Business continuity: Multiple-site IP networks also provide business continuity as they are less vulnerable to disasters than the PSTN. Data servers can be housed many miles from where the operations take place unlike phone companies? central offices (COs).
The efficacy of data communications networks was proven when terrorists struck the World Trade Center. While e-mail was able to get through in the region, PSTN and wireless calls, whose COs and towers respectively were damaged or destroyed in the attacks, did not.
Grigonis reports that the federal government has been moving toward IP for disaster response and 9-1-1 handling. The U.S. Department of Transportation has launched an $11 million Next Generation 9-1-1 Initiative project to define the system architecture and develop a transition plan for deploying an IP-based 9-1-1 emergency network across the United States.
?For telecom, datacom, IT and the business world in general, 9/11 forced many companies, both scathed and unscathed, to reconsider ? or just consider ? their survival plans, and IP communications has inevitably become part of those plans,? says Grigonis. ?That VoIP can be used over any network from any locale is incredibly important in the event of a major attack.?
Going to IP is not inexpensive, and prices vary widely.
Cisco?s contact center software starts at $395 per agent and can go as high as around $2,000. Fonality?s flagship PBXtra Call Center Edition is priced at $2,995 plus the number of phones needed and an additional server required for larger installations. Siemens? OpenScape Voice with a softphone starts at about $33,000 list, for 100 seats. An optional full UC application can cost around $400 per seat. Upgrading existing IP-suitable switches to PSTN, including adding IP-enabled new recording solutions can run $15,000/$18,000+.
You may also need to invest in your data network to give it the capacity and dependability to support IP. Your IT staff will also have to be trained on the new technology.
The IT team needs to be aware there is presently a slight but potential risk of spam, called SPIT, or spam over Internet telephony. There are easily implemented tools to limit SPIT if it becomes an issue.
IP systems have lead times that can run one to three months. There may be debugging, especially if there are other applications linked into it.
Another issue is voice quality. IP calls still on occasion do not sound as clear as those handled by PSTN as a result of voice packets arriving late or not in order. Yet these problems have been rapidly diminishing thanks to technology improvements.
Making IP happen
When looking and deciding on IP make sure you have solid, financially justifiable reasons for literally making the switch. PSTN-based phone systems typically have a 10- to 15-year lifespan. Yet if your switch and/or your contact center solutions are approaching end of life, you are experiencing high trunking costs and need functionality like UC, take a hard look at IP.
There are a great many information resources available. In your investigation, see if your present phone switch can be IP-enabled to enable gradual and cost-effective migration. If not, and there are strong benefits to going to IP, look at alternatives, including voice gateways to your data network or purchasing an IP telephony solution.
?Most modern systems allow for a slow migration path from the PSTN to IP,? explains Grigonis. ?Generally speaking, a ?forklift upgrade? to an entirely new system is not necessary.?
Bring on board the IT department from the start: from discussion to implementation. They can make a project like IP happen, and they are likely to, because many of these individuals like the technology.
Also, work closely with your suppliers. Many IP phone system vendors have professional services divisions that can advise and help with the transition process.
Ensure that the service quality is very high to maintain call connectivity and to avoid both delay and noise issues. Give yourself enough time to detect and kill bugs before going live. Also, have backup switches and servers.