Making the move to VoIP: Counting the cost

VoIP promises long term savings, but check Ian Yates' advice before you jump in and make a short term blunder.

Previous: What's VoIP good for?

VoIP can be done with your existing kit. It can improve mobility.

Which all sounds too good to be true ... and usually translates to expensive.

And you can certainly spend a significant amount on IP Telephony. If you work for a large enterprise you'd have to spend a large amount on traditional telephony anyway, so the price tags on the IP PBXs probably wouldn't scare you. However, if you work in the SME market you can still get a serious IP Telephony solution without resorting to a stack of single-line analogue telephone adapters wrapped in Velcro. "The thing is to research your requirements," says ISPphone's James Spencely. "Know the number of handsets, your projected growth, how much you're looking to spend on the system and how long you want the system to really work for. What I wouldn't want people to do is take the first piece of advice that they hear on VoIP.

"Look at what's in the marketplace and do a full evaluation. You know the cost of handsets is going to be key, the features of each of the systems, do you want voicemail, are you going to want auto attendant services in the future and really make a decent sort of plan as to what you want today and what you're going towards. There are some very, very good offerings from companies like Linksys in the sub $1,500 IP PBX marketplace that have all the features. You know they'll have voicemail, they'll have basic auto attendant, fail over if the IP link goes down to a traditional PSTN line. All of this could be really obtained for a very low budget. But understanding the requirements is probably the first thing that any company should do."

Any time anything gets added to the network these days the security alerts go off. So now we've got voice on our network, do we need to be alarmed? "A lot of people do talk about voice over IP and security," says ShoreTel's Tony Warhurst. "If you already have a secure data network then the voice will run across it perfectly fine. It won't normally introduce any extra security issues. That's another myth which has a lot of people thinking 'I've got to spend all this money and bring in all these consultants to secure my network because I'm going to run voice on it'. That's not true."

Unless of course your network isn't secure to begin with. But then you've got other problems as well. VoIP is just another application, another protocol that can happily mix along with all the rest of the traffic, as long as you understand what it needs and when it wants it - same as it ever was really.

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