The questions of precisely what a company wants to get out of VoIP and other IP-based services and the preexisting condition of their underlying infrastructure are deeply tied.
CIOs and the decision-makers to whom they report must understand the ability of their local-area network (LAN) to support VoIP, IP-based video and other applications now and in the future. Real-time IP applications are very demanding and a careful timeline must be drawn when rolling them out.
The key questions:
What does the company want the network to be able to do on day one?
Can it meet the goal without a major overhaul? If not, what must be done?
Is it worth it to the company?
The same set of questions must be asked of future applications: What must be done to the infrastructure if the ultimate goal is a comprehensive unified communications system? At this level, the planning must be additive and incremental. By the time the company adds the fourth or fifth application, it will be stressed far more than it is today. Sophisticated bandwidth management may be part of the mix.
The first task is to figure out which applications are unnecessary, which must be implemented for the viability of the business and which are nice add-ons. Last week, TMCnet.com posted a Q&A with a senior manager from Interactive Intelligence; the piece suggested five questions that will help determine if a firm is ready for VoIP: Is the legacy system still supported? Is the firm expecting growth? Are there remote workers? Are new communications tools important to the business? Is increased customer satisfaction an important goal? Though the last two questions seemed designed for affirmative answers -- what company doesn't want to improve customer satisfaction -- this is a useful list.
There are plenty of tools that can help a company determine how well the existing network can support desired new services. At the end of last month, Codima Technologies introduced Pre Deployment Test Reports. These reports, the company says, measure frame loss versus phone loading, jitter versus phone loading, and other statistics, and provide the results in graphical format. The release says such testing avoids cost overruns and delays, and makes networks with high levels of quality of service more likely.
The statement in this VoIP Magazine post -- that as many as 85 percent of corporate networks are not ready for VoIP -- is startling. A readiness assessment, the writer says, will provide a look into whether the network can deliver high-quality VoIP calls under a variety of conditions. An assessment includes a network inventory, a catalog of the capabilities of each of the elements found, simulations of traffic scenarios, and calculations of mean opinion score, a key telephone metric.
This Refresh Orlando post effectively presents the basic building blocks for consideration when approaching the VoIP decision. The writer points out situations in which VoIP would be a good option, such as smaller remote facilities linked to a larger enterprise. VoIP also is a good bet in scenarios where wiring is scarce.
The goals for an IP-based communications network cannot be considered without a clear-eyed look at the existing network. To set goals without considering the current state of the infrastructure is to invite serious problems.