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The Real Cost of VoIP

Something for nothing-that's the appeal of Voice over IP (VoIP). We've all heard the pitch before: Run your voice over the existing data network and you'll save on call charges, consolidate management, cut maintenance costs, eliminate duplicate wiring plants, and increase user productivity.

Yeah, right.

The fact is that while the price for VoIP equipment may finally be competitive with traditional PBXs, much of the real costs remain hidden. Expect to install Ethernet switches, upgrade those edge routers, and increase port speeds and Committed Information Rates (CIRs) if you want to run voice across a frame network-and that's not mentioning the time you'll spend troubleshooting, tweaking, and engineering the network to accommodate voice without starving other mission-critical applications.

"Every day I ask myself why I deployed VoIP," says Michel Labelle, supervisor of information and communications technology for a major city in British Columbia, Canada. And that's coming from a network manager who can show a demonstrable return on investment for his VoIP implementation.

We at Network Magazine understand Labelle's pain, having spent six months living and breathing the RFP bid process for a real, but anonymous facilities management company that manages some 2,000 customer-owned facilities across North America. The $1.5 billion company, which we'll dub ServiceNet, turned to Network Magazine for help in selecting its next-generation voice solution. With an old NEC PBX, a mix of key systems spread throughout its remote sites, and a flat Ethernet network in need of an upgrade, ServiceNet was due for an overhaul. VoIP seemed the logical choice. (For an overview of ServiceNet's network, see "The ServiceNet Network".)

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