Unified communications terminology cheat sheet

If your organization is considering implementing a unified communications solution, you may feel a bit overwhelmed as you examine the options from different vendors. Here's a list of some of the terms you'll likely encounter as you navigate the UC landscape.

If your organization is considering implementing a unified communications solution, you may feel a bit overwhelmed as you examine the options from different vendors.

Understanding the new terminology that has sprung up around the new technologies can sometimes be a struggle.To prepare you to intelligently discuss your company's UC needs, here's a list of some of the terms you'll likely encounter as you navigate the UC landscape.

Note: This list is also available as a PDF download.

  • EIM: Enterprise instant messaging is an IM service that runs on private IM servers within an organization, using platforms such as Microsoft's Live Communications Server or Office Communications Server 2007.
  • FoIP: Fax over Internet Protocol is a method for sending fax transmissions over an IP network.
  • H.323: This is a set of standard protocols used to establish sessions for voice communications and video conferencing over an IP network; it's the primary competitor to SIP.
  • Hosted services: This refers to a service provider that delivers traditional IT services such as e-mail, IM, and UC to an organization over the Internet from a remote location, as opposed to the organization running its own servers on site.
  • IM: Instant messaging is a means for exchanging text-based messages in real time over the Internet via computers or handheld devices. Modern IM services also provide VoIP and video conferencing, file transfer, and desktop/application sharing.
  • IP PBX: This is a telephone switching system within a private organization that typically works with both VoIP and traditional telephone lines.
  • Jitter: This is undesirable variation in a signal that, in the context of VoIP and video communications, causes interference in the transmission.
  • Latency: This is the time it takes for a packet of data to travel from one application to another, including both time in transit across the network and the time required to prepare and process the data at the sending and receiving computers.
  • MIM: Mobile instant messaging is a presence and IM service for mobile devices.
  • Mobility: This describes the use and integration of handheld devices such as wireless PDAs and smart phones into an organization's communications system.
  • MoIP: Mobile communications over IP is a native mobile application that includes chat and voice over an IP network using 3G, GPRS, Wi-Fi, etc.
  • Presence: Probably one of the most misunderstood concepts in UC, presence refers to the ability of the UC system to determine where users are and what their status is at any given time, making it easier for them to receive communications (phone calls, e-mail messages, instant messages, faxes) in accordance with their wishes.
  • QoS: Quality of service is a method for prioritizing protocols, applications, or users to maintain a desired level of performance in terms of the flow of data over the network.
  • RTP: The Real-time Transport Protocol is an Internet standard defined by RFC 3550 that delivers audio and video packets over an IP network.
  • SIMPLE: SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions is an open standard protocol for exchanging instant messages and presence information.
  • SIP: The Session Initiation Protocol is an Internet standard defined by RFC 3261 used for session establishment and teardown for voice communications and video conferencing over an IP network. (See also H.323.)
  • SMS: The Short Message Service is a protocol used to exchange short text messages (up to 160 characters, depending on bit size) via mobile phones.
  • Soft phone: This is a software application for making and receiving telephone calls on a computer using VoIP. In contrast to a "hard" dedicated IP telephone device, a soft phone provides an interface for dialing and generally works through the computer's sound card and microphone.
  • SRTP: The Secure Real-time Transport Protocol is a method for providing encryption and authentication to data transmitted via RTP.
  • Status: When used in conjunction with presence, status refers to whether a user is available, busy, offline, etc. to let other users and the UC system itself know how to handle the user's messages.
  • Telepresence: This describes technologies that provide the effect of being present in one location when a person is physically at a different location.
  • Unified messaging: This is a means of storing different types of messages (voice mail, e-mail, faxes, etc.) in the same message store and making them accessible to the user from the same mailbox, which is accessible from different devices and applications (e.g., from an e-mail client program on the desktop or laptop computer, from a Web interface on a public computer, from a handheld device, or from a regular telephone).
  • Videoconferencing: This is the use of audio and video technologies to enable two or more people in remote locations to communicate together via computers in a virtual meeting.
  • Voice mail: A method for answering multiple incoming telephone lines and storing messages for multiple persons via a computerized system. Integrated voice mail systems can forward phone messages to an e-mail inbox as audio attachments that users can retrieve and play on their computer or handheld device.
  • VoIM: Voice over Instant Messaging refers to applications that allow voice communications along with text-based IM messages.
  • VoIP: Voice over Internet Protocol is how voice telephone calls transmit across an IP network as an alternative to the public switched telephone network (PSTN).
  • VoWLAN: Voice over Wireless Local Area Network refers to the transmission of VoIP signals using Wi-Fi (802.11) networking instead of wired Ethernet.

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By Deb Shinder

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...