Q&A: Distributors Of VoIP
Representatives from six prominent networking distributors answer questions about VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) technology.
1. What is the most common misunderstanding relating to VoIP (voice over Internet protocol)?
Tech Data Corp., Roy Appelbaum: Many users think VoIP is a new technology, when in fact it has been in use for a while. Additionally, many users think VoIP produces a lower quality of service (QoS), which is also untrue. VoIP technology solutions provide a significant level of QoS, similar to traditional voice transmissions.
Catalyst Telecom, John Black: The most common misunderstanding is the performance impact of convergence on the data network.
Westcon Group N.A., Anthony Daley: People are realizing that an IP solution is not a "forklift" solution - you don't always have to throw out your old telecommunications equipment. A VoIP solution protects telecommunication equipment and benefits the overall expense of maintaining connectivity.
Paracon, Clay Sorensen: The most common misunderstanding associated with VoIP is that the technology is still not proven. Actually, it is rather stable given its life cycle. Another misunderstanding is that VoIP is voice over the Internet (vs. intranet or virtual private network).
2. Aside from cost savings, what other benefits can VARs/integrators promote when trying to sell VoIP?
Tech Data Corp., Roy Appelbaum: Along with tangible cost savings, other benefits of VoIP include ease of administration, unified messaging, integrated voice mail, reliability, and scalability.
Catalyst Telecom, John Black: VARs and integrators can promote easier access to customer information and for employees using multiple messaging systems from anywhere, resulting in greater productivity.
Westcon Group N.A., Anthony Daley: You can have the capability of traditional phone functionality, along with the expanded capabilities of other applications that extend the life cycle and functionality of the product. Furthermore, IP solutions enable companies to remotely add, move, and change users.
Comstor, Joe Heinzen: A major benefit of installing VoIP technology is the ability to integrate voice and data applications. For example, computer telephony integration allows users to check voice mail and e-mail from a single platform. Users can either check their voice mail through their e-mail application or check their e-mail through the voice mail system using text-to-speech applications.
3. What is the most common mistake you see VARs making with VoIP?
SYNNEX Information Technologies, Mimi Anderson: Many VARs are too slow to react and to get involved with the IP telephony market. They risk opening the door for a competitor to come in to an account.
Tech Data Corp., Roy Appelbaum: VARs usually do not realize the different support requirements for voice solutions that, unlike data, require 24/7 support. Because of this, many VARs' business models are not designed to provide 24/7 technical support. Additionally, many VARs don't investigate their clients' network infrastructures before implementing voice solutions. A network must be able to serve both data and voice traffic.
Westcon Group N.A., Anthony Daley: The biggest mistake is trying to sell VoIP as a complete solution, rather than a solution that is able to integrate gracefully into a network as the customer utilizes the technology's features. Also, I see VARs not being able to articulate other benefits such as security and QoS. VARs should be able to wrap up the whole solution. If you just try to sell an IP phone without a complete solution, it is a mistake that probably doesn't address the business need.
Paracon, Clay Sorensen: The most common mistake we see is that some VARs think VoIP can completely replace analog or T1 trunk lines.
4. What types of network upgrades need to be made to add VoIP?
SYNNEX Information Technologies, Mimi Anderson: VARs should make sure a network's switches have a good prioritization capability. Obviously, voice calls require a higher level of prioritization than data.
Catalyst Telecom, John Black: A network assessment must be performed to really understand what upgrades are necessary to add voice without degrading performance.
Comstor, Joe Heinzen: The underlying network needs to be studied carefully and its ability to prioritize voice traffic is critical. In most cases, some type of QoS must be available on the network to make sure voice traffic obtains the bandwidth it requires to maintain high-quality conversations. If the current infrastructure is capable of supporting this, then no upgrade is required. If not, the network will need to be reviewed, possibly redesigned, and then upgraded to support this technology.
Paracon, Clay Sorensen: In order to add VoIP, certain network upgrades need to be made, such as increasing bandwidth and adding routers that prioritize voice data. In general, routers, firewalls, servers, hubs, and any other LAN hardware/software components need to be working properly.
5. What can we expect from VoIP technology in the next few years?
SYNNEX Information Technologies, Mimi Anderson: IP telephony solutions will continue to develop more converged applications, giving even greater functionality to users. For example, we are already seeing PDA (personal digital assistant) integration to handsets.
Catalyst Telecom, John Black: We can expect more reliability, more integrated applications off the shelf, and more tools to make it easier to use and manage.
Westcon Group N.A., Anthony Daley: New applications will continue to be added and will become even more robust with better access and more information. Additionally, you'll see increased attention towards security and a reduction in costs for maintenance.
Comstor, Joe Heinzen: Applications, applications, applications. The VoIP phone sets are really a new form of application appliance, and, in many ways, will be an appropriate replacement for PCs - at a much lower cost to maintain.
6. How can non-enterprise companies justify IP telephony systems?
Paracon, Clay Sorensen: Remote sales and support staffs (in virtual or small extension offices) can use IP telephony to reduce costs, even at the SME level. Alternately, if they work with a service bureau, it may be easier to justify the solution.
Comstor, Joe Heinzen: VoIP is the technology enabler for combining voice and data infrastructure in any company. Organizations are now able to run voice and data applications over the same cable infrastructure, reducing the costs associated with maintaining two different systems. Deploying a VoIP system allows any organization to take advantage of that unused network bandwidth for computer telephony applications and provides significant long-distance savings. If a non-enterprise company is serious about gaining an edge over their competitors, they should be considering an early move to VoIP.