VoIP in the Enterprise
Calling VoIP as We See It
Some of you are already taking advantage of VoIP's promise, according to a recent Network Computing survey of 200 IT managers: Roughly half of the respondents stated that they were either already rolling out VoIP technologies or planning to do so soon. The two primary reasons for their decision: to enhance CTI (computer-telephony integration) services, and to reduce long-distance charges.
But are these valid reasons for adopting VoIP? Our informal testing of VoIP technologies indicates that bypassing the long-distance network can certainly bring you tremendous savings on your corporate phone bill--as long as your network meets certain conditions. As for enhancing CTI's capabilities, we don't believe the performance and reliability of PC-based telephony is up to par for widescale business usage. One silver lining: Call management using IP-based telephony equipment should be easier than it now is with traditional gear.
Worse, premature deployment of VoIP can have an explosive impact on your infrastructure. Of the survey respondents who said they have no current plans to roll out VoIP, most blamed the state of their network as the critical stumbling block. This is a telling statistic, and one borne out in our own testing. Simply put, VoIP traffic can crush your network if you haven't designed your infrastructure to support the technology.
But at the same time, we are confident that many of these drawbacks will be resolved as the market for enterprise VoIP matures. In fact, we enthusiastically await next year's offerings, which are sure to show considerable improvement over the current crop. Watch for VoIP technology to take root in many enterprise voice networks over the next two years, particularly as investments in traditional telephony equipment reach the end of their amortization schedules. VoIP will likely appear in smaller implementations even sooner, so there's little reason to wait much longer to examine this technology for ways you can incorporate it into your network on a limited basis.
Eric Hall is the president of EHS Co., a network technology research and testing firm in San Mateo, Calif. Send your comments on this article to him at email@example.com or to David Willis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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