Getting your business ready for VoIP

Companies are adopting voice over IP (VoIP) more for the flexibility and choice it offers than for cost savings, experts say.

Open source VoIP software’s emphasis on non-proprietary tools has freed many a business from reliance on big telcos, said Henry Coleman, CEO of, a telephony consulting firm based in Toronto.

He was speaking at IT360 Conference and Expo – an IT industry event held conference in Toronto earlier this month.

Coleman’s session was titled: A Gentle Intro to VoIP and SIP for Business.

“Thanks to open source VoIP software, firms can now bring their telecom requirements into their company IT domain without help from large telcos,” he noted.

VoIP refers to the transmission of voice through the Internet or other packet switched networks. The concept is also referred to as IP telephony, voice over broadband and Internet telephony.

Users realize some cost savings because a single network can be used to carry both voice and data transmissions.

As the method allows callers to bypass telecom companies, users also avoid paying long distance charges.

Users typically purchase VoIP phones for $150 to $200 per unit and pay for a yearly license to use the software.

These costs, Coleman said, can easily make up just half of what companies often pay for equipment and services from large telecom firms.

Besides, software-based VoIP tools are highly configurable and most in-house IT administrators can easily learn to tailor the product to suit their company’s needs, he said.

The network specialist also offered a tutorial on Elastix, a VoIP software application developed by PaloSanto Solutions of Miami.

He demonstrated how users can easily navigate through the Elastix graphical user interface (GUI) and configure the VoIP tool from a computer screen.

Elastix features include:

  • The ability to transmit more than one telephone call over the same broadband connection. This enables companies to add extra telephone lines with minimal effort and cost.
  • Features such as conference calling, call forwarding, automatic redial, caller ID. These features are offered as no costs bundled features while telecom companies normally charge for these items.
  • Location independence. Only an Internet connection is needed to connect to the VoIP provider. This enables users such as sales personnel or call center agents to work from anywhere in the world but give the impression that they calling from the head office.
  • Integration with other services, such as e-mail, audio conferencing, and address book management.

Such handy features are leading to the growing adoption of VoIP, says one telecom and IT consultant.

“Cost savings are still there, but the real driver of VoIP adoption is technology’s ability to interoperate with other services and support the enterprise’s communication strategy,” said Justin Karabegovic, an independent communications consultant based in Oakville, Ont.

He said capacity, reliability and security will continue to be the strong suit of large telcos such as Bell, Avaya and Cisco, which also offer VoIP products.

“Smaller organizations and businesses providing open source VoIP software products will be especially attractive to SMBs.”

One Toronto-based network engineer agrees.

“Complexity of integration has been a major pain point for companies working with large telcos on VoIP projects,” said Andrew Leslie, principal consultant at MTNS Solutions Inc.

He said many businesses end up tied to proprietary products offered by large vendors.

Despite its many advantages, IP-based telecommunication is not for everyone, according to industry experts.

Leslie, Karabegovic and Coleman suggests executives mulling over a possible VoIP rollout should ask themselves these questions to determine if their businesses are ideal candidates for broadband telephony.

Does your business have the scale to justify a switch over to VoIP?Among VoIP’s chief advantages is the ability to add new locations and employees to the system at minimal cost. If your organization is comprised of just five phone lines you might be better off with your existing provider.

Do you have many remote or mobile workers?VoIP services might be a special advantage for these types of employees as the technology offers capabilities such as wireless and soft phone integration.

What are the reasons behind your adoption plans?Don’t switch to VoIP just because the technology is there. Consider how it will fit into your overall communications strategy rather than make your business process fit the technology.

What sort of services will your VoIP provider offer?Avoid being shortchanged when it comes to features and functionality. Make sure you are not being charged extra or premium prices for VoIP features.

Will your provider or vendor support your legacy system?Determine if your VoIP provider will service your legacy system in case you are not migrating totally. If they are not, look for a better bargain.

Don’t get hooked on savings, always aim for reliability?There is no shortage of VoIP vendors and providers offering savings. However, only a few can guarantee reliability and good service. Remember your company’s operations and reputation will eventually rely on your system’s ability to deliver your message.

Check out this link to find out how to avoid more VoIP network pitfalls.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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