Monday, December 31, 2012

Technologies That Should Stay in 2012

Technology is said to be evolutionary, but it is often cumulative. We wind up buying the latest and greatest devices only to find that we still need to hang onto the last generation hardware and software in order to maintain compatibility with existing systems. Over time, the old fades and the new becomes dominant. Then the new, new comes along and it starts all over again. Let’s take a look at some technologies who’s time has come to fade into the background.

Time to find replacements for these technologies that shouldn't move beyond 2012...Analog phone systems with their dated feature set, lack of compatibility with mobile devices and proprietary wiring are about on the edge of extinction. Analog still makes sense for very small operations that have only a single phone per line and unreliable broadband. The voice quality is clear and the cost of one line is attractive. It was thought that VoIP would kill the old POTS (plain old telephone service) line. What does it in now is mobility.

Being tethered to a landline is a considerable inconvenience for a generation that is on the go most of the time. Who wants one phone number for the office, one for home and another for cellular, each with their own voicemail boxes? Some people do everything on their smartphone with the knowledge that they are always reachable. The smartphone also doubles as a small computer, making even the ubiquitous business laptop a relic.

Most companies really need and want desk phones and desktop computers, but they want them to work seamlessly with their mobile phone, their tablet, their laptop or notebook and perhaps M2M devices (machine to machine). This is where VoIP shines. The technology makes the telephone set just another network device. Gone is all that phone wiring and those old clunker phones that just make calls. The newer IP phones have displays and are easily integrated with computers.

What’s better than VoIP? It’s hosted VoIP. This is a cloud based service that replaces all your in-house PBX equipment. You keep your VoIP telephone sets and install a SIP trunk to the provider. That provider takes care of all the switching and connection to outside lines for the public phone system. In addition to simplicity of operation and maintenance and the avoidance of capital investments, hosted VoIP systems can often integrate mobile devices as well as fixed handsets. An advanced approach is called unified communications. That means one phone number for each person, not device. It also means that other types of communication, like email, text and FAX are available on whatever device you are using. No more need to haul around all that claptrap just to make sure that you aren’t missing some important message.

I should interject that one of the big motivators for enterprise VoIP systems is cost savings. This is even more so with hosted VoIP. You not only avoid the huge cost of upgrading and replacing PBX switching equipment, but the actual calling charges are also reduced. Most providers include all in-house and local calls in a fixed “seat” price per month. Some include nationwide calling as well. Features that cost extra with analog landline pricing, such as caller ID, call forwarding, conferencing and so on are built-into the VoIP service. You have the flexibility to scale the service up and down to match actual employee requirements rather that come up short on phones or be stuck with equipment and lines that you don’t use.

T1 bandwidth may be in its twilight time. This reliable technology has served us well for decades, but has become an increasing bottleneck with only 1.5 Mbps. That doesn’t cut it with todays demanding apps. Entry level for business connectivity is now 3 Mbps, with more and more companies asking for 10 or 20 Mbps connections. These are easily achieved with a replacement technology called Ethernet over Copper or EoC. The price for 3 Mbps EoC is about the same as one T1 line. The cost of 10 Mbps is only 2 or 3 times that. Even fiber bandwidth has become more affordable. A 100 Mbps Fast Ethernet or 1 Gbps GigE service is now well within the budgets for many medium size companies.

No need to dwell on pagers, Frame Relay Networks, 2G wireless, dial up modems, CRTs, bulletin boards, and 16 bit processors. They have been goners for years. How long before computer virus software, in-house server racks, proprietary wide area networks, and local disk storage join them? Their replacements are already available and being adopted by businesses who want to stay at the forefront of technology as a competitive advantage.

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