With voice over IP (VoIP) growing at a furious pace, the question facing enterprises won't be "should I or shouldn't I?" for much longer. VoIP will be a given and the choice will boil down to whether companies should do it all themselves or send out to one of the dozens of managed VoIP service providers.
"There's already a good uptake of IP voice," says Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst for enterprise voice and data at Infonetics Research. "Most organizations right now are taking the in-house approach, but service providers are signing up clients. That doesn't really show up on the radar yet, though, because it's still an early market."
The problem is that managed VoIP services can be almost anything, from a complete hosted solution, to outsourced management of the corporate IP PBX. "It's a bit of an issue in the industry, with everyone describing it differently," says William Stofega, research manager of VoIP services at International Data Corporation. "This is actually something of a problem; if the people who sell the stuff can describe it, you can understand the confusion among their potential customers."
Indeed, a big part of the decision over whether to go with a managed IP voice solution is to ask the question "how managed?" says Machinowinski. "Because it's such a broad definition, one of things you have to do at the outset is to start defining it for yourself," he says. "Organizations are not one-size-fits all, so they are all going to approach the question differently."
The decision has to start with an assessment of what network assets you already have and what, exactly, you want from VoIP. The latter is not an idle consideration, either, whether you opt for a managed solution, or do it all in-house. For a technology promising so much --- network consolidation, cost savings, advanced messaging and call management features --- it's important to be absolutely clear about what you're getting.