VARs: Expand Into IP Telephony
Unfamiliar with IP (Internet Protocol) telephony and converged applications? Learn about them now and consider adding them to your technology lineup - before you lose out to a competitor.
As data and telephony networks continue to merge into one converged platform, the increasing availability of IP (Internet Protocol) telephony-based applications will drive greater acceptance of additional voice applications running over an IP-based network. This integration has made complex unified applications available to any size business. This, in turn, is causing many resellers to expand from their core technology strategy into the IP telephony world.
Over the next five years, we expect that many customers are going to implement the following unified applications:
- unified messaging (voice, fax, and regular text messages saved as objects in a single electronic mailbox)
- CRM (customer relationship management)
- IVR (interactive voice response; a software application that accepts a combination of voice and touch-tone telephone input and provides responses via voice, fax, callback, or e-mail).
And they're going to do all this on an IP platform for several reasons: cost savings, increased network management capabilities, and competitive advantage. Resellers from either data or telephony backgrounds will increasingly find themselves responding to bids that require these converged applications - or risk losing customers to others who do.
Some of the customer benefits driving the sales of IP telephony and converged applications include:
- technology standardization: This ultimately provides cost savings and reduced technical head count.
- shared network management and costs: Provides cost savings and full network utilization.
- lower network and long distance charges: Realize lower long distance and fax costs by utilizing Internet bandwidth (and bypassing toll charges).
- remote network administration and management: Provides remote access to the voice and data network.
- increased customer service support: Creates a competitive advantage with increased customer service and customer loyalty.
- end user/desk top productivity enhancements: Employees now have access to new productivity tools and services being delivered across an IP-based telephony system.
In addition to the opportunities and noted benefits that exist around IP telephony, let's not forget that IP platforms have different security requirements than traditional networks. Resellers that have thought through potential vulnerabilities benefit by knowing how to address these solutions with their customers.
Focus On Network Security
Traditionally, voice features and applications have not been connected into an IP network, so this naturally increases the vulnerability factor. One cannot prescribe the same type of security solutions that might be made in a standard data or voice-networking platform. Some new (and some familiar) security considerations that need to be addressed include:
- unauthorized access and hacking into voice mail systems
- effective protection of voice and data transmitted over wireless networks
- effective user authentication
- unauthorized interruption of service.
A compromise in any of these areas on a converged network could easily result in a crippling loss of revenue, as well as loss of critical customer service and support. Additionally, on a converged network, voice and data are intertwined, so if voice is threatened, so is data, and vice versa.
While the latest trends clearly point to broader market acceptance and solid payback opportunities in IP telephony, the real test for resellers is how effective they will be in delivering solutions to the end user. If they can effectively address the overall business need, including careful network assessment, and security planning for the network, they are more likely to develop the trusted counselor relationship that will result in both higher revenue and margin opportunities, as well as securing repeat and referral customers. And just as important for the ongoing health of their business, they will become recognized experts in this exciting growth market.