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VLANs, POE+ and More - Your Guide to Common VoIP Acronyms

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VLANs, POE+ and More - Your Guide to Common VoIP Acronyms

Discussion of hosted VoIP technology can quickly turn into alphabet soup. VoIP itself stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, and it is often incorporated into unified communications (UC) suites. Moreover, it might be supported with Power over Ethernet (PoE or PoE+) and a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) for simplified infrastructure and adaptive bandwidth allocations, respectively. And we're just scraping the surface of relevant terminology here.

Some of these acronyms are sufficiently popular to not need further explanation (e.g., hosted VoIP service). Others are less obvious and can make it difficult for your team to sort through already-overwhelming solution spec sheets and know what you're actually getting into. With that challenge in mind, let's go through some of the more challenging abbreviations out there.


A VLAN is a virtual local area network (LAN). It's mostly similar to a physical LAN, with one major exception: Its end stations can be grouped together even if they are not all on the same switch. This is possible since VLANs, as virtualized assets, can be configured through software.

For VoIP solutions, a VLAN can play several pivotal parts. VLAN tagging allows network switches to know which VLAN a packet belongs to, as well as which interfaces it should be broadcast to. VLAN segmentation can also separate voice and data traffic from each other.

The upshot is better call quality and application performance. That's a major advantage, given the sensitivity of VoIP to jitter, latency and packet loss.


Ethernet is one of the most long-lived and versatile network interfaces. For example, it can send more than just data – it can also transmit electricity, via PoE/PoE+.

PoE carries both a network and electrical connection on a single wire, while PoE+ simply denotes a higher supported wattage and superior energy efficiency. This setup permits much simpler connectivity since separate cables aren't necessary.

VoIP phones were among the original VoIP applications: They can be plugged in with one wire, with no need for AC adapters or traditional phone lines.

SD-WAN (and SDN)

You might have come across the term software-defined networking (SDN), which refers to the use of a server-based controller application to make decisions about traffic flows. A software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) is a more specific application of SDN, involving the use of software to aggregate different WAN connections and adjust path routing on-the-fly as network conditions evolve and different apps compete for bandwidth.

Some hosted VoIP providers such as Telesystem also offer SD-WANs, and the pairing makes sense. With an SD-WAN, it's much easier to prioritize VoIP traffic and ensure it has the best possible path through the WAN, whether that's over an MPLS, broadband or wireless link. SD-WANs also support much easier branch office expansion. You won't have to worry so much about your most remote offices not having enough bandwidth to run VoIP solutions.


A virtual private network (VPN) is a frequently mentioned solution to consumer-level security problems, such as data leakage when using public Wi-Fi. It encrypts the connection between a client and a server, shielding activity from prying eyes.

VPNs are useful in enterprise security, too. Remote-access VPN clients are much more cost-effective than organization-exclusive owned or leased lines. In addition to encrypting data, a VPN can hide the sending and receiving IP addresses.

VPNs can also be incorporated into managed security solutions, in which they function alongside other measures such as the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) core network protection from Telesystem to defend against a broad spectrum of threats. DDoS defense is offered at no extra charge to Telesystem customers.


A private branch exchange (PBX) can refer to any business phone system, although the term is typically used to contrast legacy technology with the innovations of hosted solutions. Analog PBXes run on copper wires, with all infrastructure hosted on-site. Hosted PBXes rely on offsite assets overseen by a service provider.

The latter is the superior fit for many modern organizations, due to its simpler upkeep, lower costs and higher flexibility. For example, hosted PBXes can be integrated with other solutions such as customer relationship management software.


Both of these acronyms refer to the public switched telephone network (PSTN), also known as the plain old telephone system (POTS). PSTN/POTS encompasses all the fiber-optic cables, telephone lines, cellular towers and satellites that together enable telephony between different types of devices.

PSTN is still an important component of business communications. However, hosted VoIP is an appealing alternative since it relies on packet-switching instead of circuit-switching, allowing for much cheaper minutes and many more features than PSTN (hence the "plain" in POTS).

We've only scratched the surface of acronyms you'll likely run into when evaluating VoIP products and services. Navigating them doesn't have to be a slog. With Telesystem's help, you can discover a cost-effective and scalable solution that works for your organization. Contact our team today for more info, or request a quote.


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