Five tips for successful VoIP: security and quality of service should be given careful consideration before purchasing – Voice Networks – Buyers Guide
The current and future product offerings of the major telecommunications vendors and network equipment providers are all geared toward unified communications utilizing IP. They expect that voice over IP (VoIP) will optimize their high-performance, multiservice networks, providing for expanded e-commerce applications and unified communications, such as streaming video and broadcast video.
Most major network service providers also have been transferring voice calls from one central office to another via VoIP for some time. They have spent a lot of money on the fiber-optic networks that make this possible. IT managers and business owners need to make sure their network can handle voice-grade traffic if they want to play, as well.
As the growth of IP-based traffic continues to expand, it will put new demands on network traffic patterns. Network management and quality of service (QoS) will be vital to successful VoIP network implementation.
VoIP is the true convergence of voice and data applications. VoIP was created to consolidate the need for multiple interfaces to retrieve information from multiple mediums. It makes unified communications a reality.
The buyer interested in VoIP has several issues to consider:
1 How does your company plan to use VoIP?
Are you upgrading because your company cause your company considers itself leading edge and VoIP will help project that image? What are the VoIP applications you plan to use? What is VoIP going to do for your business that your current systems do not?
The two most widespread applications for VoIP are the enterprise that has remote sites, and businesses with associates that are constantly on the move and need real-time access to the enterprise via the LAN. But what about the 50-user, single-site business that may have no choice except to consider VoIP in a new PBX?
After the Y2K upgrades, almost all telecommunications systems support IP and allow data transport and videoconferencing through the switch at high speed with high quality–with QoS protection provided by the PBX. These PBXs are commonly referred to as IP-enabled, vs. IP-based. The PBX may be adequate to protect your enterprise’s investment until some “killer apps” for VoIP are deployed, such as a virtual private network configuration.
2 Will your IT department guarantee QoS by delivering bandwidth and giving priority to voice and video over data?
Presently, long-distance cost reduction from VoIP is best suited to a business that has multiple sites networked together. This allows a business to take advantage of existing bandwidth to reduce or eliminate long-distance charges between sites or by jumping off the network at a remote site to make a local call.
Data transmission is not sensitive to delays, but both voice and video traffic are. Without QoS assurance, a voice call can sound like a bad cellphone connection. Videoconferencing requires even larger bandwidth. High-quality video connections require a minimum 384K of bandwidth for each end of a call. Before implementing VoIP, make sure the bandwidth you need is available.
3 Has your vendors successfully implemented VoIP?
Ask the VoIP vendors for installed references for your application. Call their references and arrange for a site visit. Ask the reference why they selected VoIP. Ask for a demonstration of the application your enterprise is planning to use. Ask for an honest appraisal of the implementation process. Ask the reference what benefits they have derived from their decision to implement VoIP.
4 What is your contingency plan for a system outage?
How does your company respond when your host computer or LAN server fails? How does your business respond when the telephone system fails? When they are one system, how will your business respond to a total outage?
Traditionally, when the LAN or server fails, businesses manually track information and input the information when the system recovers. Although a major inconvenience, there is still a degree of tolerance for a computer or network failure.
Voice communication is essential to most, if not all businesses. When the telephone system fails, work activity is curtailed. Customers, vendors and employees cannot verbally communicate in real time.
With a VoIP solution, consideration must be given to a major system failure. If remote offices are being provided dial tone from the primary location, they will lose their communications system, as well. Companies need to know the cost of redundancy and if it will provide the company a fail-safe backup. The installation of an uninterruptible power supply is mandatory. A business disruption plan needs to be a priority.
5 How safe and secure is VoIP?
VoIP equipment is as susceptible to viruses and hacking as a data network, and it presents additional challenges. As VoIP converges networks, hackers can use the voice side of the network to attack the data side and vice versa. Voice packets can be compromised as easily as data packets. Firewalls and security programs need to protect voice packets as well as data.
Traditional voice traffic through a dedicated telecommunications system is difficult to capture. Voice packets, however, are vulnerable to eavesdropping on the LAN and can be intercepted, especially if your enterprise is using soft phones. There are several ways of protecting voice packets. Firewalls and security programs for encryption and authentication are requisite.
Security will add additional costs to a VoIP system. Your IT department should analyze the options before a system is purchased and select the best security solution for your business.
As VoIP gains market share, the price point will drop and applications will evolve. VoIP will appeal to more businesses and become more cost-effective. Take time to understand and evaluate the issues, and then make an informed decision. VoIP can only be a valuable tool if all of the issues are addressed in advance and the implementation is managed properly.
VoIP association formed
The voice-over-IP industry now has a new voice–the International VoIP Council, based in Chicago. Founder and CommuniTech CEO Neal Shact says the council will disseminate information about enhanced communications and serve as a unified voice for all elements of IP communications.
Council members include representatives of other industry groups, service providers, manufacturers, Internet telephony service providers, integrators, software developers and distributors. For more information, call 847-439-4333.
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Mahoney is vice president of client services and Rumbel is a sales engineer with Pinnacle Bay Resource Group, a vendor-independent, telecommunications project-management and consulting firm in Sacramento, Calif.
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