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After The All-Star Break/Voice Over IP

We’re edging towards the post-season. After a decade of fits and starts, voice over IP is at critical mass. It has gone from bleeding-edge technology to the “most often asked about” solution.

This technology is turning up in telephone company backbones to IP-enabled cell phones, laptop soft clients, and as replacements for conventional phones. Its advantages are mobility, ease of moves, changes, and adds. VoIP can support multiple offices and call centers while reducing expensive leased line costs.

VoIP moves your voice traffic onto your computer network. Calls connect from outside telephone lines over your data network, data cabling and to an IP telephone plugged into your computer or directly into your data jack in the wall. The best solutions employ an IP-enabled system which gets the best of conventional telephone systems and IP telephony.

Up From The Farm Team/VoiP

Done properly, VoIP can be a big hit. In the IP-enabled world, you can integrate CRM, database, security cameras and wireless phones onto your platform. You can have a desktop telephone on your PC, laptop, or PDA. Great for business road warriors.

For the phone company, the marketing rollout mirrors Centrex and other hosted services. If your WAN connections can accommodate it, you bypass toll charges and add remote offices quickly.

Dialing Down The “Noise” On VoIP

As a communications service provider you’ve been invited to meet with a prospect having a need for a telephone system for 20 lines and 75 phones. Their receptionist greets and ushers you into their conference room where you exchange introductions with the Office and IT Managers. After swapping baseball stories and other lies, you notice the dreamy stares across the table…. Sounds like a detective novel, right? The promise of VoIP is hard to resist: a single network carrying data, voice and other traffic, enabling a wide range of advanced applications. All this implemented with ease while realizing substantial cost savings over traditional telephony. If it sounds too good to be true…… Stop!

The IT manager is thinking great, I can now get control of that complicated phone system I never was completely comfortable with anyways. Give me a binary decision any day! I no longer have to deal with our telecom department, the “phone company”, and my equipment vendor. Simply migrate all voice onto our ready, willing and able LAN. Piece of cake….

The office manager grins while fantasizing over massive cost reductions for staffing, equipment, carriers, and vendors with voice and data on one big managed network with little investment. In fact, I probably can get rid of my IT manager .…Not so fast!

Relief Pitchers : Where and When will VoIP Fit In?

When implementing VoIP, you buy into the total package. The network expense in itself is not the sum total of the rollout. Soft costs via unforeseen infrastructure and upgrades will pop-up on the field all day long. When investing in VoIP technology, you hedge both short and long.

Have reasonable expectations and let these questions guide your decision:

  1. Do I need VoIP?
  2. Can I, Should I manage it ?
  3. Does my system work?
  4. What is its lifespan?
  5. Do I retain current features, or do I want something different?
  6. How much network stress will voice add?
  7. We handle data well; how hard can VoIP be?

Batting .500/Service Levels, Interoperability

Voice is still champ. Try driving sales or calling your DR team without voice. It’s easy to run 2-3 concurrent VoIP calls on your network. When you start running tens and hundreds of calls and your network can’t support them, beware! All VoIP benefits mean nothing if your network collapses under the weight of voice traffic. Any IP network can, in theory, run VoIP. However, none are properly configured for voice traffic right out of the box.

Regarding quality of service (QoS) and security, with data, sure packets pile up, cursors blink longer, emails don’t send as quickly, we get spammed, but the day marches on.

When something as basic and essential as a phone stops working, your game is rained out and business grinds to a halt.  How progressive is that? Not! When going with enterprise VoIP you’ve left the safe environs of traditional proprietary telephony. You’re now swimming with sharks; budget and staff accordingly.

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is the emerging protocol touted as panacea. Conceptually, SIP brings us to nirvana where all telephones and switches work in perfect harmony….The immature standards are far from open and universal. Therefore, expect a loss of features and interoperability when mixing equipment. Think about the practicalities of troubleshooting, warranties, and support within a mixed environment. Choose and invest wisely. Don’t skimp on your most important piece of office equipment, your telephone.

Taking Batting Practice/Network Assessments

Be proactive and insist that once VoIP is chosen, a network assessment is performed. It assesses the existing data network for the proper quality, delivery, and security of voice traffic. Bandwidth is measured for the number of proposed telephones.

Deploying IP telephones can have unexpected pitfalls if your network lacks the required bandwidth and speed. To prevent delay and data loss while retaining performance of critical applications, invest in the assessment. These range from $200-$5,000.

7th Inning Stretch/What Next?

Our IP Telephony Strategy is transitional. For most, the migration path to full IP Telephony will be a gradual deployment versus a complete system replacement. This minimizes risk and  expenditures while protecting current network investments. Quality vendors feature IP-enabled communications systems to achieve this objective.