Friday, June 30, 2006

What You Should Consider When Deciding A Business VoIP Solution

The selection of a business (enterprise) VoIP solution is a major decision. Voice service is critical to the operation of the business, so no one wants to implement a technology that will compromise call quality or reliability in any way. On the other hand, the cost savings and value-added functionality available with VoIP makes it a compelling investment. So VoIP buyers must select a VoIP platform that maximizes business benefits while minimizing potential technology ownership headaches.

Adding to the difficulty in making a purchase decision is the broad range of vendor offerings on the market. In general, these offerings can be segmented into two categories: low-end VoIP gateways and highend router-based solutions.

Low-end gateways are tempting because of their low upfront cost. However, they lack many important capabilities that are essential for VoIP to work as required in real-world network environments and to fulfill the requirements of the business. Their poor survivability. lack of intelligent call routing functions and inadequate integration with existing enterprise communications resources limit their usefulness and can lead to problems in provisioning VoIP services as required.

High-end router-based products come with a larger price tag and, at first glance, offer more sophisticated VoIP functionality. Unfortunately, they often come with further price premiums in the form of PBX modification and add-on modules for support of H.323 and/or SIP. And, despite their price and apparent robustness, their capabilities may still come up short in many ways - forcing users to change their dialing habits, limiting the efficiency with which available bandwidth can be used, and exhibiting the same lack of survivability as their low-end counterparts.

PITFALLS ON THE LOW END

Low-end gateways can be very attractive to today's VoIP buyer. Most IT organizations are working with very tight budgets. And many do not have highly ambitious plans for their initial VoIP deployments. They simply want to piggyback voice calls on their data network's existing IP connections. So it's easy for them to be seduced into purchasing a simple, no-frills VoIP gateway to ostensibly limit costs and complexity.

This is rarely a wise decision. Low-end gateways are rarely adequate for today's enterprise VoIPrequirements. Even in cases where they may be able to meet an immediate, short-term need, they will not be able to support evolving technical and business requirements in the future. Specific common shortcomings in low-end gateways include:

* Poor interoperability with the PBX

Low-end gateways simply convert analog signals from a phone line to a stream of packets that can travel over an IP link. They are therefore unable to interoperate with or leverage the power of the corporate PBX. This can make installation in the existing enterprise communications environment problematic. Users may be required change their dialing habits - something most are disinclined to do. So any cost savings can quickly be consumed by installation and configuration work.

* Lack of enterprise-class capabilities

Low-end gateways are limited-use devices with little or no call routing capability. They are mainly intended for "second line" applications that supplement a separate regular phone line. Thus, they typically route all calls to a central point where the intelligence resides. As a result, they cannot support basic Vo I P functions such as network "hop off" or "hop on" that allow, for example, the transatlantic portion of a call from an office in the U.S. to a customer in France to be carried over a corporate WAN connection to an office in Paris before being passed to a local phone company - thereby eliminating international phone charges. Reliance on a central point-of-intelligence also leaves these gateways completely vulnerable to a failure of that central point.

* NAT headaches

Many organizations use network address translation (NAT) on their routers and/or firewalls as a security measure and as a way of increasing the number of IP addresses available for their internal use. But, because NAT masks internal addresses from the outside world, it can also make it difficult or impossible to set up point-to-point VoIP sessions with external users. Low-end gateways that lack an effective mechanism for automatically and securely traversing these NAT boundaries can therefore cause significant implementation headaches.

* No H.323 and/or SIP Survivability

H.323 and SIP protocols are becoming increasingly useful for interfacing with other network and other organizations - especially next-generation service providers that can deliver tremendous savings on long distance. Because they lack support for these protocols, low-end gateways force customers to purchase separate H.323 gatekeepers and/or SIP proxy servers. The cost of these additional devices nullifies whatever savings were realized in the original gateway purchase. Worse yet, reliance on these external devices leaves all the gateways on the network vulnerable to their single point-of-failure. If they lose contact with the central H.323 gatekeeper or SIP proxy server, phone service can be totally disrupted.

* Lack of support for 911 services and analog devices

While much of the world is going digital, telecom managers still have to support analog communications for local 911 emergency services, fax machines and other reasons. A low-end VoIP gateway cannot accommodate these analog requirements.

* Vulnerability to IP network congestion and/or failure

Low-end gateways do not protect the business against problems on the data network. If the IP network becomes congested or fails, the calls that it carries will lose quality or fail. That's because such gateways can't automatically re-route calls over alternative routes or over the PSTN itself. This risk is unacceptable in an enterprise environment.

* Inefficient utilization of network bandwidth

Because of their price-sensitivity, VoIP gateways typically lack or have only rudimentary compression/multiplexing capabilities. This makes them relatively inefficient and can cause them to lose call quality as call volume rises - or as other applications on the network begin to consume more of the bandwidth available on key network These are just a few of the technical pitfalls associated with low-end VoIP gateways. For IT organizations seeking to minimize technology headaches, ensure ongoing call quality, and maximize the business value of their investments in VoIP, these pitfalls clearly give pause. Prospective buyers can ill afford to purchase products that will have to be replaced in a year or six months. And they can't allow the business to be hindered by unnecessary limitations in its communications infrastructure.

PITFALLS ON THE HIGH END

In order to ensure that VoIP services are robust, reliable and secure, technology buyers may go to the opposite extreme - spending top dollar to acquire high-end router-based solutions from a big-name networking vendor. There is certainly some apparent safety in this approach, and such high-end solutions do boast capabilities well beyond those of low-cost, off-brand gateways.

However, despite their expense and the cachet of their brand, these router-based solutions also fall short of the mark in many ways. As a result, VoIP buyers can wind up spending a lot of money and still not getting the functionality or even the reliability they require. Specific shortcomings of high-end router-based solutions include:

* Complex, disruptive implementation

Router-based VoIP solutions typically require the use of a separate line trunk on the PBX. This adds the significant cost of an additional line card. It also requires re-programming of the PBX so that VoIP calls are routed to that trunk. In addition, this approach can force users to dial one prefix for PSTN calls and another for VoIP. These solutions can thus cause significant headaches for technical staff and end-users.

* Limited failover capabilities

Because these high-end solutions are on a separate trunk, they do not have the PSTN connectivity necessary for effective failover. They can be equipped with a simple analog line for back-up purposes, but they are by and large unable to automatically switch to that line. So, in the event of problems on the IP network, all active calls will be dropped and will have to be manually re-dialed over the PSTN.

* No H.323 and/or SIP Survivability

High-end router solutions also share a basic shortcoming with low-end gateways: they require customers to purchase separate H.323 gatekeepers and/or SIP proxy servers. However, in the case of router-based solutions, these add-ons can be even more expensive. These shared add on devices also cause the same type of potential single point-of-failure in router-based architectures as occur with basic Vo I P g a t e w a y s .

* No multiplexing

Router vendors typically attempt to address the issue of bandwidth utilization with packet header compression alone. However, as use of VoIP expands and the other application traffic on the network continues to grow, compression alone will be insufficient to meet many organizations' needs. Multiplexing delivers far more efficient use of available bandwidth, yet router-based solutions don't provide it despite their cost and purported sophistication.

* Vendor lock-in

Many router vendors' VoIP solutions are closely tied to their overall data networking architectures. This may offer some limited benefits in terms of network management, but those benefits may be entirely contingent on using that single vendor's solutions across the enterprise. This lock-in strategy by the vendors limits IT's future choices and assures the vendor of an ongoing, across-the-board pricing premium.

Higher costs do not always mean great functionality or superior adaptability to an organization's specific needs. VoIP buyers should therefore consider all of the implementation and ownership costs associated with router-based products - including difficult implementation, poor survivability, and additional user training and support - and then determine if those significantly greater lifecycle costs are truly buying any technical, operational or business advantages.

DON'T PANIC.....THERE IS A SIMPLE ANSWER

Before you throw up your hands in disgust and frustration....relax. All is not doom and gloom. You can find a business VoIP solution that will meet all your needs....and avoid all the potential pitfalls and minefields we've warned you about above. To do this the answer is simple. Make use of the free assistance provided by Business-VoIP-Solution.com to find you the right solution and the right provider to deliver that solution. Just tell them what you want (requirements, applications, etc.).....and they'll take it from there.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Applications Of 10 Gigabit Ethernet Switching For Today's Business Environment

Important technology advances and significant price and performance improvements have enabled 10 Gigabit Ethernet to be deployed not only in data centers but also throughout university and corporate networks. Broader deployments of 10 Gigabit Ethernet are being accelerated by increasing bandwidth requirements and the aggregate growth of enterprise applications, examples of which are discussed below.

Since the IEEE 802.3ae standard was ratified in mid-2002, 10 Gigabit Ethernet port shipments have grown from hundreds of ports per quarter to tens-of-thousands of ports per quarter. This rapid growth in 10 Gigabit Ethernet deployments can be attributed to a number of factors, including:

Significant 10 Gigabit Ethernet Price-per-Port Improvements - Current 10 Gigabit Ethernet pricing is now less than one-fifth the pricing in mid-2002. As a result, 10 Gigabit Ethernet price and performance today, including cost of optics, is comparable to Gigabit Ethernet-over-fiber price and performance in intelligent modular switches.

• New Optics have Enabled Broader 10 Gigabit Ethernet Deployments - The availability of new optics now enables 10 Gigabit Ethernet to be deployed anywhere from the data center to the wiring closet, using existing fiber cabling.

• Increasing Bandwidth Factors - First, Gigabit Ethernet-to-desktops deployments have grown to several million ports per quarter by the end of 2004. This broad adoption has significantly increased the oversubscription ratios of the rest of the network. 10 Gigabit Ethernet can help bring these oversubscription ratios back in line with network-design best practices. Second, server adapter and PCI bus advancements have enabled servers to generate more than 7 Gbps of traffic, increasing demand for 10 Gigabit Ethernet connectivity to servers. Finally, new applications are accelerating the need for 10 Gigabit Ethernet performance throughout the campus, within a data center, and between data centers.

These factors are expected to continue to fuel the momentum of the 10 Gigabit Ethernet market, which is expected to rapidly grow from US $385 million in 2004 to US$2.9 billion in 2009, according to the Dell'Oro Group.

10 Gigabit Ethernet Advantages vs. Aggregating Multiple Gigabit Ethernet Links

Many network managers are weighing the option of using Gigabit Ethernet link aggregation as opposed to deploying a single, 10 Gigabit Ethernet link. As always, there are tradeoffs associated with each option. However, 10 Gigabit Ethernet provides some important advantages over aggregating multiple Gigabit Ethernet links:

• Less Fiber Usage - A 10 Gigabit Ethernet link uses fewer fiber strands compared with Gigabit Ethernet aggregation, which uses one fiber strand per Gigabit Ethernet link. This 10 Gigabit Ethernet advantage reduces cabling complexity in data centers and more efficiently uses existing fiber cabling in campus environments where laying additional fiber could be cost-prohibitive.

• Greater Support for Large Streams - Traffic over aggregated 1 Gigabit Ethernet links can be limited to 1 Gbps streams because of packet sequencing requirements on end devices. 10 Gigabit Ethernet can more effectively support applications that generate multigigabit streams due to the greater capacity in a single 10 Gigabit Ethernet link.

• Longer Deployment Lifetimes - 10 Gigabit Ethernet provides greater scalability than multiple Gigabit Ethernet links, enabling longer deployment lifetimes. Up to eight 10 Gigabit Ethernet links can be aggregated into a virtual 80-Gbps connection.

10 Gigabit Ethernet Enterprise Application Scenarios

10 Gigabit Ethernet can now be deployed over existing fiber cabling from the data center to the wiring closet uplinks . 10 Gigabit Ethernet deployments continue to extend beyond the network core to improve network scalability as end devices increase their bandwidth connectivity. For example, Gigabit Ethernet-to-desktops deployments have grown to several million ports per quarter by the end of 2004. This broad adoption has significantly increased the oversubscription ratios of wiring closet uplinks, especially because more than 90 percent of wiring closet traffic flows north to south through the uplinks.

In the late 1990s, it was common to deploy 10/100 Ethernet to desktops with redundant Gigabit Ethernet uplinks. If there were 192 users per switch, then the oversubscription ratio was roughly 19:1, which is within standard network design best practices of 15:1 to 20:1 wiring closet bandwidth oversubscription. However, as Gigabit Ethernet to desktops has rolled out over the years, these oversubscription ratios have ballooned to 48:1 or 96:1 even when the wiring closet uplinks have been increased to two or four Gigabit Ethernet channels. Deploying 10 Gigabit Ethernet uplinks with today's switching solutions can help bring the wiring closet oversubscription ratios back in line with network design best practices and scale bandwidth capacity for future requirements.

Desktop Applications

Enterprise-wide 10 Gigabit Ethernet deployments support the continued growth in desktop applications which, in aggregate, is accelerating higher-bandwidth requirements. Examples include:

• Aggregate Desktop Data Workloads - The aggregate bandwidth consumption per desktop is increasing because of increasing desktop workloads and the greater bandwidth requirements of new applications. For example, PC backup applications are critical, especially with rising employee reliance upon recent PC data. Data loss decreases and backup frequency increases when backups are automated instead of user-initiated. Frequent PC backups across all desktops in an organization places continual load on the network especially as file sizes continually increase (for example, Microsoft Outlook data files and PowerPoint presentations). In addition, companies are transitioning from traditional client/server applications (fat, proprietary client on each desktop) to Web-based applications (thin, standard browser on each desktop) to capture the operational and development cost savings associated with Web technologies. However, this transition can result in higher bandwidth usage because browsers may rely more on communicating with servers for intelligence and processing than proprietary clients.

• IP Video Applications - Enterprises are deploying bandwidth-rich IP video applications to improve productivity and operational costs. For example, e-learning increases employee productivity by providing low-cost, 24-hour access to critical training information, enabling "just-in-time" sales training, quick refreshers on how to deliver a service, lectures, and skills and regulation training. Corporate and executive IP video communications increase corporate alignment to business objectives and strengthen employee morale, and are an especially effective way to increase communication within a global company. IP video surveillance solutions are being deployed to increase security visibility and to accelerate the retrieval and analysis of archived events. IP video conferencing enables efficient collaboration among employees who need to communicate visually but do not have the time to commute to a designated location. Each of these IP video applications can generate numerous multiple-megabit IP video streams, depending on desired video quality, resulting in significant network-bandwidth consumption.

• Industry-Specific Applications - Many industries have custom applications that require significant bandwidth capacity and high performance. Whether the application is clustered or based on a client-server model, 10 Gigabit Ethernet can rapidly increase the performance of the network. In the healthcare industry, for example, digital imaging applications (such as Picture Archive Systems [PACS]) are often used to lower the costs and reduce the delay of retrieving and analyzing medical images (such as X-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans), increasing physician and staff productivity. In the media and advertising industries, digital video applications enable companies to efficiently develop video segments and then edit and review them among distributed teams. In the manufacturing industry, large CAD and CAM design files are increasingly being shared among teams located in different locations. And in the financial industry, the continual need for more powerful, real-time financial information continues to elevate network performance requirements.

The aggregate growth of these example applications and other desktop applications is accelerating the need for 10 Gigabit Ethernet performance across the enterprise network.

Storage Networking

The continuous increase in demand for storage capacity is propelled by applications such as customer care, messaging, e-commerce, rich online media, and catalog content. This information explosion is challenging IT managers to find cost-effective ways to access, manage, and protect this data.

Migrating from server-centric, direct-attached storage to network-centric, shared storage is an important strategy for achieving these goals. The ability to share networked storage in the data center, across the metropolitan area, and across the enterprise provides the following benefits:

• Scaled, shared, and maximized usage of storage and information resources

• Simplified administration of the storage environment

• Minimized total cost of ownership (TCO) for storage

• Improved data availability and integrity

Utilizing 10 Gigabit Ethernet, IT managers can now take their networked storage environments to the next level and use Ethernet-based networking for the most demanding storage solutions, such as:

• Data Center Backup and Disaster Recovery for Greater Business Resiliency - Enterprises have been challenged to develop business-continuance and disaster-recovery strategies that are cost-effective, secure, and scalable enough to meet their demanding requirements. An important factor of the move to metropolitan storage networks is the need to establish backups and remote mirrors at remote locations to provide business-continuance and disaster-recovery support for critical data. In addition, companies are also faced with the need to expand data centers that have reached their capacity or alternatively the requirement to centralize data center resources of multiple campuses or locations. The distance capabilities of 10 Gigabit Ethernet allow enterprises to provide high-speed connectivity between locations that are 80 km apart. Distances can be even further extended with the use of optical amplifiers and dispersion compensators. Enterprises can therefore support multiple campuses within this radius, supporting storage-to-server and storage-to-storage data transfers. With the high bandwidth, low latency, and security offered by 10 Gigabit Ethernet and Intelligent Switching, it becomes easier to move data seamlessly between geographically dispersed components of an enterprise storage system. An example would be a 10 Gigabit Ethernet infrastructure that supports all IP storage-based metro solutions and technologies including Network Attached Storage (NAS), Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI), Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP), and Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP).

For deployments that require higher bandwidth aggregation, longer distances, low latency, and support for non-IP technologies (such as Fibre Channel or IBM's Enterprise Systems Connection [ESCON] protocol), Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DWDM) provides high-capacity, protocol-independent access and transport of storage traffic across metropolitan-area network (MANs). Critical storage applications for such optical MAN connectivity include backup, remote mirroring, disaster recovery, clustering, and storage outsourcing. Synchronous mirroring requires very low latency and high bandwidth and 10 Gigabit Ethernet provides the ideal combination of these factors to enable such mission-critical business requirements.

• Network Attached Storage (NAS) for High-Performance Data Sharing and Storage Consolidation - NAS has led the way for the mainstream deployment of IP-based storage consolidation and file sharing. NAS has achieved popularity in many environments including collaborative workgroup development, engineering, e-mail, Web serving, and general file serving. Because of the customized nature of their operating systems, NAS filers have been tuned to carry out I/O extremely efficiently so they can easily fill multiple Gigabit Ethernet pipes at wire-rate. This is fueling the demand for 10 Gigabit Ethernet for NAS filer aggregation. In addition, there is growing demand for direct 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections to NAS filers to support high-performance applications that generate single data streams larger than 1 Gbps, which cannot be supported by 802.3ad link aggregation.

Besides providing high-performance access to shared files, a 10 Gigabit Ethernet infrastructure enables the added capability of filer-to-filer replication and backup to tape using protocols such as the Network Data Management Protocol (NDMP).

• Increasing Fan-Out to Shared Storage - The rising costs of managing direct-attached storage, together with the growing capacity of storage subsystems to support hundreds of terabytes, is fueling the need to consolidate systems that were previously not considered as part of the storage network. The challenges in achieving this effectively center around the cost and scalability associated with extending Storage Area Networks (SANs) beyond a limited number of high-performance nodes. Enabling enterprise-wide access to storage over an IP network using the cost-effective iSCSI protocol is proving to be a very attractive way of achieving fan-out to the hundreds and thousands of servers that would otherwise be isolated from the storage network. iSCSI-enabled servers in the campus can access the datacenter Fiber Channel SAN through the 10 Gigabit Ethernet infrastructure and the Cisco MDS 9500, which can act as an iSCSI gateway to Fiber Channel storage. 10 Gigabit Ethernet provides the network scalability needed to support the increasing number of distributed devices accessing shared storage across the enterprise.

Cluster and GRID Computing

Cluster and GRID computing is designed to meet the demands of CPU-intensive, transaction-intensive, and I/O-intensive applications that need more than a single server to efficiently complete the workload. Clustering provides a cost-effective way to scale computing needs beyond the confines of a single server and allows multiple computing nodes to work together as a large, virtual computing node. Cluster applications can be highly sensitive to the interconnect performance between computing nodes and thus place many demands on the networking infrastructure that link them together. Thus, clustered applications can benefit from the low-latency characteristics of 10 Gigabit Ethernet to maximize network performance. To significantly minimize server latency and CPU overhead, new server-side technologies are being introduced, such as system-level I/O Acceleration, TCP/IP Offload Engines (TOE), and Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA). These major advancements in network and server performance also take advantage of the interoperability, management, and investment protection benefits of widely deployed Ethernet and IP technologies.
While clustered computing deployments have typically been used by the scientific research community, the commercial sector is increasingly using this paradigm. Database and application server vendors have added support for cluster computing in their products. Cluster computing is also being used for other high-performance computing (HPC) applications such as financial analysis and modeling, oil and gas exploration analysis, and engineering modeling.

Conclusion

10 Gigabit Ethernet deployments are rapidly growing as price and performance targets are met, new optics enable broader deployments, and the aggregate growth of new applications continue to increase bandwidth requirements. But 10 Gigabit Ethernet is just a network interface of a broader switching solution. Successful 10 Gigabit Ethernet deployments also incorporate leading intelligent switching services such as integrated security, high availability, delivery optimization, and enhanced manageability to provide the necessary support for new applications. In addition, to minimize costs, the transition to 10 Gigabit Ethernet should take advantage of existing switching investments in modules, chassis, and other components. For assistance in determining just the right solution for your application we recommend using free consultative services available at Gigabit Ethernet

Monday, June 26, 2006

Network Convergence..The Benefits Of Merging Voice And Data Networks

In the high-speed telecommunications industry, “convergence” means the merging of the traditional voice and data networks into one shared infrastructure. The value of this convergence is in efficiency and cost savings. A major long distance carrier representative stated at a major conference the implication of convergence in large networks. He said that if there were actually a single network in their company for all voice, data and other applications -- a truly 'pie-in-the-sky' view since it probably cannot ever be 100% true -- he estimated that a converged network for all services would save in the neighborhood of 70% on administration (far fewer boxes to manage) and 40-50% on maintenance and operations. So if providers and users could even achieve half this efficiency it results in tremendous savings on these primary operating expenses.

This impact is reflected in typical customer premises scenarios. For example in many buildings there is cabling, PBX or Centrex equipment, telephones, equipment rooms, and staff to engineer, maintain, plan budgets, plan strategy, manage change, etc., to support the voice infrastructure. Then there is cabling, routers, switches, computers, equipment rooms and staff to engineer, maintain, plan budgets, plan strategy, manage change, etc., to support the data infrastructure. If these two environments -- voice and data -- could be provided over the same infrastructure, the savings would be immense. These two worlds are historically separate for many reasons including technology, political-economic development and social dynamics. In addition, the requirements for quality provisioning of constant-bit-rate services such as voice, as well as the expectations of the end user, are very different from those of bursty data applications. Both are respectively complex.

But service providers envision this 'one world' and strive to be the single provider. For example, regulated voice phone companies have talked about and attempted to do data for decades. ISPs have toyed with voice. Cable companies are one entity that has come close to being a ubiquitous provider of both services well, but most of their offerings are still in the trial stages. Migrating current infrastructures to a single technology is a great challenge. But what that single technology should be is becoming less and less a topic of discussion.

Data networks have become critical to business, and some would say perhaps more important than the voice network. Many businesses could do without their dial tone for half an hour, but if their servers or routers went down, it would be a disaster. Home users use "data" with each email or web browse. The de facto protocol for data networks is TCP/IP, the protocol of the Internet.

Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the Internet, believes that the Internet is the vehicle for convergence:

“What is the future of the Internet? It will become the 21st Century's telecommunications infrastructure. It will become our medium of commerce and education, of research and medicine. It will become a repository of the knowledge, wisdom and creativity of the human spirit. Internet will be there, for everyone” (Cerf).

Much work in the standards arena, in trial environments and emerging products support voice over the Internet Protocol, or "VoIP". The "data over voice" standards of several decades ago are virtually forgotten. It is anticipated that the protocol for both voice and data networks -- and for any converged network -- will be highly dependent upon, and perhaps even totally reliant upon the TCP/IP protocol. Thus, expanding broadband data networking today sets the stage for the ability to provide converged services tomorrow.

But convergence is not just for businesses. These same providers want to be the single provider for residential voice, data and video applications. Thus broadband data services to the home are as important a driver of convergence as to the business.

The trend toward convergence will continue because the cost savings of one network for data, voice, and all applications is significantly attractive from the standpoint of building, maintaining and operating this key business infrastructure component. For assistance in finding the right bandwidth solution for your business convergence efforts I suggest you use the free consulting services of DS3-Bandwidth.com.

Friday, June 23, 2006

VarNetwork.com Launched June 1, 2006....Leads For Telephone Equipment Sellers And Installers

As you focus on your core Telecommunications business, you need to stay up-to-date on the latest changes in the T1 service industry that affect you and your customers. Here's a few things that I think will bring you more telephone equipment business....and are deserving of your consideration.

VARNETWORK.COM LAUNCHED JUNE 1, 2006

The creators of ShopforT1.com have been working on a revolutionary VAR Search Engine portal for the past two years and on June 1, 2006, the site VARNetwork.com officially launched. Customers looking for equipment installers and providers (you) in your local area can now perform an EASY two-step search.

ShopforT1's small army of internet marketing specialists have already begun their work to begin driving targeted, qualified web traffic to the site, just as they have done for T1 customers of ShopforT1.com. With little effort VARNetwork.com can become a MAJOR source of new equipment and installation leads for you in the immediate future!

HOW VARNETWORK.COM WORKS

Unlike the yellow pages and other VAR-lead-referal web sites, the VARNetwork does not charge you, or the prospect looking to generate a work request, anything. They fund their marketing operation by asking you to pay a nominal 5% commission on any sales that you do make as a result of an introduction made through their program. This eliminates your marketing risk and helps them compensate their marketing agents (so they keep driving traffic and leads to you!) It is truly a WIN-WIN for everyone!

When their system matches an interested party with your company, you will receive an email notification. You can view the prospects' detailed information on your ShopforT1 Back Office: var.shopfort1.com (See "Equipment Leads Section). When you view an Equipment Customer Record, you'll see the new CRM they created just for you! This CRM allows you to modify the record, add notes, set future tasks, send delayed email (really cool feature), track the customers' status, and more!

INCREASING YOUR VISIBILITY IN VARNETWORK

When a prospect comes to VARNetwork.com looking to purchase equipment or hire a VAR to provide technical services, the VARSearch(tm) technology springs into action. The major matching criteria include:

1. Proximity - how far your location(s) are from the prospect

2. Category Match - how many service categories you cover match those that the prospect selected (EX: Wiring, PBX Equipment, etc)

3. Individual Name Brand Matches - how many products you are authorized to sell versus those the customer has specifically listed in his search (EX: Avaya, NEC, Cisco)

** Items 1 thru 3 are based on your VAR Service Profile. If you have not filled it out (in your var.shopfort1.com Back Office), you WILL NEVER SHOW UP IN ANY SEARCHES.

(Now, the criteria you can actually control)

4. T1 leads sent to ShopforT1. You get bonus points for each lead you refer.

5. T1 sales closed through ShopforT1. You get even MORE bonus points for each T1 purchase.

6. Customer Feedback - do a great job and your customers surveys will come back roses for you, providing you with more bonus points.

7. Agent Feedback - other ShopforT1 product specialists will be sending you equipment leads. Do a great job with these customers and the referring agents will let other agents know (by way of the agent survey) how good you are, again, providing you with MORE bonus points.

Once you receive a lead, the best way to win the customers' business is to contact them ASAP. When you contact the customer, use var.shopfort1.com to keep notes on your conversation, update the leads' status, schedule future tasks for yourself, queue up an email to go out on the customers' birthday - all of these activities will help you convert that prospect into a telecom equipment customer for life.

Lastly, when you begin receiving leads, ShopForT1 will also receive a carbon-copy of the email so that they can assist you if you have any questions about what to do next.

All in all....if you are involved in the selling or installation of telephone equipment of any kind....this is a tremendous opportunity for you.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Strategies In The Changing Era: Blurring Line Between Telecom And IT?

Micrpsoft's "hungry eyes" look at buying stake in AOL should give us food for thought. This shows the rise of the new wave that is merging the two industries, Telecom and IT. What stategies are foreseen in the future, with this kind of a trend setting up pace?

What kind of changes will be seen in the business models of IT companies in this respect?

I wouldn't read too much into Microsoft's interest in buying AOL. The lines between IT and telephony have always been blurred, going back at least to the 70's and probably before. Trying to forecast technology "trends" on one or two events is like trying to forecast the stock market based on one week of performance.

If we look at technology over a longer time frame, we see that convergence has occurred and died several times over the past 50 years to one degree or another in both hardware and services. Examples include X.25, terminal services, and ISDN. VoIP is simply the latest in a long line of merged communications, and is unique only in that the convergence is built on the data rather than the voice infrastructure.

The trend that I see is towards less local computing and more core services. If you consider how you use the Internet today, you may agree. Rather than using the compute capability on the PC, most of the use seems to be in communications. The browser accesses a wealth of information in a presentation format that is not local computing intensive. Email can be Web hosted, and IM is primarily text based. On line collaboration is more efficient from a user perspective than collaboration requiring files to be moved about. Most number manipulation is simple math supportable by an online calculator function. The key online piece missing is the spell checker function. Common office applications can be hosted and shared.

Now add to this 3G capabilities on cellular phones, and where does that leave a company whose whole market strategy is to sell OS and applications to individual computers with ongoing upgrades? I think Microsoft is positioning itself for this change, and that it has been trying to do so as a long term strategy for the past decade. A pay for use strategy provides a long term revenue stream, while the current pay once strategy is approaching its market cap and beginning to see competition.

The key change in business strategy for telecom companies will be to expand "IT" services. The key change in business strategy for IT companies will be to offer communications so they can sell their services like the telecom companies. In both cases, mergers will provide the shortest path to achieving the goal, so I expect more of the AOL-Microsoft type actions.

The key change in business strategy for user hardware providers will be two fold. First will be the lower cost and lower capacity general purpose device - the combined telephone and smart terminal. Focus will be on marketing - looks, weight, basic ergonomics. Second will be more specialized devices - the desk top photo printer, for example. The custom computer for the architect, or artist, or media producer are additional examples. There will be no significant change in the infrastructure provider strategy. Functions will continue to be combined, and operational capabilities will continue to strive towards as little human intervention as possible.

I don't think VoIP will have the impact overall that some expect. While talking is preferred to text for close friends and family, and simple business dealings, most commerce will continue to be text and graphic content. The simply reasons are the need for a permanent record, the need to carefully consider what is presented, and the need for understanding. Even as English becomes the universal language, we all retain our regional variations that can make conversations difficult. This has a much lower impact when we exchange text than when we speak. Video services will probably play a minor role in all of this for a couple of reasons. For the mobile user, video works against personal mobility. For the stationary user (home user), consolidating the service bill is more important than consolidating the service delivery. Just as many US homes get a single water and sewage bill but thankfully get these services through separate systems.

Of course, this is only my opinion.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Broadband Tutorial

Broadband networks offer much greater ‘bandwidth’ than the older narrowband technologies. By bandwidth we mean the bit-rate, or number of bits per second that can be transmitted. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has defined a broadband connection as any rate higher than the standard rate, T-1.

SPEEDS AND FEEDS.

Bit rates come in increments called Kilobits (thousands), Megabits (millions) and Gigabits (billions) of bits per second. The fastest modems connecting a PC to the Internet operate at 56 Kbps (Kilobits per second), while a typical fiber-optic cable carries 2.5 Gbps (Gigabits per second). Here are some examples of typical narrowband rates:

* PC Modem = 56 Kbps
* Telephone call = 64 Kbps
* Basic ISDN line = 128 Kbps
* T-l Leased Line = 1.5 Mbps

Narrowband communications normally operate over copper wires or coaxial cables. Broadband transmission technologies were intended to leverage the vast bandwidth of fiber optics. The Optical Carrier (OC) hierarchy, is used to describe broadband rates:

* OC-192 = 10 Gbps
* OC-3 = 155 Mbps
* OC-12 = 622 Mbps
* OC-48 = 2.5 Gbps
* OC-1 = 52 Mbps

Recent advances in optical transmission technology, known as Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM), promise dramatic increases in the capacity of a fiber line. DWDM technology splits a beam of light into multiple colors, or wavelengths, each of which can operate at 10 Gbps. The technology is rapidly advancing, with the number of possible wavelengths exceeding 100 per fiber.

For assistance finding optical carrier bandwidth solutions for your business go to:

Optical Carrier Bandwidth

CIRCUITS AND PACKETS.

There are two fundamental types of networks, circuit, and packet. The telephone network is circuit switched, while data networks, such as the Internet, are packet switched. When a telephone call is made, a live circuit is set up through the network, and a fixed amount of bandwidth, typically 64 Kbps, is reserved for the duration of the call.

Packet technology breaks data into small pieces, each containing an address. Sending a packet is much like mailing a letter; many envelopes of data enter the network at the same time, where they may travel over the same or different routes. Eventually, most of them arrive at the destination.

Packets are more efficient than circuits, because a single line can carry multiple messages simultaneously. The problem is ‘real-time’ communications, like voice or video, often didn't work well on packet networks because there was no way to know when the packets will arrive or in what order.

Packet technology is improving, however, and you should have noticed that packet switched networks are now supporting telephone calls, with an acceptable level of quality, at a fraction of the cost of a circuit switched call. This may be more familiar to you under the terms VoIP technology, IP Telephony, VoIP calling, or Broadband phone.

For help in finding a VoIP solution for your business go to:

Business VoIP

Friday, June 16, 2006

Breaking News: Packet8 Soon To Offer SofTalk

Current Sofphone (PC to PC/phone internet telephony) providers such as Skype et al can start shaking in their boots. Packet8 (8X8 Inc) will soon be entering the sofphone market with their own version called "SofTalk". Packet8 is already one of the world leaders in VoIP technology and services for business and residential use....and will now bring to bear their huge resources and infrastructure in the sofphone arena. Packet8 SofTalk will be especially attractive to laptop users....and will include both voice and video calling capabilities.

I suggest you watch developments closely and keep an eye out for the official launch at Packet8.

Packet8 SoftalK™ is a PC-based application that allows subscribers to make and receive voice and video phone calls directly from their personal computers without the need for a regular analog phone. All that is required is a desktop or laptop personal computer running Microsoft Windows with built-in or external speakers and microphones or a computer headset.

How Do You Get Packet8 Softalk™?

Packet8 Softalk™ will be available soon at Packet8.

When available, PC users will have the ability to download Packet8 Softalk™ to a laptop so that when traveling, subscribers can simply go online to make phone calls and get all the great benefits of Packet8 service. Packet8 Softalk™ will be available in two formats: Basic and Premium.

Packet8 Softalk™ Basic

Packet8 Softalk™ Basic will allow unlimited IP to IP ("in-network") voice and video calling between other "Softalkers" or to any Packet8 subscriber (including Packet8 VideoPhone users) free of charge. There is no activation or disconnect fee for this offering. This plan is ideal for current Packet8 subscribers or consumers interested in trying Packet8 Internet phone service.

Packet8 Softalk™ Premium

Packet8 Softalk™ Premium will offer the same toll free in-network calling as well as outbound calling to the PSTN (public switch telephone network) along with all the Packet8 advanced calling features like voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, call forwarding and many more for $5.99 per month and a one-time activation fee of $9.99.

Premium Softalkers will get 500 minutes of outgoing and incoming minutes on calls throughout the US and Canada. Each additional minute will be billed at 1.9 cents, with outgoing international minutes billed at the current Packet8 international rates. There will be a disconnect fee of $9.99.

What You Need to Use Packet8 Softalk™

In addition to a PC or laptop, the equipment required to use Packet8 Softalk™ includes a headset and microphone or USB phone. For video use, a standard, off-the-shelf webcam is required to send images, though none is required to receive video images.

With their proven track record and industry reputation in IP Telephony....I expect the SofTalk service to add another success to the Packet8 list of accomplishments.

Background On Packet8

8x8, Inc. (Nasdaq: EGHT), originator of the Packet8 Broadband Phone Service, is one of the industry’s leading VoIP (voice over internet protocol) and videophone communications service providers. Since its establishment in 1987, 8x8 has contributed to the advancement of voice and video communications on both technology and service provision levels. The company currently holds 49 United States patents with additional patents pending.

The Packet8 residential phone service, introduced in November 2002, incorporates 8x8’s proprietary technology in an affordable, easy-to-use calling service delivered over DSL, cable modem or other high speed internet connections. In March 2004, 8x8 introduced the Packet8 Virtual Office system, a full-featured hosted PBX VoIP solution for small to medium sized businesses. Two months later, the Packet8 DV 326 Broadband consumer VideoPhone was unveiled at Supercomm 2004 and has since received high marks for its exceptional quality, ease of use and consumer friendly pricing.

8x8 Has A Long History In Multimedia Communications Technology

Founded in 1987 as Integrated Information Technology (IIT), its initial products were programmable semiconductors for the videoconferencing and videophone markets as well as the accompanying software. The primary customer applications for these semiconductors were communication terminals (such as videophones, telephones or room videoconferencing systems) for the integrated services digital network (ISDN), the public switched telephone network (PSTN), and IP networks, such as local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and the Internet.

In 1997, 8x8 began developing videophones (under the ViaTV brand name) along with other broadband internet products and services for business and consumer use. The company initiated a public offering on July 2, 1997 on the NASDAQ national market under the ticker symbol EGHT.

Until recently, 8x8 was focused on its VoIP semiconductor business (through its subsidiary Netergy Microelectronics, Inc.) and hosted iPBx solutions business (through its subsidiary Centile, Inc.). In late 2003, 8x8 began to devote more of its resources to the promotion, distribution and development of the Packet8 voice and video communications service and soonafter announced the end of life of its VoIP semiconductor products. The Company continues to own the voice and video technology related to the semiconductor and IP PBX businesses and utilizes it in the Packet8 service offering.

Today, 8x8 offers the Packet8 broadband voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) and video communications service, Packet8 Virtual Office service and videophone equipment and services. The Packet8 voice and video communications service (Packet8) enables broadband Internet users to add digital voice and video communications services to their high-speed Internet connection. The company shipped its first VoIP product in 1998, followed by the launch of the Packet8 service in November 2002, the Packet8 Virtual Office business service in March 2004 and the DV326 Videophone in June 2004.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

IP Telephony (VoIP) Terms And Definitions

Here's a quick primer with the latest IP Telephony expressions, VoIP terms and definitions of this rapidly growing industry. For specific assistance with business VoIP applications go to Business VoIP Solution.

ACD: Average Call Duration.

AHT (Average Hold Time): The average length of time between the moment a caller finishes dialing and the moment the call is answered or terminated.

ANI (Automatic Number Identification): A telephone function which transmits the billing number of the incoming call (Caller ID, for example).

ANSI (American National Standards Institute): The American standardization body known for interface recommendations and standardization of programming languages. ANSI is a non-profit making, government-independent organization.

AS (Autonomous System): A group of networks under mutual administration that share the same routing methodology.

ASP (Application Service Provider): An independent, third party provider of software-based services delivered to customers across a wide area network (WAN).

ASR (Answer-Seizure Ratio) : The ratio of successfully connected calls to attempted calls (also called 'Call Completion Rate').

ATA (Analogue Telephone Adapter): Used to connect a standard telephone to a high-speed modem to facilitate VoIP and/or fax calls over the Internet.

ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode): A technology for switched, connection-oriented transmission of voice, data and video. It makes high-speed dedicated connections possible between a theoretically unlimited number of network users and also to servers.

Asterisk: An open source that provides all the functionality of high-end business telephone systems. It is the world's most flexible and extensible telephone system, providing many features that are not yet available in even the most advanced proprietary systems. It is also the world's cheapest telephone system. The software is free and runs on inexpensive Linux servers.

Backbone: A high-speed network spanning the world from one major metropolitan area to another.

Bad Frame Interpolation: Interpolates lost/corrupted packets by using the previously received voice frames. It increases voice quality by making the voice transmission more robust.

Bandwidth: The maximum data carrying capacity of a transmission link. For networks, bandwidth is usually expressed in bits per second (bps).

Billing Increment: A call duration measurement unit, usually expressed in seconds.

Broadband: A descriptive term for evolving digital technology that provides consumers a single switch facility offering integrated access to voice, high-speed data service, video demand services, and interactive delivery services.

CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act): A 1994 act that requires telecommunications services to provide wiretapping access. The act specifically excludes information services, so the question is whether VoIP is a telecommunications service, and thus covered by the act, or an information service, and thus exempted. VoIP providers are receiving pressure to comply with the act.

Call Deflection: Call Deflection allows a called endpoint to redirect the unanswered call to another endpoint.

Call Detail Record (CDR): Information regarding a single call collected from the switch and available as an automatically generated downloadable report for a requested time period. The report contains information on the number of calls, call duration, call origination and destination, and billed amount.

Circuit-Switched: Communication system that establishes a dedicated channel for each transmission. The copper-wire telephone system (POTS) uses circuit-switching, as do PBX systems. Dedicated channels mean strong reliability and low latency, but the downside is that only one type of communication can use the channel at any given time.

CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier): A telephone company that competes with the larger incumbent carriers (ILECs) through reselling the ILEC services and/or creating services that use the ILEC's infrastructure. The Regional Bells are ILECs; local phone companies are frequently CLECs.

Codec (Compression-Decompression): In VoIP it is a voice compression-decompression algorithm that defines the rate of speech compression, quality of decompressed speech and processing power requirements. The most popular codecs in VoIP are G.723.1 and G.729.

Compression: VoIP uses various compression ratios, the highest approximately 12:1. Compression varies according to available bandwidth.

Congestion: The situation in which the traffic present on the network exceeds available network bandwidth/capacity.

CSMA/CD (Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Detection): This is the access procedure to the Ethernet in which the participating stations physically monitor the traffic on the line. If no transmission is taking place at the time the particular station can transmit. If two stations attempt to transmit simultaneously this causes a collision that is detected by all participating stations. After a random time interval the stations that collided attempt to transmit again.

Dial-peer (Addressable Call Endpoint): A software structure that binds a dialed digit string to a voice port or IP address of the destination gateway. Several dial peers always exist on each router in the network, and at least two will be involved in making a call across the network, one on the originating end and one on the terminating end. In Voice over IP, there are two kinds of dial peers: POTS and VoIP. VoIP peers point to specific VoIP devices.

Dial-peer hunting: Process when the originating router tries to establish call on different dial peers if the originating router receives a user-busy invalid number or an unassigned-number disconnect cause code from a destination router.

DiffServ (Differentiated Services): A quality of service (QoS) protocol that prioritizes IP voice and data traffic to help preserve voice quality, even when network traffic is heavy.

DNIS (Dialed Number Identification Service): A telephone function which sends the dialed telephone number to the answering service.

DSP (Digital Signal Processors): All digital audio systems use DSP technology in order to differentiate between signal and noise. In telephone communication, too, much noise creates problems in maintaining connections, and in VoIP systems the DSP component provides features such as tone generation, echo cancellation, and buffering.

DTMF (Dual-Tone Multi Frequency): The type of audio signals generated when you press the buttons on a touch-tone telephone.

Dynamic Jitter Buffer: Collects voice packets, stores them, and shifts them to the voice processor in evenly spaced intervals to reduce any distortion in the sound.

E911 (Enhanced 911): Technology allowing 911 calls from cellular phones to be routed to the geographically correct emergency station (PSAP: Public Safety Answering Point). VoIP users currently have limited access to 911 services, and with some providers none, because VoIP is not geographically based.

FCC (Federal Communications Commission): The regulator of telephone and telecommunications services in the United States. It's not yet known the full extent to which the FCC will regulate VoIP communications. Part of the complication lies with determining the regulation of communications that begin or end on an FCC-regulated system, such as the standard telephone service.

Firewall: Security software or appliance that sits between the Internet and the individual PC or networked device. Firewalls can intercept traffic before it reaches network routers and switches, or between router/switch and PC, or both. Because the job of firewalls is to prevent access from specific packets over specific network ports, some must be specially configured to allow VoIP traffic to pass through.

FoIP (Fax over Internet Protocol): The fax counterpart to VoIP, available from some providers either free or at additional cost. FoIP is actually more reliable than VoIP because of its tolerance for poor latency.

H.323: The standard call protocol for voice and videoconferencing over LANs, WANs, and the Internet, allowing these activities on a real-time basis as opposed to a packet-switched network. Initially designed to allow multimedia to function over unreliable networks, it's the oldest and most established of the VoIP protocols. See also SIP and MGCP.

Latency: The time it takes for a packet to travel from its point of origin to its point of destination. In telephony, the lower the latency, the better the communication. Latency has always been an issue with telephone communication taking place over exceptionally long distances (the United States to Europe, for example). With VoIP, however, latency takes on a new form because of the splitting of the message into packets (see packet-switched) and network delay in general.

MGCP (Media Gateway Control Protocol): Another protocol competing with H.323 (see also SIP). MGCP handles the traffic between media gateways and their controllers. Especially useful in multimedia applications: the media gateway converts from various formats for the switched-circuit network, and the controller handles conversion for the packet-switched network. Designed to take the workload away from IP telephones themselves and thereby make IP phones less complex and expensive.

Packet-switched: Communication system that chops messages into small packets before sending them. All packets are addressed and coded so they can be recompiled at their destination. Each packet can follow its own path and therefore can work around problematic transmission segments. Packet switching is best when reaching a destination is the primary concern and latency is permissible, such as sending e-mail and loading Web pages.

PBX (Private Branch Exchange): A privately owned system for voice switching and other telephone related services. It routes calls from the public telephone system within an organization and allows direct internal calls.

PDD (Post Dial Delay): When a telecom switch is trying to establish the best possible route for the call.

POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service): Nothing more than a standard telephone line, the kind Ma Bell and then AT&T handled exclusively before the deregulation of the telephone industry. Upgrade your POTS to DSL, and you have broadband; add VoIP, and you have a system that uses POTS, the PSTN and the Internet in one seamless system.

PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network): The network of wires, signals, and switches that lets one telephone connect to another anywhere in the world. Some VoIP services provide a gateway from the Internet to the PSTN and vice versa.

RTP (Real Time Protocol): Also known as Real Time Transport Protocol. Controls the transmission of packets of data that demands low latency (such as audio and video). Supports real-time transmission over IP networks and streaming as one means of delivery.

QoS (Quality of Service): Refers to the quality of the voice call over a VoIP network. A major issue in VoIP communications, because the high quality of telephone calls has always been taken for granted. Latency, packet loss, network jitter, and many other factors contribute to QOS measurements, and numerous solutions have been offered by vendors of routers and other network components.

SIP (Session Initiation Protocol): Communication protocol that operates similarly to H.323 but is less complex and more Internet- and Web-friendly. Fully modular and designed from the ground up for functioning over IP networks, it can be tailored more easily than H.323 for Internet applications. SIP and H.323 can and do coexist.

SoftPhone: A software app that gives you the ability to make and receive calls over the Internet using your PC and a headset or a microphone and speakers. A softphone's interface can look like a traditional phone dial pad or more like an IM client.

Universal Service: The availability of affordable telecommunications technology for all Americans, part of the 1966 Telecommunications Act, and regulated by the FCC. Current discussions revolve around the applicability of VoIP to universal services and whether or not VoIP providers should be taxed accordingly.

Virtual Phone Number: A feature of VoIP that allows you to attach additional phone numbers with different area codes to your basic VoIP service. This feature allows people to phone you without incurring long-distance charges from the same or adjacent nontoll area codes. All outgoing calls, however, are billed as if coming from your main phone number. Virtual phone numbers typically each cost a few extra dollars per month.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol): The technology behind Internet phones. VoIP works by digitizing voice signals and sending them as packets through the same networking channels as your data.

Voip Escrow was created to provide a safe and secure platform for buyers and sellers of "minutes" to conduct business. This specificly applies to a segment of the industry (primarily non-US) dealing in call origination and termination points for VoIP traffic servicing targeted customer populations (e.g. Midle East, Eastern Europe, SE Asia). The service acts as a middle-man who protects the buyer by assuring the buyer they receive minutes they have ordered, and protecting the seller by ensure the money is available to him/her for minutes they have provided.

Monday, June 12, 2006

How Do Business VoIP Solutions Really Work??

The premise behind VoIP solutions is fairly straightforward: instead of using "circuit-switched" technology, where a dedicated path from caller to receiver is reserved for their entire conversation, VoIP phone systems treat voices as data, turning your words into tiny packets of information that are sent over data networks. As they arrive at the receiving end, the data is turned back into audio.

To set up a business VoIP solution, you need several components. A central device manages the calls, the way a private branch exchange (PBX) or key system unit (KSU) does in traditional phone systems. This can be a dedicated piece of hardware such as an IP PBX, a regular PBX that has been IP-enabled, or a server running specialized software. You will also need phones and a data network. In many cases, you may be able to use your existing digital phones and computer network, although you may need to upgrade some of your network hardware.

VoIP solutions handle internal and external calls slightly differently. Internal calls are send purely as data on your company network - often, you can get rid of internal phone cabling entirely. Calls to external phone numbers get sent through the network to a gateway, which connects to the public telephone network. All of your calls connect seamlessly to any phone user - there are no compatibility issues to worry about.

The single biggest advantage of VoIP solutions is for businesses with multiple locations. With VoIP, any and all offices on a LAN or WAN can get the benefits of having a common office phone system, including extension dialing, seamless call transfers, and all the system features. Plus, if they are on the company network, the phone calls are free - even if your offices are located thousands of miles apart.

VoIP Solution for the Small to Medium sized Business

For small to medium sized businesses with between 15 and 200 employees, it is generally more cost effective to select a VoIP provider that is dedicated to this particular market. This is one of the fastest growing areas for VoIP in the business world and is expected to account for more than 1.7 million lines and $1 billion in market size by 2007 according to Forrester Research.

For this particular VoIP market, the provider typically installs a voice enabled router that connects to a T1 or T3 line depending on your telephony and data requirements. This can support all of your voice and data needs for your company and provides a Quality of Service (QoS) such that your voice packets get higher priority than your data packets during high traffic times. A large switch connects the router to your Local Area Network (LAN) and any IP based device can then be connected to the switch whether it be a computer, an IP phone, or just an ATA and a regular analog telephone.

Note that additional phone lines and PCs can be added simply by connecting them to the large voice enabled switch. If you need to add an employee, the system is very flexible. Simply add another VoIP seat (i.e. another phone line) with your web browser, connect your phone to the LAN and you are up and running. No more expensive and time consuming installations to add a telephone line.

VoIP Solution for the Large Business

For this market segment, a large business is considered to be one that has greater than 200 employees.

At the present time there is not too much demand from large companies to move to VoIP. This is because they have usually already paid a substantial amount of money for their PBX and they have the misconception that they would need to throw away their PBX in order to move to VoIP. However this is not the case and there are many VoIP plans that actually make use of the circuit switched PBX.

The VoIP provider adds equipment that converts the circuit switched outputs from the PBX into IP packets and then passes them to a Voice Enabled Router that also handles the company data network. All of the IP packets, voice and data, are then routed to the internet often via T1 or T3 lines. The company may then remove the expensive phone lines or the Primary Rate Interface (PRI) that previously were sent to the PSTN. Typically, large businesses can save over 30% in their monthly telephony costs after switching to a VoIP configuration.

The PSTN and telephone lines or PRI can be removed from the system since all of the data and voice now travel over the internet. However, in practice, a reduced number of standard circuit switched phone lines tend to remain connected to the PSTN purely for backup purposes.

Note that for large companies that are moving to a new building or relocating, there is no better time to move to a VoIP solution. If no PBX is currently owned the setup looks similar to the Small to Medium sized Business (SMB) but on a larger scale.

For assistance is determining just the right business VoIP solution for your applications it's strongly suggested that you make use of the free consulatation services provided by Business-VoIP-Solution.com.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Cell Phones That Double As Internet Phones

It's amazing that the blending of technologies are happening faster than most would have ever expected them to...

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Quote from ZDNet:

Distributed by Dubai-based developer i-Mate, the $850 PDA2K and PDA2 cell phones come equipped with voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), a software that shifts phone services from the highly regulated and taxed traditional local phone networks onto the unregulated Internet. The VoIP software comes from Skype, a popular Europe-based Net phone provider.

The i-Mate phones are based on a Microsoft operating system and contain radios capable of using both cell and Wi-Fi networks--the latter inexpensively distribute Internet access over short distances and are commonly found in cafes, transportation hubs, hotels and retail outlets. When you're in a Wi-Fi "hot spot," the Internet phone software lets you dial other Skype users for free, or pay 2 cents a minute for calling traditional phones.

Analysts have long suggested that the Net/cell phone tandem could prove a potent weapon that Net phone, cell and broadband providers could use to steal customers from the nation's major local phone companies.

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I can see where a Net/cell phone could be the final fatal challenge to the traditional analog and even digital phones in the market place. Not at current prices, but in another couple of years when volume and competition bring the pricing down to around $100.

Industry standards versus proprietary approaches might not be necessary. Putting multiple protocol stacks in place is now more of a licensing issue than a technical constraint, and the courts have been ruling against companies whose licensing policies constrain competition. Microsoft, and both US and EU court rulings against it, is the prime example of this.

As for where the customer's end up getting service, I don't see it. The majority of customers get their local phone service from the same companies that provide the bulk of the Net access, Net backbone, and cellular service. Reseller margins are so thin now that many are having difficulty remaining in business, which means few have the capital resources to unseat the incumbents. A more likely scenario is a shift in service within the same major providers.

Of course, the major carriers could look at costs versus revenue and decide that stepping out of end user services in favor of bulk carrier services is the better approach from a shareholder perspective. After all, the support costs increase the closer to the customer a provided service is. Using Microsoft and Cisco as examples, the "competitors" become the equivalent of MS Partners or hardware VARs. Or perhaps the future for customers will mean shopping at Wal-Mart or Sam's Clubs for all their personal telecommunications requirements.

While this plays out you can search for what cellular products, services, accessories, and plans are currently available all from one online location:

Cell Phone Products, Plans, and More

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Telecom Triple Play - How Will We Get There?

The next big push in telecom looks to be the triple play of data, voice, and video. The question is how will this be delivered to the end users.

DSL tops out at 24 Mbps today, but that is limited to a very short copper run. Certainly overkill for data and voice, but will this be sufficient for IP-TV services? Add to that the issue of aggregation, and there are some real choke points. Fiber to the node and then a short copper run expands the number of homes reached, but will it cost effectively provide the full bandwidth back to the core?

Fiber to the premise is another proposed solution. The issue here is again cost. Maybe a good boring robot is the solution to provide low cost fiber to any point. Something capable of non-disruptive tunneling, avoiding both existing buried utilities and natural hazards, and perhaps GPS guided.

Then again, perhaps the solution is to restate the problem. How can a carrier deliver a high rate digital data stream to a high number of end points, where the data stream is end point specific and on demand, and the path is limited to currently existing or easily established infrastructure? Is TCP/IP the best protocol to use, or is it time to rethink the whole thing? Where should content sources be placed to optimize a trade off between cost and performance?

Doing wireless end point access raises a whole new set of constraints to the problem. Higher frequencies increase capacity, but at the cost of range and ability to pass through obstacles. Mobility increases the complexity of the challenge, as the broadcast point shifts as the end point moves.

Of course these issues will be resolved in some fashion. After all, at one point broadcast television was limited to 13 channels of content with a high degree of cross talk errors, and copper facilities meant analog and a maximum throughput of 19.2 Kbps for those with deep pockets.

What do you see as the most likely solution? Where will we be in 5 years?

Friday, June 02, 2006

XG - A Killer New Wireless Technology??

A startup called XG has demonstrated a wireless technology it claims is hundreds of times more efficient than existing wireless technologies. According to the patent behind it, that is.

XG's demonstration used a transmitter not unlike a cordless phone base station, operating in the unlicensed - and crowded - 900MHz band, to send a 3.7Mbit/s data signal to a radius of 18 miles across the suburbs of Miami, using 50mW and an omnidirectional antenna. The system carried 7.4 Mbit/s per MHz per Watt according to Professor Schwartz, professor of electrical engineering at Princeton University. By comparison, GSM would have around 0.0058, and CDMA/EV-DO about 0.0085 Mbit/s per MHz per Watt.

I suggest you take a look at the patent the founder of XG filed on his core technology, to get a better idea of what the excitement is all about.

The technology is very clever and takes the capabilities of radio to their theoretical limit, where every RF cycle can be a bit. It makes very efficient use of the radio spectrum, which is why there is so much interest. Normal radio works by modulating a carrier (the RF or radiofrequency) with a lower frequency (the IF or intermediate frequency) that is in turn modulated in a variety of possible ways by the data. This generates a shmear of radiation around the carrier frequency (called sideband) which is why spectrum is allocated in bands - anything else operating in that band in the same area creates noise that interferes with the reception of the signal, so spectrum bands are managed to reduce interference between users. At the receiver the received signal is demodulated with the carrier frequency to recover the IF with the data in it. The maximum datarate is therefore related to the IF, not the carrier frequency.

All recent developments have been aimed at cramming as much data into as small a part of the spectrum as possible and recovering it reliably. The current state-of-the-art is probably represented by the complex Wimax and US 3G technologies.

XG's technology requires as a minimum just two closely-spaced radio frequencies to transmit a bitstream, which can be at the same datarate as the radio frequency. It sends information by switching between the two frequencies at cycle boundaries (imagine a sine wave with some cycles stretched) and has no need of an IF stage. The economics are interesting - because it requires electronics that operates at the RF rate, I suspect (though I'm no radio engineer) that this is more expensive than the electronics of the IF stage. However, it is definitely hundreds of times more efficient than current radio technologies. It also requires much less power.

Will it kill Wimax? No more than it will kill any other form of radio communication. It takes spectrum cost out because you can cram a lot more data into the same bandwidth. I don't think the companies that have paid billions for portions of the radio spectrum will be too pleased - they will have to write down their spectrum asset. However, that is sunk cost paid for by shareholders, who are used to telecoms losses by now. Wimax operators in general have not bought spectrum, so can deploy this technology quite happily.

To be cost-effective the XG technology has to be converted to silicon, and the economics of silicon are volume-related. I see it being used first in areas where its low power, high bandwidth, small spectrum requirements and range are at a premium and cost will not matter. This will be military applications and remote sensing applications. As the costs of the silicon come down it will head first towards remote control applications and then towards volume markets like RFID rather than targeting relatively low volume applications like Wimax. However, if the technology is as simple as they make out I can see it appearing everywhere, purely to free up the spectrum.