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SIP, Scalability, and Service Registrations: OnSIP Holds a US Patent!

by Joe DeBari

OnSIP's patent is the core of how our platform works, enabling us to efficiently scale our network and operate our service in a unified manner.


That’s not the amount of phone call minutes that OnSIP has handled since we first went online, or the number of users on our platform. That’s the number of a patent issued to OnSIP by the United States Patent and Trademark Office! It’s a core part of how our platform works, and it was invented by a team of OnSIP’s very own software engineers.

February, 2014: OnSIP Receives a Patent

The patent for “System and Method for Geographic SIP Scaling” was issued on February 11, 2014. Co-inventors John Riordan, OnSIP’s Co-Founder, and Eric Tamme, OnSIP’s Principal Engineer, invented this SIP scaling patent for our service platform, which is owned and operated entirely by OnSIP. (We do not license software from any third-party provider.)

Wait a Minute...What Is SIP?

Session Initiation Protocol (“SIP” for short) is a signaling protocol that controls the setup and termination of real-time communications sessions like voice and video calls. When used in a VoIP service, it provides the common language for two endpoints (like IP phones or softphones) to communicate with each other. SIP sets up the connection between those endpoints in order to conduct a call and then tears down that connection when the call is ended.

SIP is what the “SIP” in “OnSIP” refers to, in case you were wondering! We built our VoIP platform with full conformance to the SIP standards codified by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). For more information on the topic, check out our blog posts on Session Initiation Protocol and What Is a SIP Service Provider?

Female executive making a phone call at her desk.

How Our Patent Enables Us to Dynamically Administer Our Hosted VoIP Platform

With our patent, OnSIP operates entirely differently from other hosted VoIP services. Historically (and in its most basic form), if you wanted to start building a hosted VoIP service, you’d set up a PBX and add a certain number of customers onto it; when you ran out of room on that PBX, you’d just purchase another one and add your new customers there. Customers would be statically mapped to a particular PBX, with no way to move them over to a different one.

That model, however, has many problems. There is no redundancy in the service, so if a PBX goes down, all of the customers on it will completely lose their hosted VoIP service. When you need to replace hardware or upgrade software, you have to power down the specific device—and in the process, completely take down the service of those customers on that PBX for the duration of the maintenance event. And finally, it’s exponentially expensive because the provider has to continuously buy new PBXes to create the room for their business to grow.

Our patent allows OnSIP to avoid these problems as much as humanly possible. Rather than patenting a specific hardware setup or physical device, our patent outlines the rules and methods in which users of OnSIP have their phones registered to our service, as well as how to locate those devices no matter where they are registered on any given day. Our customers are not “homed” (read: stuck) on any one device in a particular data center. This aspect gives us the option to dynamically move customers around our platform without any impact on their hosted VoIP service.

And the patent works for us because we’ve built the OnSIP platform to be a geographically distributed, homogeneous network. In each of our separate data centers throughout the United States, we have redundant servers and hardware that make our platform homogenous: The devices have the same configurations, software, and communication protocols on them, allowing them to work both cooperatively as well as independently from one another. Even though our network is distributed among various locations, it presents itself as a single whole to the outside world.

Infographic showing the OnSIP network diagram.
Redundant servers, proxies, and databases help to distribute OnSIP's network among various data centers, while still presenting a unified front to the outside world.

Specific Examples of How Our Patent Works

Phone Registrations, Unchained

Our customers can have their VoIP phones register to the closest data center to them instead of being stuck on a server on the other side of the country. This ability improves call sound quality because the distance the call has to travel is as short as possible. And no matter which data center they register to, our platform can locate their device and send incoming calls to it, thanks to the systems and methods outlined in our patent.

Ability to Scale Our Platform Rapidly and in an Organized Manner

We can easily scale out our platform by adding new servers (with the same configurations and software as the others) in our data centers as they are needed. And because our customer base is spread out among the data centers, we can upgrade software as needed by moving customers out of the hardware device that we need to service. This flexibility that we have with our scalable hosted VoIP platform leads into the next listed benefit.

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Maximize Service Uptime by Being Able to Move Customers In/Out of Our Data Centers

Moving customers around the platform quickly and at a moment’s notice is essential for keeping our service up for our entire customer base when extraordinary events occur, like a hurricane, a severe weather incident, or even an Internet outage in a regional ISP. It is also indispensable for when we need to perform maintenance and upgrades on the devices in our data centers. By having the flexibility to move customers out of an affected data center and into another, unaffected, one, we do our utmost to maximize our service uptime and ensure that businesses’ VoIP service does not get interrupted.

In fact, our platform was unexpectedly tested back in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy, and we’re proud to say that it worked exactly as we expected it to. Even though our New York City data center was hit very hard by the destructive storm, we were able to rapidly move our customers who were registered there to another data center in a different part of the country; this ability was critical in ensuring that they did not experience any disruptions in their phone service.

OnSIP’s patent enables us to operate very differently than other hosted VoIP providers, and it bestows many benefits both to our company and our customers, including the ability for medical practices to use our service in a HIPAA compliant way. The systems and methods specified in the patent, coupled with the fact that we own and operate our own platform, allows us unmatched flexibility in operating, maintaining, and expanding our reliable hosted VoIP phone service.

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