Friday, September 28, 2007

Business VoIP Solutions Using Cisco Gateways, Cisco Call Agent, And Cisco IP Phones

Any company looking for a solid business VoIP solution is likely going to zero in on what's available from Cisco. Below are just some of the better offerings Cisco has to get you where you want to go.

Cisco AS5350 Series Voice Gateways:

The Cisco® AS5350 Universal Gateway is the only one-rack-unit (1RU) gateway supporting 2-, 4-, or 8-port T1/7-port E1 configurations that provides universal port data, voice, and fax services on any port at any time (Figure 1). The Cisco AS5350 Universal Gateway offers high performance and high reliability in a compact, modular design. This cost-effective platform is ideally suited for Internet service providers (ISPs) and enterprise companies that require innovative universal services.

Data Sheet

Cisco AS5400 Series Voice Gateways:

Cisco AS5400 Series Universal Gateways offer unparalleled capacity in only two rack units (2RUs) and provide universal port data, voice, and fax services on any port at any time. High-density (up to 1 CT3), low-power consumption (7.2A at 48 VDC per CT3), and universal port digital signal processors (DSPs) make the Cisco AS5400 Series Universal Gateways ideal for many network deployment architectures, especially colocation environments and mega points of presence (POPs).

Data Sheet

Cisco AS54HPX Series Voice Gateways:

The Cisco AS5400HPX Universal Gateway offers unparalleled capacity in only two rack units providing enhanced performance for processor-intensive voice and fax applications. This cost effective platform makes the Cisco AS5400HPX ideal for many network deployment architectures, especially colocation environments and mega points of presence.

Data Sheet

Cisco AS5850 Series Voice Gateways:

The Cisco® AS5850 Universal Gateway is a high-density universal gateway, with carrier-class attributes, offering highest capacity and high availability in its class. This gateway is designed to meet the demands of large, innovative service providers, supporting up to 5 Channelized T3s (CT3s), 96 T1s, 86 E1s, or 2 STM-1 (108 E1s) of data, voice, and fax services, on any port at any time. It offers high-availability features such as hot-swap on all cards, load-sharing and redundant hot-swappable power supplies, redundant fans and fan banks, redundant route switch controller (RSC) cards, and Call Admission Control (CAC), all part of the carrier-class attributes required to provide a highly available system.

The Cisco AS5850 Universal Gateway supports a wide range of IP-based value-added services such as high-volume Internet access; corporate VPNs; long distance for Internet service providers (ISPs); international wholesale long distance; distributed prepaid calling; Signaling System 7 (SS7) interconnect; managed voice services such as hosted IP telephony; managed IP private branch exchange (PBX); multiservice VPNs; and IP contact centers.

Data Sheet

Cisco PGW-2200 SS7 Solution

The Cisco PGW 2200 (formerly known as the Cisco VSC 3000) is a carrier-class call agent that performs the signaling and call-control tasks (such as digit analysis, routing, circuit selection, and more) within the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) gateway infrastructure. Taking advantage of a vast Signaling System 7 (SS7) protocol library and supporting industry-standard control protocols, including Media Gateway Control Protocol (MGCP), H.323, and Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), the Cisco PGW 2200 provides service providers with the capability to seamlessly route voice and data calls between the PSTN and New World packet networks.

Data Sheet

CISCO 7900 Series IP Phones

The Cisco family of IP and wireless IP phones provides a complete range of communication devices designed to take full advantage of the power of your data network, while providing the convenience and ease-of-use you've come to expect from your business phone. From the home office to the manufacturing floor, from the lobby to the executive suite, there is a Cisco IP Phone for you.

Data Sheet

** For all your Cisco Solutions including finding the nearest dealer and/or installer in your area visit ..... Cisco Solutions

** For no cost assistance with finding the right solution for your business VoIP network go to ..... Business VoIP

** For free help finding the right bandwidth solution for any network architecture ..... covering fractional, bonded, dedicated, private, and point-to-point configurations with Gigabit Ethernet, MPLS, T1, DS3, OC3, and OC48 bandwidth go to ..... Bandwidth Solution

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What Are The Best Business Applications For MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching)?

Given a scenario that you are developing the network architecture for a business (single or multi-site)....what would be the best application(s) where you would choose MPLS as the (or part of the) solution? This may not be as simple as it sounds.....thus the frustration faced by many responsible for a company network infrastructure solution.

First, I recommend reading "MPLS Enabled Applications: Emerging Developments and New Technologies". A simple Google search will find the best source to obtain a copy.

For additional resources check out one of these books:

* MPLS and VPN Architectures, Volume I & Volume II by Jim Guichard; Ivan Pepelnjak; Jeff Apcar

* Definitive MPLS Network Designs by Jim Guichard; François Le Faucheur; Jean-Philippe Vasseur

* Traffic Engineering with MPLS by Eric CCIE #4122 Osborne; Ajay CCIE #2970 Simha

* Internet Routing Architectures, Second Edition by Sam Halabi; Danny McPherson

Generally, MPLS is often thought of when considering replacing an existing frame relay network. MPLS is best at supporting the QoS needed for supporting integrated VoIP and data. Plus, MPLS is significantly easier to engineer and roll out than say a new frame relay cloud.

A good scenario would be an enterprise WAN with multiple service delivery needs, teleconferencing, VoIP, video, and data. Each of these services has different data delivery requirements. VoD needs bandwidth but after the initial push it is not time sensitive, data is not in any reasonable sense time sensitive, VoIP and video conferencing are both extremely time sensitive applications.

In this situation MPLS is an excellent choice as transport. Not only is it fast, not requiring deep packet inspection beyond the ingress point to prioritize traffic, it also allows for multiple levels of service which puts you in a position to future proof your network to some extent.

MPLS is also refered to as tag switching. The way that it works is at the network ingress point each packet is 'tagged', or a header put on the packet, which gives it a network identifier and a service level if service levels have been implemented. When switching within the network each router needs only inspect the tag to prioritize and forward the packet.

In addition, network service providers are moving to MPLS because of its ease of implementation and the ability to transparently provision multiple customers on the same network, as opposed to frame relay which requires a separate network for each customer, and keep those customers perfectly digitally segregated. So, it's a case of faster, cheaper, better for the service provider.

QoS for VOIP and video is the big thing. MPLS gets used a fair bit for bandwith guarantees and limits for things like Disaster Recovery (DR). A good example is when a business has two offices in different geographical areas, and wants to use a data-syncing solution (SAN replication, for example) between them for disaster recovery. But they have limited bandwidth, and don't want the DR traffic to swamp the normal or VOIP traffic. Being able to label your traffic and set guarantees (for both minimum and maximum bandwidth) is pretty powerful. This also offers guarantees for in-order packet delivery (very important for VOIP/voice).

For a single-site business, I would probably not deploy MPLS unless there was a serious amount of bandwidth in use, or if the campus was significantly large enough to justify using label switching for speed / QoS considerations. Unfortunately, there's no easy answer for this scenario.

For a multi-site, geographically diverse business, I would strongly consider MPLS as part of the solution, particularly if I am using a service provider such as Sprint, Level 3, BT, or any others to provide the meat of the network. This arrangement allows me to leverage the availability, redundancy, and scalability of their network to take the shortest path between sites.

Most companies moving to MPLS were previously operating their private-line networks with either direct connections between offices, or utilizing frame-relay connections. A hub-and-spoke architecture is only efficient if all the data flows to/from the central location. However, most frame networks are meshed together, to facilitate office-to-office networking without overwhelming the hub site. It's very easy for a large number of sites to turn into complex and unwieldy collections of frame circuits and PVCs. If the company's IGP is not set up properly, traffic patterns can become stable at best, and down right chaotic at worst.

Using MPLS with a provider eliminates the need to worry about any of the meshing that would have been handled by multiple private lines or frame-relay networks. Usually, routing is exchanged with a provider via BGP, or in the case of smaller networks, statically routed.

An excellent application of MPLS seen in practice is that with a BGP-connected network, it is possible to set up a disaster recovery scenario at any other site connected to the network by a simple matter of moving the routing announcement for the primary location's IP block to the DR location. It's possible to do this on frame relay as well, but it can get complicated if the network is not configured properly.

For application-specific items, MPLS can handle any variety of traffic classifications, which make it an ideal candidate for multi-site voice traffic to go along with your data.

The downside of MPLS is that you're at the mercy of your provider if there's a configuration mistake or if their redundant network doesn't redirect around an outage properly. Additionally, routing can become complex if there is a private network on the back end connecting two or more sites that also share an MPLS connection.

As an overview of MPLS.......

The Pros:

* Site to Site Routing
* Enhanced Carrier Aware QoS
* Reduced Deployment Complexities
* Enhancing High Availability
* Quickened Disaster Recovery Readiness

The Cons:

* Initial Architectural Design Cycles
* Reduced Visibility of Transport Network
* Enhanced Security Concerns

In summary MPLS is really just one alternative for the WAN communication backbone. The advantages are clear over a Frame Relay network.....as are the pitfalls. Whether you choose MPLS as all or part of your network infrastructure solution must takes those into account.

For a quick and easy source of no cost assistance to help navigate you through your options....and arrive at the best solution for your application....I suggest taking advantage of the services here: MPLS Solutions

They can also cover any needs for T1, DS3, OC3, OC12, OC48, and Gigabit Ethernet bandwidth applications.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

What Are The Best Cell Phone Deals On The Market Today?

Forget the marketing hype and politics. What would you consider the best cellular phone deals on the market today ...... based purely on functionality, performance, and cost effectiveness?

First, I don't think that is a question that can be easily answered as it depends on the user and what their usage profile is like. For example is this a business customer or a retail consumer? The needs and desires of both are very different. Email is much more important for business customers, while music and video rule the day for retail consumers.

Also...lets not forget the network service provider/coverage. Most phones can lose a lot of key functionality if the coverage is poor or non-existent.

That said....here's some suggested cell phones to start your "educated search".

- Apple iPhone (does what it says on the tin, nothing more, nothing less) Apple truly has shaken up the mobile industry the way they shook up the DAP industry with their iPod years ago. A new benchmark has been set with this device for sure.

- Palm Treo 750 (great usability, really is a mobile office)

- Blackberry 8800 (for lovers of BB's, the 8800 makes life alot easier with integrated GPS, wi-fi and trackball) ..... It's great to have email, the web and a GPS nevigator application right there. The biggest downside is that Cingular disables the Wi-Fi capability that is built in to the hardware, which forces you to use their EDGE network. It's supposed to be usable worldwide as well. No camera - but that's a plus for those who frequent places where a camera is not permitted.

- Samsung Blackjack /i600 (strong features in a thin package)

- Sony Ericsson P1 (vast improvement over previous P series phones with alot bang for your buck)

- Nokia E61i (many like the sleek form factor even though the phone is not too pretty to look at) ..... flawless functionality, stable OS, excellent hardware support for office software (pdf, table sheets, word editor, file archiver), video/audio support, wireless/bluetooth/IR/ connectivity, memory extension slot, OTA upgrade - all in a small quality pack for a fair price.

- Blackberry Curve 8300 ..... Any of my friends who have grabbed this device in the past two months have been blown away by its combination of sexy looks and trademark RIM usability. This is not your father's 7290! Take all the Blackberry features that have made RIM so successful; on-demand (push) email, full Outlook integration for calendar, todos, email etc, add a blazing fast processor, a revamped web browser, and throw in full media-playing capabilities and a 2 megapixel shooter ..... and you've got the Curve/8300. By far the best data device on the market right now. [insider hint: if integrated WiFi really gets you going, hold out for the 8320 which will be launched this quarter.)

- Blackberry Pearl 8100 ..... Take the Curve, shrink it to the size of the average candy bar cellphone and colour it Black, White or Cranberry Red .... and you've got the Pearl. Well, not quite, the processor is one generation slower and the camera is only 1.3 mp, but at half the price of the Curve, this little prosumer-oriented Berry is a great option for business people who don't relish the thought of talking into a cigarette-box-sized device all day. With RIM's patented SureType predictive text software, even though there are two letters on each key of the QWERTY keypad, you'll be surprised how smart the device is and how quickly you'll find yourself able to type on the Pearl. [Insider tip: If you want a Pearl that's on par speed-wise and shooter-wise with the Curve, wait for the Pearl 2, expected to be released this quarter.]

- Sony Ericsson W580i ..... I've never been a big fan of Sony cell phones, in fact, I've found some of their previous phones to be gaudily designed and confusing to navigate. This brand new offering from the partnership changed all that. The demo that plays when you first power it up shows off its loud, stereo speakers and incredibly crisp high res TFT display. Quite simply put, this phone is beautiful inside and out and if you don't need a Blackberry, this phone should be your number one choice.

- Motorola A1200i ..... Want a PDA-phone with a strong operating system (linux mobile) and a very powerful group of applications? Check the Motorola A1200i ... the business card photo and scan is awesome.

- Treo 700w/700wx ..... With windows OS you can create, edit, send , and receive Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files.....as well as get emails and stay organized.

- LG vx-8700 ..... If you want a simple phone that makes and recieves calls with txt messages and nothing else extra, go with this sleek phone. it looks stylish and feels good in your hand being made of brushed metal, its as good as it looks and looks as good as it performs.

- Blackberry 8830 ..... This Blackberry is nice as it keeps you up to date with one of the best email programs in any phone. Also its a world phone, you can use it anywhwere internationally. Its awesome that you can use this phone overseas by sliding in a sim card that you purchase abroad (pay as you go). It'll save you from finding a pay phone and paying the ridiculous prices.

- Nokia N95 ..... Has enormous fun potential, plus the clever web surfing engine. Its cameras are good enough for serious photography and usable video (in fact, some broadcasters are using this camera as an option for reporters on the go and are broadcasting videos made with it in news shows in Brazil). Clever is the one word that describes this powerful machine. For serious business users the only thing it lacks is a qwerty keyboard.

- HTC Artemis P3300 ..... Super Slim "Unlocked" GSM Quad Band, 802.11G, Bluetooth, SIRFIII GPS with Tomtom navigator integrated, Win Mobile with Pushmail technology. Anything you might need from a business standpoint within a single phone/pda/GPS/mp3 player/photo.

Now ..... before you run right out to your nearest mall kiosk to hunt down the phone that's caught your eye .... sit down. Here's a tip that will save you time .... AND money.

This neat little online tool will search and compare available cell phones and providers for you by area (sorry, USA only) .... covering every item you may be interested in.

Cell Phone Deals

Covers standard cell phones, wireless devices such as the popular Blackberry ..... and even includes a section on cell phone accessories.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

What Are The Appropriate Network Applications For OC3, OC12, And OC48 Bandwidth?

For IT Infrastructure, optical fiber connections (especially SONET, e.g. OC3, OC12, OC48) are becoming critical. It is not uncommon for $50-100M companies to take advantage of SAN technology with offsite replication to a colocation facility. This application than requires higher bandwidth, low latency, and resiliency.

The primary difference between "OC" SONET connectivity and Dedicated lines is that SONET provides a standby "protection" path. It is most useful for TDM connections that can't go down. For example, if you have more than 28 T1 trunks feeding a call center, then using an OC-3 as a transport is a viable method for handing off the trunks from a "reliable" infrastructure.

Furthermore, T1/DS1 and T3/DS3 dedicated circuits are focused more as point-to-point connections. SONET is a self-healing ring topology that prevents single-point issues if brought on premises properly. Thus SONET is a better choice for high capacity, high security, high performance network infrastructures.

Personally, I would say it isn't a specific "type" of application that's most important per se, so much as is the total "volume" of traffic. If, for example, you have a website that generates (or is expected to generate) 80-100Mbps of traffic, you'd probably want an OC3. If you have a sufficient number of users, even email or casual web browsing could eventually add up to the sufficient traffic to necessitate that large of a connection. But generally the volume.....especially for more "complex" activities (e.g. medical imagery, supply chain management networks, high security financial transaction storgae/networks, technical research and data manipulation, complex CAD projects, sophisticated high risk security systems)......is the more crucial part of the equation for deciding on a SONET solution.

Now if you flip the question.....just how important is data transmission, storage and back-up to your organization? How much data is involved, what is a geographically acceptable disaster recovery distance, and so on.....become the decision points. This makes more sense. The rest is simply algebra.

But I guess most companies only get to the algebra bit when it's too late. One could argue that all networked applications are appropriate for OC3, OC12, OC48 etc.....it's just a question of scale and security versus cost.

Consider future expansion needs as well when you make your decision. An OC3 may be your best bet given that as with other optical carrier levels (12, 48, etc), an OC-X (3 in this case) is burstable. In essence, you can start small in regards to your financial commitment of the bandwidth purchased and add capacity as your needs increase.

Given the above discussion....generally you'll most likely find high end network connections are for (examples):

- Server farms - Video distribution (VoD, IPTV etc)
- Feeding super computers
- Interconnection with other networks
- Very high quality Imaging
- Big Business
- Banks
- Universities
- Hospitals
- Stock Exchanges
- Defense Networks
- Government

In short...the crux of the question is really that it's definitely a bandwidth (volume) issue over an application issue. You're talking huge amounts of bandwidth in use before you really need to move to an OC3+.

Now, for the vast majority of today's infrastructure.... much is still delivered over SONET/SDH infrastructure and Ethernet based services are still in their infancy. Once the far cheaper Ethernet based 100meg/GigE services are commonly made available.....the landscape may change. Yet again.

For help in deciding the best fit network solution involving OC3, OC12, or OC48 bandwidth .... it makes smart business sense to take advantage of the free services here:

OC3 Bandwidth

Be advised that you need to be serious when asking for their assistance. If you provide bogus information of any kind they'll simply ignore your request. To get the best results from their free efforts on your behalf.....you need to honestly submit complete, detailed, and accurate info for them to work with.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Who'll Win Out - Government Intervention Or Private Enterprise for Telecom Infrastructure?

In nations with a clear digital divide, especially urban / rural, should governments intervene with support mechanisms (funding, tax breaks, direct ownership, PPP's, or anything else) or take a hands-off approach and leave it to private enterprise?

It appears today that the impact of telecom infrastructure, especially broadband and mobile coverage, on the economy is now widely known (though I still think the definitive study on the topic is yet to come).

So, even beyond the digital divide issue, local governments are legitimately worried that their territory will become less and less attractive if the digital resources aren't there. Inversely, they think that they can boost their attractivity (and therefore their economy) with telecom infrastructure.

Seen in this context, it makes sense that local governments would want to invest in such infrastructure, and in the FTTH area we are seeing more and more examples of this approach in Europe (Pau, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Cologne, Hauts de Seine) and in the US (Lafayette, Chatanooga, Palo Alto).

The issue is really broader than that. Private ventures should be favoured whenever possible.....but the stakes are high. Again, in the case of FTTH, the attractivity that could result from a wide availability of very high bandwidth services at a national level could potentially impact economies at the state or country level. In Italy and Germany, the incumbents have already stated that they would not deploy FTTH because it's too expensive for them. Supposing a government saw this as short sighted, should they intervene?

To be honest, I'm on the fence on this issue. Perhaps direct government intervention when service is available or likely to be available within a reasonable time frame should be discouraged. However, defining "service" is tricky.

Aat the very least governments could legislate to encourage private investment and lower the costs. Infrastructure deployment is costly afterall. And a good portion of that cost comes from the often nightmarish administrative aspects that slow down deployments (hence impairing revenues) and thus cost a lot of money in administrative handling.

Unfortunately, it appears that countries who take a completely hands off approach will pay the price in time. They will inevitably fall behind as is currently seen in the US regarding broadband.

Fighting against the Digital Divide is an honorable cause. But at the end of the day any entrepreneur will need to assess the risk and reward (you have to do your due diligence here) before engaging such a venture. And of course "his" stakeholders would be keen to know details of their forecasted ROI. In general when you run some numbers, it's not that exciting for an entrepreneur to invest alone in such a business without seeking incentives or government's participation in round funding.

The digital divide is something that is, or will become, a big issue for politicians as soon as they wake up to the implications of not having a high speed infrastructure in their constituency. You can already see this in many countries but IMO very few politicians really understand the implications. Figures from studies suggest ICT can have a positive impact of between 2-4% GDP at a national and regional level across OECD countries, very important where votes are involved.

The issue then surrounds how much government should get involved vs leaving up to the private sector.

From reading various press articles most government interventions become huge unwieldy burdens that deliver little in the way of progress but consume much in the way of time, meetings and reports..... oh & take 5 times as long as anyone expected to reach any consensus.

However if left purely to the private sector you run the risk on nothing being done due to the fairly short sited metrics used by many service providers who expect ROI of 3-5 years or less.

As in many things in life no one size fits all but some things can be done.

Over the last 12 to 24 months there have been significant market developments in the provision of next generation broadband globally; for example, Germany is giving DT a regulatory ‘holiday’ to allow a €3billion investment in a Fibre to the Home, in France both FT and competitors are now investing in fibre to apartment buildings and in Sweden such fibre solutions are becoming increasingly prevalent for businesses and residential customers alike.

Anyone looking to build a network will need to understand their economic, spatial and service drivers as applicable to the region.

So, the answer is ...... it depends. Government needs to see the importance and find ways of partnering with the private sector to ensure they can look beyond the 3-5 year time frame. Or find some way of helping the private sector to ease the pain.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

What All Is Involved In Getting A T1 Line??

If you are a potential customer, don't even bother wondering what is behind the curtain. The telecom companies take care of the infrastructure, and you take care of the bill -- that's how it works. It doesn't matter if the "big tan telephone company cabinet" is involved or not -- you just want the service. Sure, it's interesting to know how stuff works, and it would be fun to drive by some box in the middle of some cornfield and know that your electrons are running through it, but it really doesn't matter, right? If the price is too high, you're not buying regardless of how the service is provisioned.

To answer the question, a T1 typically is nothing more than two copper pairs which are converted from analog to digital, with special conditioning (and signal repeaters if the distance requires them). If your location could get two additional regular phone lines, then you could probably get a T1 circuit without additional construction or trenching. If such additional work would be necessary, it's quite possible that you would not be charged for that work. In our industry, special construction costs are identified after the order is placed, and the customer can cancel the order with no penalty if the additional costs are not acceptable. It's not likely that construction costs can be identified prior to an order.

Most responsible internet providers will give you a dedicated internet connection at the full 1.5M speed. There are local "tier 2" providers that will purchase a certain bandwidth from an "upstream" provider, then resell it and oversell it. For instance, "Joe's Telecom" might buy a 45M DS-3 of internet access from AT&T. A DS-3 has enough bandwidth to support 28 T1 circuits. Joe will recognize that not every one of his customers will be using the full 1.5M at all times, so he will sell more than 28 T1 circuits -- this is overselling. So long as he watches his circuit utilization, and orders more bandwidth before the customers start crashing into each other, then all is well. But if he's like Comcast, and severely oversells, then customers' circuit performance will suffer. So you will want to know if your T1 circuit is dedicated access all the way to the internet backbone, or if it goes to Joe's concentrator where it is shared among his customers. If the service you get is from AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Business, Global Crossing, Qwest, Savvis, Internap, Level 3 and a few others, then you're dedicated. If it's from a local provider with a limited service area, it's probably shared bandwidth, and the pricing should be lower than from a dedicated provider. But....the quality defined by a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and QoS (Quality of Service) will also be lower.

Relative to a router, in your quote requests mention that you want "managed" service, which tells telecom companies that you want the T1 router to be included as part of their package. The T1 router is different than a typical "broadband" router one would get at a local electronics shop. T1 routers have built-in CSU/DSU functionality which assists in the synch up of the circuit. Some typical T1 routers are Cisco 1841 and Siemens 5940.

A free quote source I highly recommend for fast, quality, personal service can be found at:

T1, DS3, and OC3 Bandwidth

You must provide accurate information (installation address, email, contact phone number)....otherwise they'll ignore you as a bogus request. If you're serious take advantage of what they offer. If you're not serious....go elsewhere.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Where Is Business VoIP Headed For Technology And Applications?

Just where is the business community headed for VoIP technology and applications? The answer is not that simple as it can vary greatly by region of the world. The difference in scale and application between small business networks and enterprise VoIP for larger organizations is also a factor in the equation.

What seems to be the practice in the US is that businesses adopt VOIP because it is budget friendly. Most companies deploy VOIP in new offices because it is cheaper than a new digital phone system. Existing offices are migrated to VOIP as leases on digital equipment expired. Interoffice voice communication occurrs without long distance costs as VOIP traffic travels the corporate WAN (VPN/MPLS/etc.) alongside or parallel to data traffic. I see this trend continuing domestically until digital phone systems are phased out completely.

The next challenge is replacing small business (analog) phone systems because they generally keep pace with consumer technology instead of larger businesses. You currently see VOIP for small business and personal use independent of the ISP. A combined offering of Internet data and voice could easily induce universal acceptance of VOIP in even the smallest business (as well as households).

The only thing left behind is conference equipment in businesses of all sizes. Your desktop phone provider rarely provides your digital/analog tripod conference phone and associated equipment. I expect technology advances for VOIP to be in the conference room as opposed to the desktop. When I hear convergence, I think of the unification of voice and data. The conference room is where you can really take advantage of this union.

Today in India especially; many small, medium & large enterprises are looking forward to VoIP technology as companies become more conscious about spending money on PSTN. With recent changes taking place in VoIP technology, and as it becomes more and more affordable, most organisations are coming forward to adapt these newer technologies to fulfill there communication requirements. To tap the growing requirements and market potential, not only the small phone companies but even the PBX manufacturing giants like Nortel, Avaya, Alcatel and Panasonic are continuously working on providing more advanced features and facilities utilizing the maximum possible technical advancements of VoIP. The current trend of unified communication concept is an example for this.

Australia/New Zealand were early adopters of IP telephony particularly in large enterprise and Government sites. The most likely reason to deploy IP Telephony was office relocation, and large enterprise customers replacing their aging legacy PBX with IP Telephony on the basis of future proofing, Toll-Bypass, and lower maintence cost compared to legacy pbx.

Cisco has sold something like over 5 million IP Phones worldwide. Australia & New Zealand combined sold over 500,000 IP Phones.

VoIP Technology is no longer about making cheaper calls in Australia/New Zealand. Its about optimizing business processes with fully integrated communication options. IM, Video Conferencing, Presence, Unified Messaging, and Mobility. I anticpate Australia and New Zealand to be early adopters to Unified Communication in Asia Pac.

Malaysia is an interesting place because, despite the lack of large "enterprise" sale of IP Telephony compared to Australia, there appears to be a large acceptance of VoIP Technology from open source such as SIPX, Asterisk and OpenSER. In fact, a lot of VoIP innovation coming from Malaysia is based on Open Source (ie. Free to download but you have to put long man hours to get it working). A fascinating application is one where you use your 3G mobile phone's camera to capture a video stream that sends automatically to your blogsite. This application is used also in Insurance companies where members are encouraged to record the "car accident" video clip as part of the process in submitting a claim. Also, the same VoIP technology is used in legal proceedings, in court, where lawyers can access the judge via 3G Mobile phone and IP Video Phone. These applications all use VoIP technology as the foundation.

On another note....the convenience of using the same cable infrastructure, manageability, cost involved maintaining Public Switching Telephone Lines, and quick and easy deployment are just a few parameters which attract most companies to buy the voice communication systems which support VoIP. That's a cottage industry in itself which will only grow as acceptance and deployment of VoIP takes a firmer hold in the business world.

For example, several Soft PBX softwares can be found on the Internet which are freely available for download and usage. This develpoment implies that the requirement for Hardware PBX is decreasing day by day. This also is an early indication that most of the voice communication techniques and products emerging in the future will be based on VoIP......and software aspects.

Lots of improvements are still needed in VoIP no matter where you are in the world.....but they are in the pipeline. For example, SMEs require simple to setup aid rather then technically rich products. An example of an improvement here would be products like the iSpeedBump from Interworking Labs. This goes outside your firewall and looks at your traffic. If it sees VoIP, it prioritizes that traffic over things that can go slower like e-mail. The device has four main settings to match 99% of cases and you just plug it in, set the switch and go. No more. Cleans up garbled VoIP yielding a better quality voice exchange.

Personally I think VoIP still has a long way to go to really compete with the landlines for business customers....particularly for small businesses. Not so much for large enterprises. For most VOIP installations, especially in a small company, though it is significantly cheaper VoIP doesn't work anywhere near as well as a landline. Nor are all the security concerns alleviated. At least yet.

The trick, and VoIP companies seem to have done a pretty good job of this, is to convince people that phone service doesn't always have to be perfect. Sounding like a cell phone is fine, and probably the other end of the conversation will think it is their end anyway. So don't waste your money on a landline. However, as VoIP quality and reliability catches up...no one will really notice a difference (or really care about what little difference there may be). Then the answer will be narrowed down simply to cost....and the most cost effective communication will win out.

If you need help determining the right VoIP solution for your US based business try the free service available here:

Business VoIP Solution

Should DS3 Bandwidth, OC3 Bandwidth, Fast Ethernet, or Gigabit Ethernet be a needed component of your overall communication network (voice/data)take advantage of the no cost solution support here:

DS3 and OC3 Bandwidth Solutions .... and More

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Is Ethernet The Right Solution For Your Data Network?

This is not a trivial question. Ethernet is relatively ubiquitous, in that most computers and peripherals speak ethernet. Ethernet is routable - far too many protocols aren't - and is relatively fast (10 gigabits per second for a high-end card, but you can bundle up to 10 of them to create a pseudo-100 gigabit connection) and is relatively cheap.

Ok, those are the benefits. Are there drawbacks? Yes. Ethernet isn't good on latency, there's no meaningful error correction, there are many defined types of ethernet frame (which means you can assume companies have taken shortcuts in testing), offloading of security and checksumming is rare to non-existent, very high-speed cables are amazingly fragile, hardware multicast support is generally minimal (a bother for LANs where many protocols are multicast these days) and vendors often cut corners on using components of adequate quality.

Ethernet definitely is the way to go for internal data systems. Now connecting two buildings together, not so much. Ethernet has a length limit so it's best for use in connecting all of your machines together to a switch or switches and from there you can connect to the internet or another building using some other form (T1, DS3, OC3, really depends on how big the company is and how much bandwidth is really needed).

In addition, most Telecommunication and IT professionals have had to work with hundreds of Ethernet connections (monitoring, troubleshooting, testing, etc.) but almost none of these people have had to troubleshoot a T-3, POS or ATM link. This shifts the knowledge advantage to the carrier in case of any issues, as they often have more experience with those technologies than any end-user. You often have to take their word for it that the issue is your equipment. When you can swap your equipment in a second (potentially with your laptop) you get on to the next troubleshooting step much faster.

Are there any alternatives that are good? Well, Infiniband is routable and can be used on both LANs and WANs now. It has (almost) none of the problems of ethernet and is therefore in an excellent position. The downside is that it has (almost) none of the strengths, either. It's rare, vastly more expensive and the odds of finding any COTS peripherals that support it is essentially zero.

The latest round of wireless networks are almost as fast as ethernet, eliminate the cabling problem completely, but don't play nice on crowded networks and have nightmare routing issues if multiple access points are involved and you're wanting to have true mobility. (Mobile IP and Network Mobility are experimental, rarely implemented and even more rarely implemented well.)

In the end, the "best" business solution will involve some hybrid solution that combines different networking technologies, such that you mitigate as many of the drawbacks as you can (by not using a solution where it doesn't fit) and harvest the most of the strengths as you can (by using solutions specifically where they fit the best). You will never find a single one-stop solution that fits all cases, you will only ever find one-stop solutions that fit some specific part of the problem.

One-solution shops are invariably the places that have the greatest problems, the least reliability and the most headaches, although they are also the places that have the lowest maintenance overheads because they don't need to have the additional expertise to hand. However, IT costs should not be seen in isolation, but in terms of the net cost to the business as a whole. A "cheap" answer that harms the company is more expensive than a "high cost" tuned answer that benefits everyone.

From a business perspective, how do you balance all of this and make a sensible choice? If I knew the answer to that, I'd be rich and living a life of ease. The best I can tell you is that there are techniques for solving such problems for specific cases. Probably the best-known method is SIMPLEX, though there are many others that are probably better-suited. Define the resources and impacts, then solve the inequalities to give you a best business case. Hiring a consultant isn't going to give you anything much better - maybe some but not much - but will cost you considerably more in time and money.

The bottom line (pun intended) key reason for the deployment of Ethernet as a WAN technology is cost. We are only talking about the last mile here (and sometimes the last few meters). The actual transport network is generally POS or ATM from the providers standpoint. I have seen 10GB links that are actually provided over an OC-192. But from the CPE standpoint, the costs are simply buying the most ubiquitous interface for that speed.

For assistance in finding the best fit ethernet solution for your business application ... for both cost and function .... I suggest the free services offered here [they also cover DS3 and OC3 bandwidth networks] :

DS3 Bandwidth, OC3 Bandwidth, and Ethernet Solution

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Recommendations For A Small Office PBX System

Here's the scenario:

You are researching options for a PBX system to cover about 10 lines or so. You PREFER not to rely on VOIP for outbound connections, but VOIP in the office itself is probably ok.. and possibly for office-to-remote office. Your focus (mimicking your bosses orders) is on ease of setup, affordability, and reliability of the system (the usual pretty obvious management direction).

Now...where do you go from here?

To go with a premise based solution for a small outfit might not be the be the best option. The reason I say that is it isn't necessarily an easy system to manage, especially when you are considering linking remote users for an "on net" appearance. There are solutions available for your size venture, but from my experience they aren't the most effective.

An outsourced solution will give you the same look and feel, plus much more, of a very high end PBX type solution. It also makes the connection of remote users much easier. In many hosted, or outsourced solutions, the need for VPN is eliminated, which can be difficult to maintain for voice. Small companies can operate much like large enterprises with a simple, outsourced telecommunication service.

Depending on your level of comfort with network setup and management, if you intend to install and maintain the system yourself, I suggest the vendors discussed below. When in doubt.....get assistance from a professional who has experience with IP/VoIP needs analysis and platform selection for small to midsized businesses.

You can maintain your analog POTS lines or whatever connection to the PSTN you currently utilize, there is no reason to let go of that. Most IP based systems these days let you create a mixed dialplan, where you can supplement your traditional lines with a few VoIP lines (SIP Trunks) that can be leveraged for LD or International calls.

There are many variants of Asterisk that incorporate a graphic user interface that encompasses most administrative tasks like setting up your trunks(lines), creating extensions, registering IP phones, setting up auto attendants and myriad other options.

For Asterisk based systems, I would suggest checking out:

trixbox.com
asterisknow.com
switchvox.com
fonality.com

With any of these, your base needs would be the PBX, which is typically a rackmount or midtower server with fairly modest specs (Intel Xeon CPU, 1GB RAM, single or dual SATA hard drives if you want RAID, and if you have (8) analog phone lines, you would need an 8FXO TDM Card integrated into your PBX chassis.

The only problem with an asterisk based setup is that it requires a lot of work on your part. Definitely do some research on some hosted or managed PBX vendors that service your area. Something on premise will probably not make financial sense.

If you are looking for more of an appliance type solution, I would check out talkswitch.com.

Generally speaking .... expect to pay $400-$600 per seat for the PBX, phones, and perhaps a managed ethernet switch.

Also, having your internal LAN setup for VoIP is important. You want to implement an internal QoS (Quality of Service) mechanism, typically a VLAN that segments your IP Phones from your normal bandwidth, so you allocate suitable bandwidth for the VoIP.

I would not discount voip for outbound connections. So hopefully your "PREFER" is not a rock solid position...and you're open to outbound VoIP. There are a few good managed voip providers out there. Managing your own PBX is not a simple task. You need to understand dial plans, did/dod, voice mail integration. If you want to do it well, you will want to have at least a dedicated person.... if not team. For 10 lines, it would likely be overkill.

Just my opinion, your mileage may vary.

For ten users, I would also consider using Google Apps [google.com/a].

For your companies email and calendaring. Why run your own server and have to deal with backing up your email when you can have Google do it for you. For a real estate business (for example) you wouldn't worry too much about storing your mail on Google's servers. They are not medical records or legal records (at least not so much that I would not trust google). You could likely get away with the free standard version.

Whatever direction you decide to go in you do have options. Do your research ..... decide early on "in house" vs "remotely managed" solution ..... and of course don't forget the boss's direction for "ease of setup, affordability, and reliability of the system".

If you need assistance ..... free too ..... take advantage of these 2 telecommunication consulting services:

Business VoIP Solution

DS3 Bandwidth And More

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Why Do Businesses Prefer T1 And DS3 Bandwidth For Their Network Architecture?

The answer that I have seen over and over is quite simple. T1, DS3, OC3, Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet and their bretheren are guaranteed bandwidth. Whereas DSL and Cable solutions are best effort services.

In an enterprise situation you need capacity planning capability. You just can't get that when the answer to "how much bandwidth do I have?" is "that depends", it depends on what other users on your node are doing, and how many of them there are doing it. If you are deploying VoIP or hosting streaming media your bandwidth has to be there when you need it. No questions, no hassles, no problems.

Secondarily is mean time to restore. Again there is guaranteed MTR and there is best effort. Admittedly, DSL services have achieved amazing levels of reliability, but like the old saying goes, no one ever got fired for buying IBM. Or in this case .... business class bandwidth.

The simple message is that there are two service factors that keep people with T1’s and DS3’s. The service guarantee and support.

DSL, Cable etc. doesn’t give you the promise that it will be up X% of the time ..... and deliver a set bandwidth at all times. When your service falls off someone proactively looks into what is going on .... vs. you having to call tech support. If the T1/DS3 user does call into the provider .... they expect very fast response and a very skilled person to be on the other end of the line.

A lot of people simply don’t need this service. But if you’ve got a business that uses the internet in any way.....cost of being offline may be high enough that you want the reliability and service that a T1 or DS3 provides. Imagine a law office that is trying to electronically file documents with the court right before a deadline. They want a T1 line that they KNOW is going to be there. Or a sales office that is in an electronic auction for a multi million dollar contract with a major company. You get the idea.

Bottom line .... every business needs absolute confidence that what they need .... to support whatever they are doing .... is going to be there when they need it. Every time.

To obtain a free quote on the right T1, DS3, OC3, Fast Ethernet, or Gigabit Ethernet bandwidth solution for your business application....simply use this online tool:

Bandwidth Solution

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Packet8 Enhances Freedom Unlimited Plan

Packet8 recently announced the addition of 8 countries to their Freedom Unlimited Plan .... at no additional cost to new and existing customers who are already on the $24.99/month Freedom Unlimited Plan. The $24.99 Freedom Unlimited Plan will now include unlimited calling to the following countries:

U.S.
Canada
Puerto Rico
Guam
US Virgin Islands
France
Ireland
Italy
Spain
United Kingdom

Customers who are already signed up under the $24.99/month Freedom Unlimited Plan will not need to upgrade their plans to receive the additional 8 countries.

For existing Customers with the $19.99 or $21.99 plans...

Those customers who are on lower priced plans (i.e. grandfathered at $19.99 or $21.99) will NOT automatically be given the 8 additional countries, but will need to contact Customer Support to upgrade their existing plan or simply follow the instructions below:

1. Log into their online Packet8 account.

2. Click on their Account Number (P8R000.....).

3. At the “Products” section of the account page there is a Packet8 Equipment line and a Service Plan line. Click the “Upgrade” link associated with the Service Plan.

4. The Freedom Unlimited Plan priced at $24.99 will be available to choose. Click “Join Now”

5. Customers will be taken back to their account page and an announcement of “Upgrade is Successful” will display to confirm the upgrade.

Existing customers needing further assistance can call Packet8 tech support at 1-888-898-8733.

For more information .... or to open a new Packet8 Freedom Unlimited Plan .... simply visit this website:

Packet8 Freedom Unlimited Plan


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Monday, September 03, 2007

How To Find A Network Equipment Hardware Dealer

Need to find a network equipment hardware dealer or partner in your local area?

Here's a free resource where you can search online for a certified and authorized network equipment hardware dealer in your immediate area.

Whether your need is Networking (wiring, routers, hubs, etc.), Security (firewalls, consulting, etc.), or LAN/WAN Optimization ..... you can save time and effort with this easy search tool:

Network Equipment Hardware Dealers

Covers network equipment and sources such as Cisco Routers, 3Com Hubs and Switches, Extreme Networks, Foundry Networks, Juniper Networks, Nortel Networks, and more

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