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VoIP What You Need To Know

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VoIP Basics VOiP (Voice-Over-Internet-Protocol) refers to a way of transmitting voice over the Internet whereby conversations (called "sessions") are derived from Internet bandwidth as opposed to being carried over individual circuits (trunks) or derived circuits (T1 channels). There are further differences, especially regarding the SIP protocol, but you can read about them in Wikipedia and elsewhere, and they aren't really relevant to this discussion. Since VoIP is a technology, it can be used for many applications: a telephone system; a public, private, local, or long distance network; to save money on long distance or international calls; to connect multiple physical locations or to extend one's presence to virtual locations; to reduce operating costs or to enhance operating capabilities, etc. While there is much in the technology that is new, there is very little it can do that hasn't been possible for quite some time using older technology, currently quaintly derided as "Legacy." (We'll discuss that a little later). Before going into alternative VoIP system or IP-PBX scenarios, here are some working definitions of the relevant terms. Any PBX or Pabx is a telephone system with an attendant (live or automated), a central system (real or virtual), and numbered extensions associated with individual users. A Pabx that uses VoIP is frequently called an IP-PBX. These systems can be housed on your premises or they can be shared remotely by tens or hundreds or even thousands of companies, in which case they are called hosted systems or cloud systems. Sometimes, but not always, they are both. They range in price from free Open Source software to proprietary hardware and software costing thousands to millions of dollars. Note: Since VoIP is simply a technology used in telecom systems, it is treated merely as one system alternative among many in the previous article in this series, Your Real Telecom Options.

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VoIP Myths and Reality Checks VoIP Myths (Sort Of) The following are often presented as flatly true statements about VoIP. While there undeniably are elements of truth in most of them, but absolutely, positively true? 100% of the time? Harrumph. You be the judge. 1. "You'll save money" Compared to what? If your current system is functioning, the new one is an expense, period. Can you save money on long distance calls? Perhaps: you can get VoIP domestic long distance for only a few cents per minute (quality business VoIP is Not free). However, better quality traditional long distance is generally available for only a few cents more. When you look at the total cost of implementing VoIP to be able to save, perhaps, a few pennies a minute at most, it takes a very impressive number of minutes just to break even. And the more minutes you use, the less traditional domestic long distance costs -- especially if you negotiate properly. (Something else a competent independent consultant is good at doing on your behalf!) Can you save enough on international calls? It all depends where you call. VoIP international rates can be significantly lower than traditional rates, but the greatest savings are on routes of much lower quality than traditional ones. Can you really save enough money to justify you or your customer not being able to hear each other clearly? Is international VoIP calling of uniformly poor quality? No, only gray and black routes are, because that's why they cost so much less. In VoIP, if you don't understand the wholesale market, you can't really benefit at the retail level. 2. "New IP-PBX technology is better and more reliable" More reliable than what? Phone systems ran for years without any loss of service whatsoever. To the degree that IP-PBXs are based on computer technology, they're as reliable as, well, computers. They can be made robust and redundant (at extra cost), but so were traditional legacy PBXs, which, in the days of the old Bell System and for 15 years afterwards, were actually designed to last for 40 years – and did. In fact, let's talk about PBXs. The term Legacy began to be used by IP-PBX vendors at the beginning of this century to refer to non-IP-based systems. Why "Legacy"? Mostly because the IP vendors had to imply obsolescence without being able to prove it. Especially at the beginning, existing "Legacy" systems did much more and did it much better than the new ones. Not even mentioning how much more reliably. Legacy systems are presumably "do nothing" systems, but they are reliable. IT may expect to change systems every three or five years, but knowledgeable management knows this isn't necessarily desirable -and it isn't necessary, either, at least in the case of traditional telephone systems, and even in IP versions of some traditional telephone systems. Why do vendors scoff at Legacy systems? Perhaps because they last too long, usually long enough to allow the owner to avoid replacing them on a vendor's preferred product replacement schedule. Or else perhaps because, under close scrutiny, an existing Legacy system's life cycle is longer than that of a vendor's productand the vendor's replacement product. (Shhhh.)

Copyright Š Teleconvergence 2012 - (503) 750-2144 -

It is interesting that many vendor's products become obsolete (or cease being supported) long before theycan even be categorized as "Legacy." Put differently, why do some vendors help you plan for obsolescence rather than prevent it from occurring with their own products in the first place? 3. "Unified messaging is made possible by VoIP." An interesting theory, but articulated only by the ignorant. Unified messaging (voice mail, e-mail, and fax available in a single in-box) has been around for more than 25 years, running on pre-Windows operating systems like DoubleDos and OS2. Sometimes, capabilities are new to people who haven't been around long enough to understand what's really new and what isn't. 4. "VoIP allows companies to operate with a single dialing plan anywhere in the world." True, but the Bell System was putting together such networks for companies more than fifty years ago. It is far easier and usually less expensive to create such networks today using VoIP, but it is not new. We just thought you'd like to know.

Reality check Does this all this seem as if we're negative about VoIP and IP-PBXs? It shouldn't, as we explain throughout the site. We are not against technology. We are against treating technology as an end rather than simply as a means to achieve a business objective. After all, this whole VoIP discussion is the fourth article in the Changing Systems? series. We've discussed many alternatives, including VoIP, in the first three.

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The Promise of VoIP VoIP will play an increasingly important role in technology as the Internet gradually supersedes what could be termed "Legacy" platforms such as circuit-switched telephone networks, television airwaves, even traditional radio. This will happen not because the old telephone network or the airwaves don't work: they obviously do. But the Internet -- with VoIP representing the part of the Internet used for voice communications -- will become dominant because its inherent interactivity simply makes for a richer and more rewarding communications, informational, and entertainment experience. What Teleconvergence does is help our clients take advantage of this technology to better achieve their operational and strategic objectives. Please spend as much time on this site as you'd like or as long as it takes to determine whether we can help you and whether you might like us to.

Everything here is about we can do or what we've done for others. At

some point, when you're ready, it'll be time to discuss what we can do for you. When that time comes, drop us a note or, better yet, give us a call. We look forward to the conversation. If you plan to read further, here are some suggestions: •

Go to the last article in this series The 10 Greatest Mistakes Executives Make When Changing Systems.

Look at the other parts of our Communications Consulting Services on the sitemap to the left, beginning with a Checklist of our telecom consulting services, followed by Telecom Cost Reduction, and ending with Telecom Risk management.

Evaluate our methodology, from the results-focused The Teleconvergence Approach to the more specific The Teleconvergence approach to System Selection.

Finally, learn something about us in the About Teleconvergence section, including an Introduction to Teleconvergence Management and The Teleconvergence FAQ.

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VoIP What You Need to Know  

VoIP What You Need to Know