The rise of VoIP
Voice over Internet protocol can put an organization on the road to a unified communications strategy.
BY PETER FRETTY
When assessing the factors that contribute to a project's success, a team's ability to effectively communicate repeatedly surfaces to the top. Many times, it's the technology that serves as a crutch—especially when legacy voice systems are end of life.
“For many organizations, the handwriting has been on the wall for quite some time,” says Art Schoeller, principal analyst with research firm Forrester in Westport, Connecticut, USA.
Over the past decade, continued evolution has been the only constant within the world of corporate telecommunications, from the ongoing mobile explosion to the steady growth of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) to unified communications deployments designed to integrate all forms of communication (video, voice and data) into a single point of contact, whether onsite or mobile.
The trend of organizations outsourcing their communications infrastructure has taken off in earnest, says Subha Rama, customer research manager at Siemens Enterprise Communications in Oyster Bay, New York, USA. “The migration to Internet protocol technologies is in full swing in the enterprise communications market, mainly because of the significant cost savings,” she says. “Given the economic instability in many of the global markets, companies are looking at technologies and delivery models that would significantly reduce capital expenditures and result in sustained ROI. Widespread use has led to the evolution of cloud-based delivery models for core enterprise applications, and communications has been no exception.”
VoIP for mobile devices and session initiation protocol (or SIP trunking—a service that allows organizations to use VoIP without losing the many features of its phone system) are surfacing as key areas of interest.
In addition, the growing importance of unified communications among organizations as a critical tool to enhance business productivity is having a profound impact on the VoIP services market.
VoIP helps reduce expensive charges for project team members using mobile devices while traveling in other countries.
“Instead of making the call incurring roaming charges, team members could tap into a WiFi connection and use a ‘softphone’ like Skype,” Mr. Schoeller says.
VoIP truly excels when large organizations are ready to move to a centralized model for voice instead of using private branch exchange (PBX) configurations at each site.
“Ultimately, this can lead to a cloud model,” Mr. Schoeller says. “Plus, organizations are looking at moving to unified communications, incorporating instant messaging (IM), presence [which shows if someone is on the network and available] and web conferencing, which is much more geared towards VoIP instead of traditional time-division multiplexing environments.”
When properly deployed, VoIP can be the stimulus and backbone for a solid, unified communications deployment. “Tools such as integrated voice and web conferencing can help project teams collaborate more rapidly instead of using email to make decisions,” he says. “Also, real-time presence status can help team members know about each other's availability to collaborate so they can resolve issues more readily.”
Mobile VoIP VIPs
The number of mobile VoIP subscribers by the end of 2011, up from 9 million the year before
The amount of revenue the entire VoIP market is expected to exceed by 2015
Source: Infonetics Research
Picking a Provider
When it comes to choosing hosted VoIP providers, Mr. Schoeller says organizations need to consider these factors:
- References and proven architecture. While start-ups may offer solid solutions, it's a massive risk to put an organization's ability to communicate in untested waters.
- The case for migration. Providers should play a key role in selling the idea of a migration project to stakeholders. They must provide a proposal that defines an effective migration from the current environment to VoIP and ultimately makes the business case.
- A clear roadmap to unified communications. Single-point unification, simplification and flexibility are the keys to the future of communication. Without a clear roadmap in place, taking the next step could resemble starting over.
Simply put, organizations implementing VoIP need to look at the applications from the perspective of their long- and short-term requirements, including whether or not team members are disparate and the role a web-based unified communications strategy can play in improving communication among team members and with stakeholders.
Consultant Consideration: Panasonic
With its Cloud Business Phone System, Panasonic surfaces as a solution for consultants running a business out of their home. There's one connection for business calls and one for personal use. With expansion capabilities of up to three hosted voice connections, six cordless handsets and eight phone numbers, the solution can grow with a business. Features include voicemail to email via. wav files, call forwarding and up to five-way conferencing.
Small Business Selection: Digium
Digium bases its solution on the Switchvox tool. Geared for the small to medium-sized enterprise market, it offers audio conferencing, video calling and IM via open-source Jabber. Internet access and videoconferencing are offered through partnerships, some of which are open source.
Enterprise Enablement: Avaya
A unified communications provider, Avaya uses the VoIP environment to provide a single-point solution for all means of communication (video, voice or data). With scalability and the ability to unify systems, devices and applications from multiple vendors, the Aura solution is designed to work for organizations of all sizes.
Affordable options across the mobile VoIP landscape are growing exponentially, led by Skype, Google Voice, Sipdroid, Fring and GrooVe IP. Each offering has its own set of distinct benefits (such as the ability to blend video, voice and text communication) and limitations (operating system compatibility). PM
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