What is a softswitch and why is it important?
Making a phone call is something we do pretty much without thinking about it. You lift the receiver, dial, and the call is connected. But let’s pause for a second to consider what happens behind the scenes.
In the past, the connection would have been made by an electromechanical exchange that relied on moving parts. In more recent years these have been supplanted by electronics known as a ‘switch’. This is similar to the router you have at home but on a larger scale and it makes the connection across the telephone network. In the case of the latest VoIP systems, this is more likely to be achieved using a ‘softswitch’ which is software on a computer that performs the switching task.
Types of VoIP switch
VoIP switches come in two types. A class 4 switch is used by a VoIP wholesale carrier such as IDT Express in order to safely route voice traffic over long distances. When a call is made, the switch ensures that it reaches the intended recipient, taking the most efficient route to get there.
A class 5 switch is used to provide services for the retail end user of the service. These also route calls but, in addition, they deliver features such as call forwarding, conference calls and voicemail. A class 5 switch is what you get if you opt for a hosted PBX system to handle your business voice traffic.
You can, of course, have an on-site switch in the form of a more traditional PBX, or you can have your own softswitch running on an in-house server. It’s becoming increasingly popular to have the switch hosted in the cloud.
Having your switch located in the cloud gives you a number of advantages. Firstly it’s highly scalable, as your business grows or if you need to handle seasonal peaks in call traffic, you can easily increase the capacity without the need for additional hardware.
It also means less hardware on site, so you reclaim some space but you also save on the power and maintenance costs of running your own system. There are major advantages in the number of features available too. Having a cloud-based switch gives you access to a whole range of calling and call management features. This can make your smaller business sound like a much larger one when people call.
You can, of course, also connect to a cloud switch from anywhere. This means that branch offices, home workers and mobile staff can access their office phone from anywhere, taking advantage of all the features we’ve talked about, but also remaining accessible on their office number when they are out and about.
There are additional benefits in planning for business continuity. If you need to relocate to other premises then provided that you have an internet connection, you will still be able to access your phone system and all of its features and you won’t even need to change your number.