IT Trenches

Oct 9 2008   3:56PM GMT

Virtual Enterprise VOIP panel discussion

Troy Tate Profile: Troy Tate

As you may have already read, I will not be attending the Enterprise VOIP event at CampIT Conferences in Chicago on 10/14. Well, I thought I would bring my portion of the discussion to you in this virtual panel discussion and maybe you and I both can gain some from this forum.

Some background on our environment: IP phone population – over 400, distributed at 4 sites, largest ~150, smallest 60; all Cisco

Why implement VOIP?

  • greenfield site – needed a phone system and VOIP made sense for a new site install to position for future
  • acquired company in process of implementing VOIP – came into a situation where an acquisition had purchased VOIP and I became owner of the implementation; had issues with chosen vendor and equipment lists; eventually came out successful but was not without its pain during implementation.
  • forward looking strategy – setup the company to have regional communication hubs for IP telephony; we have VOIP in North America, Europe and Asia now; this could permit us to leverage our WAN for toll bypass provided we build other local site infrastructure to support this technology.

Our biggest challenges:

  • users: they find the phones easy to use and very good features; however, there are some features like managing meet-me conference calling that they feel are too onerous so don’t take the time to use this cost-saving feature
  • administrators: setting up phones is an infrequent event so it is not a real simple task to setup a new phone; moves are made easier than traditional systems; troubleshooting skills are different since voice now is carried over the data network until it reaches a PSTN gateway

Best features:

  • dial another site using extensions rather than 10 digit or more dialing
  • “on phone” directory – can lookup another IP phone user’s extension directly on the phone rather than finding them on a piece of paper or website somewhere
  • easier conference calling than old system
  • mobile-phone like features: listing missed calls; call history log
  • moves are made easier; adds are a challenge since done infrequently

Desires for additional features/services:

  • video
  • more ringtones (must have been someone young and a heavy cell phone user)
  • integration with e-mail/web

What are the risks?

  • it’s challenging to implement in an “old school” infrastructure environment (flat network, no-vlans, hubs still in use, etc.) It takes lots of forethought and understanding VLAN’s, WAN links, need to update staff skills.
  • The network MUST be reliable or voice will suffer. Traditional phone companies have had 100+ years to make a bulletproof network.
  • Costs. It’s not cheap to implement this technology. You have to weigh the ability of the organization to support non-industry leading implementations versus choosing the best technology you can afford.
  • Maintenance. Upgrading the software in the servers, gateways and phones is much riskier than upgrading a traditional PBX environment.

What are the rewards?

  • It works!
  • It positions the organization to take advantage of other services provided that it is not simply an IT-led project but meets business requirements.

Feel free to add comments on your own experiences, concerns. This is a great forum and keep up the good work of information sharing!

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