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Unified Communications Glossary of Terms

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Business Process Automation

The strategy a business uses to automate processes in order to contain costs, reduce risk, and increase consistency. It consists of integrating applications, restructuring labor resources and using software applications throughout the organization.

Business Process Integration

The synchronization of a company’s internal operations with those of its other divisions and its trading partners by connecting disparate systems in real-time. The idea of this type of integration is to eliminate the need to duplicate data in several different systems, and increase the overall efficiency of the business operation. When structured to best advantage, business process integration can save the business a great deal of time and money.

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Call Control

Also known as "call processing," it refers to controlling telephone and PBX functions. It provides the signaling to establish the call, disconnect (tear down) the call and transfer the call.

Call Controls

User functions on a telephone, such as pick up, place on hold, transfer, record, mute and disconnect. Often with Unified Communications systems, these controls are provided in a GUI interface on a computer. Also, see Softphone.

Cloud Services

(AKA Hosted services) Refers to a service provided by IT firms, that delivers technology applications, such as email, IM, and UC to an organization over the Internet, from a remote location, as opposed to the organization running its own servers on site.


Highly diversified teams working together inside and outside a company with the purpose to create value by improving innovation, customer relationships and efficiency while leveraging technology for effective interactions in the virtual and physical space. See Collaborative Software.

Collaborative Software

Software that allows people to work together on the same documents and projects over local and remote networks. Lotus Notes is considered the father of "groupware," which was the first term coined to describe collaborative software. Also called "social software," collaborative software embraces the communications systems as well, including e-mail, videoconferencing, instant messaging and chat.


A conference call is a telephone call in which the calling party wishes to have more than one called party listen in to the audio portion of the call. The conference calls may be designed to allow the called party to participate during the call, or the call may be set up so that the called party merely listens into the call and cannot speak. Also, see Video Conferencing.

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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 (Lync).

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Fax over Internet Protocol is a method of sending fax transmissions over an IP network.

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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.

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Instant messaging is a means of 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.


The principal communications protocol in the Internet protocol suite for relaying datagrams across network boundaries. This function of routing enables internetworking, and essentially establishes the Internet.


This is a telephone switching system within a private organization that typically works with both VoIP and traditional telephone lines.

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This is undesirable variation in a signal that, in the context of VoIP and video communications, causes interference in the transmission.  

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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.

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Mobile instant messaging is a presence and IM service for mobile devices.


This describes the use and integration of handheld devices, such as wireless PDAs and smart phones, into an organization’s communications system.


Mobile communications over IP is a native mobile application that includes chat and voice over an IP network using 3G, GPRS, Wi-Fi, etc.

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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.

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Quality of service is a method of prioritizing protocols, applications, or users to maintain a desired level of performance in terms of the flow of data over the network.

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SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions is an open standard protocol for exchanging instant messages and presence information.


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.


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.


The Secure Real-time Transport Protocol is a method of providing encryption and authentication to data transmitted via RTP.

Speech Recognition

The translation of spoken words into text. Speech recognition applications include voice user interfaces such as voice dialing, call routing, domotic appliance control, search, simple data entry, preparation of structured documents, speech-to-text processing, and aircraft.

Screen Pop

A feature of a computer telephony integration (CTI) application that automatically displays all of the relevant caller and account information on a call center agent’s screen during a call.


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.

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The science of translating sound into electrical signals, transmitting them, and then converting them back to sound. The term is used frequently to refer to computer hardware and software that performs functions traditionally performed by telephone equipment.


This describes technologies that provide the effect of being present in one location when a person is physically at a different location.

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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).

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Video Conferencing

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

This is a method of 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.


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).


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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