Is it safe? Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2007
After crunching the numbers and analyzing the benefits and risks, more and more companies are deploying Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Now the difficult issues must be faced. Is VoIP the right solution? Is it reliable?

There are numerous and important strategic questions facing system migration.

Before business owners can answer yes decisively to the question, due diligence is required to analyze, test and evaluate what will work best within the company’s existing telecommunications infrastructure, according to John Curry, founder and president of Curry IP Solutions.

Smart Business spoke with Curry about VoIP deployment concerns and how businesses can minimize problems in transitioning from an analog to a VoIP telephone system.

What are some of the problems with converting to VoIP?

For businesses, the prospect of merging VoIP onto a network established for traditional analog communications can be challenging. Good quality conversations require low latency and jitter, low packet loss and sufficient bandwidth.

Allowing a deviation from those requirements can result in the quality of voice service not being acceptable to customers and other end-users.

Ensuring that the system is VoIP-ready is a sizable undertaking. Professional advice and guidance is highly recommended.

It is important to understand all of the implications and proactively confront the issues that are likely to emerge.

How can problems be overcome?

VoIP networks have been designed and built with data applications in mind. As companies evolve into increasingly mission-critical usage of data, the importance of VoIP as the foundation of the telecommunications infrastructure becomes clear. But business owners also need to know that it is possible to keep a traditional analog phone service and incorporate digital, or VoIP, over it.

It does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. The current analog phone system can be used with analog adapters. We have found that few businesses are comfortable with moving to VoIP with no questions asked. Some have already experienced issues with a voice service provider who did not provide a quality service. In addition, other individuals have come out of a negative residential use experience. It is understandable that there would then be resistance to starting an enterprise VoIP service for business.

Businesses can have the best of both worlds.

What types of connections are most efficient?

A very important consideration is the existing broadband connection. If the ‘pipe’ coming into the business is reliable and sized right, the transition to VoIP will be easier. If the business is currently experiencing Internet problems with its provider, I would not recommend deploying VoIP until those issues are successfully resolved.

T1 connections, for example, were expensive at one time. They have now come down in price, making them attractive for VoIP service. A T1 connection provides a guaranteed service level and it will remain up and running with consistently high bandwidth 99.99 percent of the time.

We also seek out the fiberoptic user, or businesses with fiberoptic service (FiOS) access. They are ideal candicates for VoIP. FiOS is being rapidly deployed, while existing copper for telecommunications and data usage are being left behind to degrade over time.

FiOS is competitively priced and can be cheaper than a T1. This type of connectivity is becoming more common and it is now widely available.

Some businesses also have an imbedded Ethernet service provider available to them in which you purchase bandwidth in megabytes. Ethernet specifically relates to connectivity and speed. If the Ethernet is currently in the building where the business is located, VoIP would be a cost-effective solution. If no one else in the building has fiberoptic, then it’s probably not.

Why, in the end, choose VoIP?

VoIP systems with digital voice communications provide inherent benefits to businesses. Voice messages can be stored, retrieved, forwarded and organized in the most efficient manner possible for optimum business efficiency. In addition, inbound calls to the VoIP system can ‘follow’ you anywhere and can be forwarded to any phone at any location. Remote offices can be set up as extensions from the main campus, making disaster recovery quick.

There are many telecommunication providers to choose from. Yours should work hard to stand out with an intensely dedicated approach to customer service and determining what will work best for the customer. It should analyze what the issues are and proactively resolve them.

JOHN CURRY is founder and president of Curry IP Solutions. He has been providing telecommunications expertise to businesses and individuals for more than 30 years. Reach him at (412) 307-3600, ext. 9007 or john@curryip.com.