Voice over IP, Ready for Business?

Voice over IP, Ready for Business?

IP telephony is one of the fastest growing IT services today, although a relatively recent development. Early adoption of the technology was hampered by concerns over voice quality and network performance on existing data networks. The options for a cost effective quality ser vice are however beginning to emerge and it appears that a reliable VoIP service can now be a commercially viable option for mid-size businesses. A prediction supported by analyst firm IDC who report that the VoIP market will increase at an annual growth rate of 45% to reach a revenue base of $15.2 billion by 2007.

It used to be that businesses considering IP telephony had little choice but to invest in expensive, managed networks or even VPNs (virtual private networks) to ensure a certain quality of service (QoS). This means that the carrier

guarantees caps on latency (the time a packet requires to pass through a network), jitter (audio distortion due to peaks and troughs in voice traffic), and packet loss (which results in gaps in a voice conversation). Recent technological advances, however, mean that applications such as VoIP can now be deployed securely and reliably over DSL without the need for network upgrades.

Tiscali, for example recently announced the availability of QoS in the UK making it the first service provider in the UK to offer a service level guarantee (SLG) over both contended and non contended DSL. It is likely that this type of SLG will soon become the norm in business IP telephony, bringing the reality of converged networks another step closer.

What this means for those selling VoIP, is that they can now cost effectively deliver a level of quality and reliability previously only available to leased line customer, to smaller customer locations and home offices.

QoDSL works by making it possible to prioritise bandwidth for selected business applications, ensuring that required bandwidth is available when you need it, without experiencing the time lags and packet losses that are common to normal DSL connected services.

But what are the real business benefits of reliable VoIP services? Given the current economic backdrop, businesses have a difficult ICT balancing act. They are constantly challenged with having to achieve more, with less. Senior executives are challenged with maintaining (or even reducing) costs, complexity and risk, whilst at the same time increasing innovation, capacity, employee productivity and security.

The benefits of reliable IP telephony also go deeper than reduced call charges. An IP infrastructure is also an excellent convergence enabler, as all the applications, as well as the core network, can be managed from one point reducing TCO (total cost of ownership) and IT resource requirements. Put simply, by combining voice calls over the same infrastructure that delivers data connectivity, businesses can save money. Most businesses have high-speed Internet connections and separate phone lines. Consolidating data and voice communications over one data line permits substantial cost savings for businesses of all sizes.

That said, it is worth stressing that the decision to implement VoIP should not be technology driven. Project success is dependent on having a clear understanding of the business needs and strategic organisational goals that can be satisfied by new IP telephony applications. Resellers also now have a duty to work with customers to find out what their requirements are.

VoIP telephony is rapidly becoming a mainstream service, already in use by cost-savvy businesses in a variety of sectors. Cost reduction is the driving force for this recent adoption, with productivity-enhancing features as beneficial side effects. Most businesses will find substantial savings by making the switch, resulting in the question of whether to switch to VoIP not if, but when.

 
www.tiscali.co.uk
   
 

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