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Market Analysis: IP Contact Centers
Contact Center Basics
Although fax, e-mail and Web chats are all important parts of a modern contact center, telephone components remain the most complex. About 60 percent of the readers who answered our poll and have a contact center still use a conventional PBX or Centrex, while 40 percent use various IP-enabled architectures. But sales of IP PBXs have surpassed conventional PBXs, according to Gartner (see Enterprise VoIP Solutions ). Still, it's a rare luxury to be able to roll out an all-VoIP system with a brand new IP PBX.
Nearly 60 percent of readers who haven't yet gone IP plan to install IP PBXs by 2008, which would bring the IP-enabled total to about 88 percent. Some newer PBX systems can be upgraded to IP PBX with a simple expansion card, and VoIP can be used to trunk together legacy PBXs located in remote offices. The older the PBX, the larger the hardware investment likely required for the upgrade.
You can use a mix of voice over IP and conventional TDM (time-division multiplexing) telephony, but you may lose functionality and cost savings. To see how much of a hit a mixed system will mean, we issued an RFI asking vendors to build us a full-featured contact center that supports TDM and VoIP (see "IP: Right Call for the Contact Center"). We also explored the hosted option in "BT Offers a Hosted Twist for Contact Centers". Most contact-center vendors can deal with both IP and TDM phone systems, though they're looking to an IP-only future. Interestingly, vendors that make VoIP systems aren't necessarily selling contact centers, nor the reverse. Only three of those reviewed offer VoIP implementations.