Previous: Basic steps to adopting VoIP
Although you need to be confident that your network will cope with the increased demands of VoIP traffic, the problems are no longer mysterious and are easily accounted for by line and/or equipment upgrades.
In many cases, just tweaking the existing network will suffice. QoS controls have been lying dormant in a lot of routers for some time now, and just ticking the "enable" box might be all that's required to get things started. The suppliers for your IP-based PBX fall into three general categories. Brand-name solutions with brand-name prices, such as Cisco or Avaya; Open source solutions such as Asterisk running on Linux; or virtual servers hosted elsewhere and charged out on a per user per call basis.
"It's true today, no-one ever gets fired for buying Cisco," says James Spencely from ISPhone. "The great thing about Cisco is once it's in and working, it's very easy to maintain. It doesn't fail. When you upgrade the software or apply patches, it won't cause the whole system to fail. I think that's the availability of the system versus something like [open source] Asterisk which, when the new version of the software comes out it might not support half your handsets in the office - you'll never see that happen with say, a Cisco or Avaya system."
Spencely warns against overly keen integrators who might be looking for the better margins on offer with open source. "IT integrators can make far more margin building the box themselves and putting it onsite than they can with something like a Cisco system," says Spencely. "If your company isn't particularly full of geeks they often get stuck with these boxes from a rather over keen IT integrator and it tends to cause a lot of problems because people aren't made aware necessarily that the system they're buying is really early stages and that it may not have the support or point of responsibility that people want from a telephone system. As we all know, if your internet goes down you tend to sort of moan a little bit. If your phone system goes down, when it comes back you scream at anyone you can find".
Next: Why bother with VoIP?