what is an ata

What Is an ATA and How Do You Know If Your SIP Setup Needs One?

Why are 70% of all Canadian and U.S. businesses using SIP trunks? One reason is that the old analog system is slowly going offline.

The worldwide shutdown of the analog telephone system continues. Many countries are already well on their way to voluntary compliance by 2025. Business employees still spend about 400 minutes per day on the phone, so voice communications systems themselves are far from shutting down.

When you switch to a SIP trunk line, you can keep all the customizations and features of your legacy PBX system. Read on to learn what is an ATA and how it works.

What Is an ATA?

ATA stands for an analog telephone adaptor. It’s a device used to bridge standard telephones and PBXs to a network so that calls travel over the Internet instead of direct over copper wire.

There are several different kinds of ATAs.  All of them are a physical bridge between a phone and a network device. Some types some perform analog-to-digital conversion and connect directly to a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) server. Other types of ATAs use software, rather than hardware to perform the tasks. 

The simplest type of ATA uses a USB connector to attach to a server, computer, or other internet-connected devices. At the other end, one or more R-11 jacks allow connection to telephones, faxes, and more. It looks like a simple box.

This type of ATA depends on software to digitize voice data so that it can be transmitted over the Internet. It is meant for a single line, not for a PBX. It can cause garbled or incomplete calls when used with a PBX.

In a business setting, the usual type of ATA has a bank of telephone jacks and an RJ-45 connection to a local area network 10/100BaseT Ethernet hub or switch. The ATA digitizes voice data. This type of ATA is VoIP gateway.

What Is VoIP?

VoIP simply means that you make phone calls travel via the internet rather than through analog phone lines. VoIP takes analog voice signals and translates them into digital signals that travel via the internet’s broadband lines.   

Before VoIP, voice and fax calls traveled via the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network). This is the same network now in phase-out. Analog calls are simple and reliable. However, they weren’t flexible.

It took an expensive technician and change of hardware when you wanted to add or subtract lines, add new devices or change addresses.  It certainly wasn’t mobile.  

A VoIP phone works using internet protocol.  VoIP uses no phone lines. Instead, your VoIP relies on the internet to deliver your calls and a server in the cloud to performs switching and routing duties. An on-site router connects calls the internet. Signal packets travel to outbound to the receiving telephone (also internet or traditional.)

VoIP connects to virtually any device. You can add smartphones, desktop software or other devices you want. Employees can even use their own equipment if you have adequate security measures. 

Why Keep Your Old PBX?

PBX (Private Branch Exchange) systems aren’t new technology. The systems handle routing and switching of calls between businesses and the telephone network. 

A PBX was a large, expensive machine located at a business. It isn’t easily expandable or changed. Fortunately or unfortunately, they are considered capital expenditures and have IRS depreciation schedules.  

You probably count on your current PBX programming to facilitate:

  • Use of more than one telephone line 
  • Incoming and outgoing call management
  • Multiple internal extensions sharing limited outbound lines
  • Switch calls between internal lines
  • Internal communication within the business
  • Newer systems include voicemail, automated response and more

Many businesses cannot take valuable time out to re-program and re-train employees for a phone system. In that case, answering the question, “What is an ATA?” is followed by, why aren’t we using one and switching already?

Onsite systems offer direct control of the phone system and security. An internal IT employee with expertise handles all configuration and editing.  

Save 40% – 60% Without Changing Your PBX

Even if you choose to keep your existing PBX, SIP trunks give you the flexibility to take advantage of low-cost calling. In a per-line cost comparison, the use of VoIP technology can save at least 40% and possibly more.

Your legacy PBX acts as the bridge between the phone company trunk telephone lines and your company. Then with the ATA, acts as the bridge between your company and your SIP trunk service.

The right kind of ATA makes this transition seamless. Watch out though, if you are a high volume fax sender, an ATA may not be the right solution.

What If You Don’t Want to Keep Your Old PBX?

The only alternative used to be the so-called “forklift upgrade”. Basically you put the old system on a truck and replaced it with a new one. These days, a modern PBX isn’t nearly so involved. 

A hosted PBX option moves the phone system, configuration responsibility, and maintenance to a service provider. You handle only handsets and cords, the service provider does the complex programming and configuration. 

Hosted systems locate the PBX at the service provider’s center. That frees up your valuable real estate. After all, who doesn’t want a bigger office? 

There are some out-of-pocket costs, such as all new handsets, and cords, etc. On the other hand, it’s easy to find a buyer or charity for old PBX systems.

Why Choose a Hosted PBX?

Here are four clear factors in favor of a cloud-based PBX.

  • Low Cost 
  • Highly Flexible
  • No ATA needed
  • Easy to Grow

if you are a current legacy PBX owner, you know that maintaining a PBX on-premises takes employees with a certain amount of skill. IT techs with telecommunications experience are in high demand and expensive. 

There is also the matter of capital outlay and depreciation for the equipment and cost of the space that houses the equipment.

A cloud-based PBX gives you the functions you want for a monthly charge and a very limited capital outlay. These are expensed annually instead of counting as depreciable assets.  

You want a PBX that is flexible and scalable.  A cloud-based system only requires a few keystrokes to make changes.  Increase or decrease the number of extensions.  Add or change locations, access the system, and manage it from anywhere with an internet connection. 

In combination with our SIP trunk service, you can have a big business system, at small-business prices.

Choose an Alternative to Legacy or Hosted PBX?

If you choose PBX as a software service, you don’t need to ask the “What is an ATA?” question. Everything you need is controlled from software. Load it on to a PC or local server that you own or control and that’s. 

You can hire a consultant to help you get started, but most are made for DIY  configuration and customization. SIP.US is compatible with almost all open source systems. 

Clear Voice Communications Without Errors

In the past, VoIP calls were easy to distinguish. The sound quality was poor and the calls were unreliable. A modern, stable SIP trunk eliminates these challenges. VoIP systems today offer call-quality virtually indistinguishable from traditional wired systems at a fraction of the cost.

There are far fewer call-quality concerns on modern systems, voice calls that use a high-quality, stable SIP trunk service don’t have mangled or dropped calls. 

Internet service quality is of concern. Sufficient bandwidth up/down to simultaneously handle voice and data is usually a culprit in call quality issues. Most virtual PBX systems allow you to select one service provider. This simplifies billing and support challenges.

SIP.US allows users to bring their own bandwidth or PBX. We are provider and PBX neutral. We recommend the Grandstream multi-port analog telephone adapter. It comes in 4,8 and 24 port increments. They are easy to configure and connect without complicated installation.

Choose the Right SIP Trunk Service for Your Voice Communication Needs

Choosing the right SIP trunk service to make the most out of your switch away from the old copper line telecommunications systems.  Look for the services you need and compare costs.

For many businesses making the switch to SIP, the question is whether or not to keep a legacy PBX with the switch to VoIP.  Our answer to the question “What is an ATA” should make it more clear.

When you choose to keep or replace your PBX, look at call quality as well as cost.  A legacy PBX may be ideal if your system has many customizations or remains a tax asset. 

PBX systems as software mean that the responsibilities for configuration or maintenance are often handled on your own. No calling IT because of inaccurate call routing, poor sound quality, or dropped calls. This maintenance is easily done online. 

SIP.US trunk service can help you create a flexible phone system that works for your business. Can your PBX handle work pattern shifts, seasonal variances, etc.? Let us help you explore your options.   Fill out this form to create a free SIP trunk account today to try it out!

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