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Computer telephony integration, also known as computer--telephone integration or CTI, is technology that enables interactions on a telephone and a computer to be integrated or co-ordinated. As contact channels have expanded from voice to also include email, web, and fax, the definition of CTI has expanded to also include the integration of all customer contact channels (voice, email, web, fax, etc.) with computer systems.

There are two forms of CTI


First-party call control
First party call control operates as though there is a direct connection between the user's computer and the phone. A good example of this would be a modem card in a desktop computer, or a phone plugged directly into the computer. Generally, only the computer associated with the phone can control it, by sending command directly to the phone. The computer can control all the functions of the phone, usually at the computer user's direction. First party call control is the simplist to implement but is not suited to large scale applications such as call centers.

Third-party call control
Third-party call control is harder to implement and usually requires a dedicated telephony server to interface between the telephone network and the computer network. Third party call control works by sending commands from a user's computer to a telephony server, which in turn controls the phone centrally. Specifically, the user's computer has no direct connection to the phone, which is actually contolled via external device. Information about a phone call can be displayed on the corresponding computer workstation's screen while instructions to control the phone can be sent from the computer to the telephone network. Any computer in the network has the potential to control any phone in the telephone system. The phone doesn't need to be attached directly to the user's computer, even though it may physically be integrated into the computer (such as a VoIP soft phone), requiring only a microphone and headset in the circuit, without even a keypad, to connect to the telephone network.