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Rich Tehrani

[April 22, 2004]

Better Management Of Enterprise VoIP



Editor's Note: This is the fifth in a series of short articles from Rich Tehrani based on recent visits with a number of VoIP vendors. The previous article is available here.

Enterprise VoIP is more complicated than legacy PBX systems. One of the biggest issues is that problems can creep into your system from so many different places. Routers, hubs, PCs, servers, users, defective phones, defective computers, cable issues, etc. As you scale IP telephony, the potential for problems increases greater than scaling a PBX. Sure, IP telephony allows more flexibility and saves money, but your network has to be managed correctly. Even if your installation is flawless, you could hire a few temporary workers that decide to stream MTV. I don�t have anything against temps by the way� This could happen with your regular employees as well.

The question becomes, how do you find out about these problems? If you aren�t running VoIP it probably doesn�t make much of a difference that your network has degraded in performance by 50 percent. Voice however, cannot tolerate networks below a certain threshold of bandwidth. Sure, you can increase compression, but everything has its limits, including voice compression.

A company I recently met with, Clarus Systems, has a software product named ClarusIPC Assurance that is designed to help smooth these and other issues in VoIP installs. Their software allows an objective voice quality check of IP telephony devices connected to the network. The software takes control of endpoints and uses these devices to measure quality. For example, you will be able to find out if a device can make a call or get dial tone.

Most installations are tested today by going to each phone and listening for problems. This is a messy and subjective process that takes time, costs money and is not acceptable. The reason this isn't a good solution is that you should ideally be checking VoIP devices and other network elements whenever you change your network configuration or even more frequently. A simple firewall change could significantly impact your ability to use VoIP effectively. You don�t want to be the tech that has the CEO walk into his office because he can�t get dial tone.

The system gives a hierarchical view of the network and you can think of it as a way of bridging the divide between the data people and voice people. They also have strong reporting built in, designed to emulate and improve on the typical PBX reporting packages we in the voice world are accustomed to. You know -- changes, adds, deletes, etc. This software can be and is used as a way to keep an audit trail of your enterprise VoIP. Clarus Systems can�t make VoIP less complicated, but perhaps they can just make it easier to manage.

Please talk back to me in our forums.

Rich Tehrani is TMC's president. He welcomes your comments. Participate in our forums.

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