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Deploying Voice Over IP

Nov 17, 2007
How much do you know about Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions, like IP Telephony (IPT)? Do you believe they're primarily for home users interested in free long-distance calls or inexpensive international calls? Or, do you believe its primary benefit is the lower total cost of ownership (TCO) of managing all of your business communications over a converged network?

The interesting thing about VoIP is that in many ways the end user is driving the technology to the business world. Individual users have helped accelerate the VoIP revolution with the acceptance of Vonage and Skype in their homes as well as VoIP prepaid calling cards with reduced long distance rates. In the past, you may have considered deploying VoIP in your business as a way to drive down toll charges between offices, but you were hesitant due to poor voice quality in early deployment models. Today, as the business world continues to deploy robust VoIP networks, you may now be investigating your own options with renewed vigor.

In fact, both large and small enterprises are taking the plunge and making decisions about VoIP. According to research analyst Frost & Sullivan, "Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) will account for approximately 75% of world's voice services by 007." This is staggering when considering that in 00 , worldwide total voice revenue was more than US $1 trillion. Why are so many companies jumping on the VoIP bandwagon? And, what did they consider when making the switch? This paper looks at VoIP with small-to-medium size 3 businesses in mind, and we'll address some of these issues.

Where do we begin?
The first undertaking is to understand and agree with the strategy that converged networks will reduce toll charges, while making your network easier to manage because you are only managing one network rather than two separate ones. Ultimately, your company's total cost of ownership (TCO) will be lowered, and you will benefit from a host of new and integrated applications that are available when you combine your voice and data networks. So if you agree that VoIP can provide you with a reduced TCO of your voice and data networks coupled with a flexible business communications system that is easier to administer moves, adds and changes, then let's proceed to build the business case.

What's the correct approach for my business?
Dimension Data recommends that you commence any discussion about VoIP by looking at your business communication requirements as well as by examining your existing voice and data networks to determine how "convergence-ready" you are. In other words, how prepared is your data network infrastructure to handle a mission-critical application like voice, and possibly video? Once you've gathered information from key personnel, identified your business communication requirements and looked at your future initiatives and existing systems, you're ready to begin the process.

Is a gradual implementation best?
If you're thinking about implementing a VoIP platform, "rip-and-replace" is not your only option. Once you make a decision to implement VoIP in your business, you can begin to incorporate a strategy in your network hardware purchases. For example, if you're purchasing a new router, make sure it has voice and security features integrated rather than purchasing a conventional data-only router. If you proceed to purchase network hardware and upgrade existing equipment, you've begun the process of a gradual migration to VoIP, by laying the foundation for a converged network. If you buy an integrated services router, it can also function as a LAN switch and an IP-PBX when you're ready to move to VoIP. It may add a few dollars to your router purchase, but it extends the life of the router by being "convergence-ready".

Also, look at the cost of support for your existing router. If you've depreciated your router or purchased it outright, remember to add in the cost of support. An old router that adds $7,500 in support charges each year isn't free. If you're purchasing a switch, make sure to invest in one that has Power over Ethernet (PoE) ports, which enables IP phones to be powered by an Ethernet cable when you migrate to IPT. This basic approach to upgrades and network equipment purchases, extends the value of the gear and positions you for the future. If you're not ready for VoIP today, this approach will provide you with a gradual migration to a VoIP platform in the future.

How do I assess my IT environment?
Once you've made the commitment to buy "convergence-ready" network gear, begin your VoIP assessment. Understand your business drivers, assess your current infrastructure, perform "what if" scenarios so you analyze different options from every perspective - technical, business and financial. This approach will allow you to get the maximum value from your VoIP network when you're ready. If possible, partner with a full-service IT solutions provider, like Dimension Data, who can help you recognize potential issues and recommend solutions that can enhance the platform.

Take small steps at first. Choose a pilot with a few users before rolling out your project throughout your organization. Or, start with a small office or Greenfield location, enabling you to roll those locations into the main sites when you migrate the remainder of the organization to VoIP. As you begin to enable your locations with VoIP, you also begin to build in redundancy and resiliency in your voice platform as individual sites can serve as disaster recovery sites for other locations within your organization.

VoIP platforms are becoming an integral component in the corporate telecommunications environment. A well-designed VoIP system can complement an existing TDM PBX environment and gradually replace it when the legacy equipment is no longer serviceable and doesn't meet the company's requirements. This hybrid environment benefits both the company and the users because a company can easily migrate to VoIP when the time is right, and users can gradually enjoy the features VoIP brings. By taking small steps, the end users will become familiar with VoIP and its benefits and the overall implementation will ultimately be much smoother.
About the Author
Datacraft is the leading independent IT services and solutions company in Asia Pacific. Datacraft combines an expertise in networking, security, Microsoft solutions, storage and contact centre technologies, with advanced skills in consulting, integration and managed services, to craft IT solutions for businesses.
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