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To VoIP or not to VoIP

24 Apr 2010 9:40 PM -

VoIP is touted by many as the universal solution for business.

Before we discuss any further we must define VoIP phones or VoIP lines. You can have either or both and we also need to avoid the comparison with Skype which I will call Voice over the Internet.

VoIP lines are where some real savings in call costs can be made but at this stage we believe they are not quite ready to replace your traditional landlines from Telstra or Optus at least for business. It is possible to get all the features of landlines on VoIP lines where you go for SIP trunks including an indial number range for direct calling to your extensions however the number of simultaneous calls is limited by your Internet bandwidth and of course you are dependent on your Internet connection for your VoIP service whether it is shared or dedicated to VoIP lines only.

Most providers offer flat rate calling nationally and cheap calls to mobiles although the rate would have to be compared with using a GSM gateway with a capped plan or fleet plan SIM.

It is also possible to have interstate or international phone numbers terminating on your service to give a national presence without the additional cost of a 1300 number.

Now we turn to VoIP extensions. These are hard phones or software phones that connect to your phone system over your computer network. The main point here is that your network must be capable of carrying the extra traffic because voice is very sensitive to lost or out of sequence data. Assuming you have some sort of structured cable system, network hubs of any description or speed must be replaced at least with Fast Ethernet (100Mbps) switches but preferably Gigabit Ethernet (1000Mbps). If you have been running on a hub you will probably notice quite a difference by moving to a switch.

The benefit of VoIP extensions include:
a) they are easily moved around your premises without having to change any wiring back in the server room because generally the extension number is tied to the hardware address of the phone rather than the socked as per a conventional phone.
b) they can be located remotely from your office either permanently or for mobile staff
c) in many cases they have an open source protocol such as SIP, which means that you are not locked into buying proprietary phones from a particular manufacturer.
d) they may have additional features compared with conventional handsets such as Bluetooth headset capability and large screens that are able to run simple applications.
e) it is possible to run a single network cable to each desk with your PC hanging off your VoIP phone however this may prove to be very limiting in the future and our recommendation is a minimum of 2 cables per desk with 3 cables being preferred given that the cabling system can be guaranteed for 20 years so it needs to be made as future proof as possible.

Phone systems such as the Avaya Business Communication Manager range are hybrid systems, which support both conventional digital phone as well as VoIP phones along with analogue, digital, or VoIP lines.

Phone systems such as the Avaya Software Communication System or the Epygi Quadro range are pure VoIP systems in terms of the extensions but can still run analogue or digital lines in addition to VoIP lines.

On any phone system, it's possible to add VoIP lines by using an analogue adapter to convert the VoIP lines to analogue ports that you can connect to your existing trunk ports. Analogue adapters for this purpose are readily available in 1, 2, 4 or 8 ports.

There are also Hosted PABX’s, which were covered in a previous blog post.

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