Friday, October 17, 2008

What Do You Like Or Dislike About VoIP (Voice Over IP)?

Yeah.. VoIP can mean many things. I'd first like to make the distinction between a customer premise VoIP system where there exists an IP PBX that runs VoIP over your internal network regardless of what type of phone service you have ..... and then there's internet VoIP which people most commonly refer to as a "Vonage" type service. Internet VoIP service in my opinion is not yet an enterprise solution since there is typically no SLA's or quality of service offered, but the savings are there which has prompted its adoption amongst small businesses that don't demand an "always" reliable service.

Many work largely with Open Source IP PBX systems which range from pure Asterisk to Switchvox or even Trixbox. There exists dozens of open source IP PBX systems on the market many of which have varying levels of reliability, quality, and redundancy. For small systems that require non-technical administration I believe the best is Switchvox. When engineered flawlessly, the most reliable, flexible, and scalable IP PBX is plain old Asterisk.

If you have the right IP PBX internally, there really isn't much of a downside except the fact that IP PBX systems can be expensive. IP PBX systems also do not live as long as TDM phone systems purely because of the difference in technology running behind the two. To successfully deploy VoIP internally, just make sure that you have the infrastructure to do so which includes Cat5 or greater wiring and an appropriate data network. Ideally you want to segregate your voice and data network but many companies do not because of the cost... but if you can do it... you should.

As far as VoIP phone service goes, we're talking about phone service which is delivered over your existing data connection. Like I said, not really a business grade product but the fact that you can use an existing data connection for voice means that the savings can be pretty enticing. The problem with internet based VoIP service is that you're tied to a single point of failure. If data goes down, you have no voice service.

Another issue, which not all users will experience, is problems with call quality. Because your phone call is running over the internet, the company providing you with phone service usually is not the same company providing your internet connection and therefore can not control, monitor, or fix your connection... nor can your VoIP provider control all the facets of the internet.... what this means is that your VoIP provider has no ability to prevent packet loss which in turn can produce static on the line, jitter, and dropped calls. Again, not everyone experiences these problems but many do and they are an inherent risk with hosted VoIP service.

To minimize this risk, I recommend that a company purchase their Hosted VoIP service from the same company that is delivering their data connection. There are many technical and infrastructure related reasons why this is a better service which I'm not going to get into it now... but I can guarantee that if your ISP is legit, they should offer decent hosted VoIP as well.

So all in all.. there's quite a few things that you need to consider when looking at VoIP. Unfortunately companies who are in the business of selling VoIP systems and VoIP service manage to get away with selling half ass'd and janky solutions which can result in poor voice quality and many other "bad" things... what this means is that just because someone is in the business of selling something VoIP, it doesn't mean it'll be a good product. All I say is that you should make sure that the company you get your IP PBX or Hosted VoIP service from is a solid business with lots of customers and positive feedback.

If you'd like free assistance navigating all the decisions to be made for choosing VoIP for your business .... simply take advantage of the help at Business VoIP Solution


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