The Best VoIP Solutions

So, you are convinced that Voice over IP will provide a solution to your company’s problem and provide additional benefits. But how and why should you choose a specific VoIP provider?

How VoIP works

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What to Look for when Selecting a VoIP Solution

Apart from the basic knowledge we covered here, there are more advanced factors worth of consideration:

Software

Many vendors will force you into buying a hardware solution from them. This means you’re not only locked into using your vendors preferred hardware brand. You also have no control whatsoever over warranty and support for the hardware. Furthermore, how do you know if this particular solution is the right one for you? You’ll never be sure until you actually purchased the product and then, it might be too late.

Choosing a provider that supplies in different formats is very important. Also check if they provide software downloads and documentation for the hardware(phones) they use. You should be able to easily download the software, documentations and Help files for further use. Best scenario will be if they also provide mobile application that works without use of specific hardware.

Limitations

Limited functionality, is a way for mostly bigger companies to charge you extra. In some cases you won’t get everything that has been advertised to you, and you will find that the information on their websites is misleading. Make sure there is no service expiration time, but a complete, fully functional VoIP PBX for your company. As most companies provide demo accounts and test periods, it is very important that you are testing the exact plan that you are going to buy and use.

Proven vs Innovative Technology

Make sure the software is built on stable, proven technology such as the Linux operating system and Asterisk PBX core. The applications should be easy to manage and integrate with your existing software programs. Feature rich and innovative software is a good add-on but if the company can’t back it up with a stable IT team they might do more harm than good.

Innovative companies have their software under rapid, continuous development, which guarantees regular updates. The system can often automatically downloads software upgrades, without any intervention required from your part. In most cases this is good but, can sometimes lead to new feature misunderstandings and confusion.

Integration

When you are choosing a VoIP solution, integration with your existing environment is paramount. Most VoIP PBX provides support for every kind of phone line available, analog, ISDN, or VoIP but you still have to make sure it is so. You should be able can connect existing analog phones or use any brand of IP phone. You can either be a slave to your provider or enjoy the freedom of being able to choose the phone you like, regardless of the brand.

Support

A good product is nothing without great support. Especially for a telephony system, reliable support is a key factor. In most environments, telephony downtime is unacceptable. The support team should have extensive experience with Voice over IP systems and network related issues. Therefore it simply can’t be outsourced.

The company must provide you the best support in the least amount of time. Tech support engineers should be available around the clock to make sure your phone system is available 24/7.

Extensive monitoring and optional remote backup solutions are a plus, as companies should guarantee maximum availability of your IP telephony system. The engineers should be able to access your IP PBX over the Internet, to help you solve the problem without loosing time. Think about it, when considering VOIP vendors: “When things go wrong, will they be there for you?”

VoIP Decisions

Lets address some points that should be taken under consideration for IT managers looking at packetized communications for their Enterprise. Below are the highlights and my thoughts:

Look For SIP Support

I couldn’t agree more! SIP is a protocol used to establish, teardown, modify, etc communication sessions. It’s very diverse and relatively simple when compared to past mechanisms. Most importantly, it has become the defacto standard within the world of telephony. There’s native SIP support in nearly all the major vendors that supply VoIP gear. (Cisco, Avaya, Siemens, Microsoft)

Consider The Benefits Of Hosted PBX

This topic has be discussed numerous times in the past, and even before that within a TDM context (PBX vs. Centrex). The thing that’s different within an IP context is the feature and functionality available. When comparing a PBX to a Centrex offering, one key difference was additional feature and functionality in a PBX. Centrex offerings didn’t have the same “whiz-bang” features. In today’s Hosted Telephony offerings, there’s near feature parity, so the key determining factor becomes cost of ownership.

Think Unified Communications

VoIP (or Telephony) MUST be seen as a stepping stone to the ultimate goal of Unified Communications. IT managers should consider the roadmap to UC when choosing a Telephony solution. Real-time communications need to become multi-modal, meaning there should be options to transition communications from IM to voice to video to online collaboration on a document, and then back again – all within the same context and within a common look/feel.

Traversing NAT

Though the issue of Network Address Translation (NAT) is well known to negatively impact SIP sessions, the real point for consideration here for the IT Manager should be around considering the deployment of a Session Border Controller (SBC) within their Enterprise as part of an overall design.

Know & Apply Codecs

There are more ways to packetize voice and video communications than one can shake a stick at. The author points out the predominant technologies of G.711 and G.729. Issues of bandwidth consumption and quality of user’s experience must be balanced. Generally speaking, the more bandwidth consumed, the better the experience. But the more bandwidth used, the greater the cost to upgrade the LAN/WAN infrastructure to accommodate. If you skimp on cost, the result would be poor quality, and then adoption and experiences would suffer. It’s a delicate balancing game.

Some further comments captured in the article.

  • Make sure to have 100k in bandwidth free and available for every conversation when determining whether the enterprise really has enough bandwidth for VoIP, according to Andy Abramson, blogger at VoIP Watch and founder and CEO of Comunicano (www.comunicano.com). With this understanding, it’s easy to see that DSL or a cable modem line won’t cut it.
  • Get VoIP phones that are both wired for Ethernet and wireless for Wi-Fi connectivity, notes Abramson. “That way, people can wander, and all internal calls within the building are free of charge because they stay on the network.”
  • “Make sure the vendor is going to be around to support the purchase,” Abramson says. An older vendor with roots, commitments, and financial means is an obvious choice. A new vendor with strong management, skills, and reputation who proves out through considered research can also be a sharp choice.

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