Thursday, March 13, 2008

To VoIP or Not to VoIP

Businesses are always looking for ways to save money. With the economy as soft as it is, most business managers and owners are combing their expense reports for anything that looks hopeful. The phone bill often sticks out like a sore thumb. All that money out the door every month? Isn't there a way to get the same value but spend less?

There probably is, but you're going to have to look closely. The best approach is going to depend on what you need and what you have invested.

Let's take a look at VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol. VoIP is touted as an alternative telephone service, but it probably should be called an alternative telephone system. What's the difference? Ultimately, most telephone calls still traverse the Public Switched Telephone Network. The PSTN is an analog and TDM based technology that uses circuit switched principles. VoIP, sometimes called network voice, is a packet switched protocol designed to share networks designed for computer communications.

The mismatch in computer and telephone technologies sometimes comes home to roost in low-end VoIP phone services that rely on sharing Cable broadband or DSL lines to save money. The savings comes from bypassing telephone company owned wiring and switches. Your calls go over the Internet to a service provider who provides the connection to the PSTN for all its subscribers. The Achilles heel of this arrangement is that shared low cost Internet connections often vary greatly in available bandwidth and can suffer from large amounts latency, jitter and dropped packets. Without proper QoS (Quality of Service) controls, computers on the same connection can hog all the bandwidth, leaving nothing for your phone calls.

Can you really afford garbled voice quality, clipped conversations and dropped calls? The telephone is often the face of your business to your customer. For a single line or a few phones, you are probably best off getting the best competitive price on conventional phone service.

Where VoIP can really offer advantages is when you create a phone system for your own use. Properly engineered corporate networks can handle the convergence of voice and data packets on a single LAN. Your cost savings come from managing a single network instead of two completely different technologies, the fact that VoIP or SIP phones have their own addresses and don't care about what wall jack they're plugged into, a greater variety and lower cost options for IP based PBX phone systems, and advanced features for fixed/mobile convergence and computer/telephone integration.

As you probably have guessed, all of these advantages require a substantial investment before you start seeing any payoff. But what if your traditional PBX or Key telephone system is doing a good job and there's no reason to replace it? There's no need to. Enterprise VoIP works best in greenfield installations or when a forklift upgrade of an older system is required due to capacity limitations, obsolescence or inability to provide the needed features.

You can still save money without having to replace any of your existing company phone system. Competitive service providers can offer you better deals on T1 telephone, ISDN PRI, or Integrated voice and data service. The change to a lower cost provider can be invisible to your phone users, but still result in big monthly savings on the bottom line.

To VoIP or not to VoIP? That is the question. For some help in finding the answer, let our team of telecom service experts review your particular needs and recommend options that will save you the most money.

Click to check pricing and features or get support from a Telarus product specialist.

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