Industry to VoIP: 'Show Us the Money'

Carl Weinschenk

At the beginning, the biggest issue concerning the migration to VoIP was cost. A company had to consider the savings against the perceived shortcomings of the new platform, which were considerable in the early days. More recently, the tide turned in favor of VoIP because of the great features it offered, even as legacy system cost got lower and VoIP quality grew.


The economic downturn has turned the tide once more. Now, companies are universally in the soup. This means that the focus is back to saving every cent that can be saved. This plays into the advantages of VoIP, if the job is done right.


It is important to understand the total cost of ownership (TCO), as this VoIP News piece points out, includes costs that begin long before the first desktop device is taken out of the box. The story offers 10 steps to ensuring that costs are as low as possible. They run the gamut from carefully planning what gear will be bought to performing necessary infrastructure upgrades. The writer divides his advice into two groups: Five are "upfront" chores that are done before the system is bought and five are "recurring" tasks that are performed as long as the system is in operation.


Somertimes the economy can drive radical change. In this column, cyLogistics president Don Witt argues that the cratering of the economy is going to speed the adoption of VoIP. He provides some ball park numbers which, while not sourced, seem pretty realistic. The idea is that a vast majority of the small- and medium-sized businesses in the United States haven't taken the digital plunge. Most understand that it is something that they must do in the next several years. Witt argues that the bad economy will cause some to accelerate their move to digital and the adoption of VoIP and other IP communications platforms and tools. Witt says that it is too early to provide hard numbers proving the theory, but claims that there is anecdotal channel evidence that it indeed is happening.

This is a response to Witt's analysis from Lonnie Lazar at Voxilla. He says that the problem with Witt's analysis is that VoIP carries significant costs of entry. These could come from equipment purchases or retention of a hosting service. There also is the issue of training staff on the new technology. Lazar feels that VoIP will continue to expand, led by VoIP offerings from telcos and cable operators. But he thinks that the progress will be slowed by the economy. Lazar says that companies will be reluctant to incur the costs of switching platforms in such an environment. Thus, his conclusion is diametrically opposite of Witt's.


The debate is an interesting one. And there are real-world cases of how VoIP works in the field. In some cases, it is the product of savviness. One example is the clever way in which Andy Abramson uses VoIP to save money while overseas. A more fundamental use of the platform is examined in this VoIP Planet story, which looks at the work done by the municipality of Enfield, Conn. The goal was to converge the school and municipal networks, which ran on old networks from Cisco and Enterasys. The community settled on an Enterasys system. The price tag was $500,000. Another half-million dollars will be spent on the overarching VoIP system. That's a lot of money, and the town will get a lot for it. In addition to advanced services and more efficient operations, the entire network, which consists of more than 29 remote locations and more than 4,000 devices, will be supported by a staff of just three.


A survey of articles during the past several months shows that people are thinking about VoIP in relation to the economy. It is likely that the decision an organization makes on whether to deploy now will come down to which side of the debate stimulated by Don Witt they land on.

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