The Big Advantages and Big Challenges of VoIP

Carl Weinschenk

This Processor story offers several good suggestions about how to avoid or fix problems in VoIP call quality. Such stories, of course, can become highly technical quite quickly. In this case, however, the writer doesn't dive too deeply into the bits and bytes.


That doesn't mean that the story isn't helpful. The idea comes through that VoIP, because of its complexity and relative immaturity, is unpredictable and a bit less stable than traditional voice networks.


That's a red flag, of course. Nobody wants to take chances with their corporate voice service. However, many of the drawbacks can be addressed. Moreover, the pitfalls often are more than compensated for by the lower costs, network consolidation and end user flexibility VoIP offers.


The heart of the piece is a look at what is necessary to limit the disadvantages. Perhaps the most important single step is to perform a baseline network study before designing and implementing systems. Even the best VoIP network will be undermined if the infrastructure upon which it rests is flawed or inadequate.


Among the other suggestions are to make sure that switches and routers are configured correctly and to use Ethernet switches that offer quality of service (QoS) features. In cases in which the telecommunications network will be part of the mix -- for instance, the use of VoIP in scenarios in which branch offices and headquarters are linked -- it is important to make sure that virtual private networks (VPNs) based on service level agreements (SLAs) are in place.


There is a lot of advice available on preventing and remediating problems, and planners are well advised to do their homework before jumping into the VoIP game. For instance, Merrill Lynch engineers suggest rolling out applications early in the process, creating a baseline of the legacy systems and factoring in training costs, among other things.


This Network World piece, written by Nemertes Research EVP Robin Gareiss, focuses on the use of VoIP in branch and remote offices. Gareiss begins by pointing out that VoIP can be a boon for branch offices because it facilitates abbreviated dialing, intercom functions and other features that are particularly welcome by folks in this work environment. The bulk of the piece -- and the study upon which it is based -- looks at these issues and specialty IP telephony management tools from Infovista, Integrated Research and others. These tools, Gareiss says, can cut costs and make remote operations more efficient.


The need for organizations to be extremely careful about deployments is the subtext of this IT Jungle Q & A with Terry Boulais, the director of business development for Key Information Systems. The focus, he says, is to identify and eliminate single points of failure. These can exist at the hardware and software levels. Boulais says that there is a connection between disaster recovery and VoIP, but estimates that about 90 percent of companies don't test their disaster recovery procedures.

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