Great VoIP overview by Mike Bayer of Select Telecom & Technologies. To read the original article, click here.
IP telephone systems have been on the market for years. The reliability of existing digital phone systems was good enough that a company could keep a system for 10+ years before issues made it necessary to be replaced. With the economy improving, digital systems aging and the buzz of IP features such as Unified Communications, Mobility and SIP Trunking; now may be the time to give IP Telephone Systems a hard look. We have assembled 5 Frequently Asked Questions to help you in your discovery process.
1). Why are IP Telephone Systems considered better than Digital ones? The simple answer is applications. IP telephony allows for features not available in the digital arena. The major ones being:
- Support for off site employees; telecommuting. This is the ability to have a telephone or telephone software residing on a PC to be connected to your office’s phone system by way of an internet connection. This is considered VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol.
- Ability to seamlessly network multiple systems over the internet. You can have 4 digit dialing between offices, share a receptionist and cut down on long distance costs since calls between offices are free. You can access the dial tone of a networked office to make a “local” call; local to them but long distance to you.
- SIP trunking. This is a feature rich network service priced lower than traditional outside lines and even PRI. SIP supports DID (Direct in Dialing) and is location agnostic. Need a Manhattan telephone number for inbound or outbound dialing? No problem! Want to ring your office phone and cell phone simultaneously? Piece of cake!
- Unified Communications (UC). This is the next generation of the voice mail/ auto attendant. With UC you get FAX to the desktop, Visual voice mail, Chat features, Click to dial from your Outlook contacts, Voice mail and e-mail to your mobile device. The list goes on.
- Fixed Mobility Convergence (FMC). This allows your smartphone to connect and be switched between your IP phone system and your wireless carrier. Your IPhone/Droid/Blackberry is now your office phone, but only when you’re in the mood. When you leave your office, FMC seamlessly puts you on your wireless carrier. When you’re back in the office or at a Wi-Fi hotspot, FMC switches you off your wireless carrier and back on to the wireless LAN to eliminate network charges.
2). What don’t I know about moving to an IP system that may haunt me later? Your local area network (LAN) is now your telephone network. Ask yourself:
- Do I have Cat5e or Cat6 cabling to every extension? If not, what are the costs associated?
- Do I have Quality of Service software (QoS) in my routers? Without QoS, voice and data are treated equally. Since voices (and video) are time sensitive, lack of QoS may result in latency, jitter or dropped calls.
- Is my IT department technically astute enough to set up a V-LAN (virtual LAN) allowing the voice traffic to be segregated from the data traffic?
- Are my data switches Power over Ethernet (POE) compliant? If not every IP telephone will need an AC adaptor for power. If you have a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) for the data equipment, you could still lose the ability to make phone calls during a power outage.
3). Can I upgrade my current system or is this a forklift upgrade? That depends. If your current telephone system vendor supports IP and has a strong migration policy, you may be in luck. If your vendor has stopped production or has been absorbed by a larger company, you may have little choice but to purchase a new system. Talk to the supplier who installed your current system for details.
4). What about downloading free telephony software off the internet? That can be done (on some platforms). You’re downloading an open source PBX software package typically on a LINUX platform, although a variety of operating systems are supported. It’s the PBX software that transforms the LINUX based platform into a communication server. It is free, but requires programming expertise. Unless you’re a system’s integrator, you’d be wiser to get a turnkey software package which resides on the open system. Designing and maintaining IP telephony software is not for the faint of heart.
5). Is an IP system future proof? As engineers like to say, “Anything that leaves the drawing board is obsolete.” IP, VoIP and SIP are entrenched protocols which should stay on the forefront of telecommunications for years to come. We all realize that technology is constantly improving. With that in mind, IP telephony may today be the 21st century’s answer to a technology that’s been around for well over 100 years.
My goal is to educate and entertain. My philosophy is that technology is a tool to add to the bottom line, increase customer retention and implement profitable processes. Buzz words are the tool of those who have no interest in your business but want your money to get the “latest and greatest”, “cutting edge” etc.
For more information on our VoIP solutions, please contact us at 502.459.9141.