM console in a VoIP system enables you to send instant messages to a good number of customers with a single click of the mouse. You can easily send messages related to sales, products and other information about your company to the users by making use of the VoIP IM console. When offered by a provider, it usually comes free of cost along with the VoIP package and allows you to send free messages worldwide.
Integrated fax is a feature that enables you to send integrated fax documents to the callers – as soon as the call is disconnected – by making just a few clicks while on the call. The documents are integrated into the VoIP system and can be faxed to the caller’s number in an easy manner. It is a good medium for sharing documents with the customers, other than emails and websites.
Local numbers are specific digits that you choose from a long list of numbers provided by the VoIP service providers. You can pick your own numbers from the list, thereby making your business grow larger and more professional. These numbers are then operated through your local landline setup and serve as the telephony address for your business.
Non-Blockable Caller ID
Non-blockable caller ID means that your caller ID will show the exact contact number of every dialer that reaches into your VoIP system. It doesn't matter if the number is from a blocked, private or a disposable line – the incoming number will show up anyway. Also, when the transcript voice mails are mailed to your inbox, the exact phone number of the caller will be highlighted below.
Simply put, this is the porting of a phone number associated to you from your current phone service provider to another. When you initiate the number porting process, you usually have to pay a fee (between $10–$30), after which you get a temporary phone number, while your new phone system provider recovers your original number from the previous company.
Personal Hold Message
Personal hold message is a feature that enables you to record and upload a personal message to your VoIP account, which is usually played when callers are put on hold. You can upload the message in different file formats on the account, and they will be played whenever the caller has to be put on hold. This is a very good replacement for the dead silence that usually persists when a caller is put on hold.
POTS is the abbreviation (or to be more precise, the retronym) of Plain Old Telephone Service that was the standard before the introduction of ISDN, BRI (Basic Rate Interface), VoIP and mobile phone systems. Despite seeming completely obsolete by employing analog signal transmission over copper loops (meaning it is absolutely not compatible with virtual phone systems by any means), it is still considered the most reliable telephone service in existence.
Call queues enable you to route the incoming calls to a certain group of extensions or phone numbers in a systematic manner. The queue extensions are rung in an orderly manner, starting from the very first till the last. If one member is on a call, the next number will be rung and so on, until the call is attended. Until then, callers are put on waiting and your custom hold music entertains them in the meanwhile.
Random Hold Music
Random hold music is a feature that allows your callers to enjoy random music files while being kept on hold. You can choose from a long list of music files and select a playlist of your own. Once the caller is put on hold, a random music file automatically starts playing and keeps your caller entertained. You can also upload your own music files into your VoIP account if the default music and tunes don't seem appealing enough.
Often called Remote Office/Branch Office (or ROBO for short) this term basically covers an office that is located somewhere else than the company’s central office, whether that place is within a country or abroad. ROBOs are usually smaller compared to headquarters, and they either work just like main offices or they provide some sort of specialized services. ROBOs are especially useful for companies that are looking for profitable markets elsewhere and/or have employees who visit certain locations on a regular basis.
Return calls is a useful feature that enables you to connect with callers, in case you missed the call. It is a useful feature if you are not often found on your desk. In the events of a call being missed due to any reason, the number of the caller is registered in the return call list. You can simply call back the missed number and stay connected just by a mere press of the dedicated key.
Schedule enabled VoIP allows you to set up a predefined date and time for routing a call to a different location or number/extension. In case you're not present at your desk on a certain date and at a certain time you can set the schedule, and all the calls on that date will be routed to the pre-defined routing number within that time period.
The abbreviation for Session Initiation Protocol, SIP is a protocol for initiating interactive user sessions over the internet involving such multimedia elements as video, voice and chat. This protocol can not only establish, modify or terminate internet telephony calls, but it can also invite one or several participants to join one conversation. SIP also supports name mapping and redirection services, therefore users can start and receive communications wherever they are while networks can identify those locations.
A softphone is software developed for computers/mobile devices with which you can make phone calls without the need for actual hardware aside from a headset. To give softphones a friendlier look for less tech-savvy users, this software often resembles the overall appearance of a regular phone? In other words, it has a caller ID display panel, buttons etc.
Speed dial is a feature with which you can call certain numbers just by pressing a reduced number of keys on your phone/softphone. In other words, you can easily initiate a call without the need to search for the number in your contact list. To set up speed dial, you can either associate a 1–3 digit number to the original phone numbers manually from your actual phone or within the account manager.
Transmission Control Protocol is a connection-based protocol, meaning that a connection is established and maintained until message exchange between two programs is finished. TCP is excellent if you heavily rely on lossless data exchange, but it is not ideal for time-sensitive applications like VoIP, as TCP streams often suffer from latency.
User Datagram Protocol is used as an alternative to TCP for establishing low-latency and loss tolerating connections. In other words, network applications using UDP like voice and video communications can suffer some data loss but without adversely affecting the overall quality of the call.
An office without a physical location, or to be more precise: an office that exists only in the cloud. As a virtual office doesn’t require anything special regarding hardware or software, employers and employees can work anytime from anywhere, meetings can be conducted via video conferencing, and documents can be shared via cloud services.
Visual Call Parking
This is an extension of the call parking system (used for placing incoming calls on hold and passing that call to someone else) with which you can actually see the caller, the call park zones being occupied and the status via the desktop client of your virtual phone system. If your system is equipped with an advanced visual call parking feature, parks can either be emphasized by different colors or by flashing icons.