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Feature Article
February 2003

IP Telephony: Not Just Voice Over IP


For the past five years, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has long been positioned as the technology that will lead the enterprise communications revolution. And within the business arena, VoIP has indeed gained significant ground, providing benefits to businesses in many industries. Yet by focusing solely on VoIP, which allows businesses to send voice traffic over Internet Protocol (IP) networks -- primarily for toll avoidance -- businesses are missing out on the bigger picture. When it comes to boosting an organization�s productivity, functionality, and bottom line growth, VoIP is actually just one component of a broader communications solution.

.The solution IT managers need to consider is one that delivers operational efficiency and leverages existing technology investments to boost employee productivity and revenue growth. This is not provided by VoIP alone, but by IP telephony, which delivers the full range of benefits businesses seek. When assessing next steps for enhancing business communications, it�s important that IT managers have a complete understanding of IP telephony, and its differentiation from VoIP. Realizing the differences between the two will help IT managers and those holding the purse strings choose the right solution to optimize their networks for improved business performance.


When explaining the two, a comparison comes to mind from the computing world. Just as the Commodore computer dazzled users early on, it wasn�t until the arrival of the IBM PC (and eventually Microsoft Windows) that businesses began to realize the full benefits of personal computing. These events marked the transformation of technology into a quantifiable business value. The same goes for VoIP, which impressed early on, but has given way to IP telephony, which now fulfills a full scope of business benefits.

VoIP, which simply allows phone calls to be made over packet-switched IP data networks, is really an �all or nothing� proposition. As deployed and marketed by many service providers, it was designed to be a shortcut to transmit voice traffic cheaply. This type of shortcut sometimes save money, but often reveals its cost savings in a lack of feature functionality. IP telephony, on the other hand, makes good on its promise to deliver new applications to the enterprise, helping to �virtualize� today�s workspaces and empower employees in many ways. Once a term thought to be synonymous with VoIP, IP telephony actually engages its beneficiaries in different and innovative ways.

IP telephony employs VoIP technology, but goes an important step further by enabling reliable voice and data collaboration over an IP network. The key here is collaboration because IP telephony allows workers to interact with mission critical enterprise communications applications -- such as groupware, conferencing, and messaging -- that leverage both the voice and data capabilities made possible by converged networks. It is the utilization of these applications that enable a company�s entire workforce to become more mobile, flexible, and better able to respond to and service customers.

Thus, IP telephony should be the focal point of any discussion on utilizing communications to raise the productivity and revenue prospects of a business. While VoIP�s primary benefit is lowering the costs of voice traffic, IP telephony works on the premise that companies cannot just grow through cost-cutting, but through empowered workers, enhanced functionality, and increased business performance. By delivering results through business communications, IP telephony is tied directly to a company�s bottom line.


With IP telephony, users are able to access new levels of feature functionality from a diverse range of devices, including phones, PCs, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and mobile phones. Additionally, users can set their preferred mode of communications -- and the way they would like to be contacted -- either via e-mail, instant messaging, or voice communications.

Additionally, IP telephony incorporates VoIP to broaden the capabilities of workers by letting employees on the road or at home leverage all of their business telephony capabilities -- such as one-number access, multiple line appearances, conferencing and corporate directories -- via their PC. For example, users can now use their laptop or PDA to remotely access tools that are available on their office PC -- including e-mail, customer databases, and voice communications.

Once IP telephony is implemented into a corporation, it becomes clear that it extends beyond VoIP to become part of a larger business plan that employees can appreciate for improving their daily workspace activities.


At this point, the differentiation between VoIP and IP telephony should be evident for managers seeking to enhance their business communications. But besides the end-user benefits between VoIP and IP telephony, there are also important financial disparities. VoIP�s number one benefit is its ability to lower the costs on your phone bill. But IP telephony goes further by producing new operating efficiencies and cost savings, thus creating an even stronger business case.

IP telephony extends the administration and financial benefits of large enterprise office systems to smaller organizations as well, while saving on capital and operating costs. For instance, by connecting IP telephones to a company�s wide-area network, a company reduces the expense of providing a complete infrastructure at each site. In addition, total system management is streamlined from a single location with reduced costs for moves, adds, and changes.


Once the business decision is made to move to IP telephony, companies should consider a strategy that is cost-effective, practical � and evolutionary. By implementing an evolutionary strategy, companies can retain their existing network infrastructure, including switches, phones, and software, and simply migrate to the next level.

There are several other guidelines to follow when pursuing an IP telephony implementation. The following tips can help ensure a world-class communications upgrade:

� Open Standards Are Key: When evolving to an IP telephony network, companies should choose equipment that is interoperable and supports an open architecture environment. This helps enterprises to keep their IP telephony infrastructure cost-effective and capable of accepting equipment from a best-of-breed vendor. When it comes to claims of open architecture, however, caveat emptor: Some vendors state they are open and interoperable when they are not.

� Voice Expertise is Essential: People will excuse a lot of technology problems, but not when they compromise the reliability of a voice network. When choosing a convergence partner, it is important to work with a company that not only understands data, but also has expertise in voice applications. Understanding that voice is the most demanding and critical application on the data network can help smooth the pathway to convergence.

� Size Up Your Organization: The number of users within an enterprise will impact the IP telephony implementation. Smaller companies, for instance, may require a scaled-down solution that is logical for linking together one or two branches. Larger corporations, meanwhile, could require a larger IP telephony appetite serving dozens of locations around the country and meeting mobility needs for thousands of employees.

� Assess Your Business Applications and Network: In order to ensure that your existing business applications and data network can support new IP telephony capabilities and voice traffic, organizations should also consider a comprehensive assessment before implementation.

The full potential of IP telephony has yet to be realized by most of the business world, but its benefits should not be ignored or forgotten. The technology opens doors to a business arena where employees can simply utilize one device to manage all of the intricacies associated with communicating in today�s complex, fast-paced business world. While VoIP began the process of introducing new cost-saving benefits, IP telephony is the solution offering the large umbrella of communications capabilities that managers should not miss out on in order to help their businesses gain communications-driven results.

Jorge Blanco is vice president, Converged Systems and Applications Group for AVAYA Inc. A leader in secure and reliable Internet Protocol (IP) telephony systems, communications software, applications, and services, AVAYA is driving the convergence of voice and data applications across IT networks enabling businesses large and small to leverage existing and new networks to enhance value, improve productivity and gain competitive advantage. For more information visit the company�s Web site at www.avaya.com.

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