Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is reinventing the voice industry merging voice, video, and data into integrated, interactive media and creating whole new applications, new ways of communicating, and new ways of doing business. The change is so fundamental and broad that, rather than VoIP, IP Communications (IPC) might be a more appropriate term.
Were seeing a sea change in the marketplace; its no longer a question of if customers will deploy IPC, but when. And IPC isnt just for big business; large enterprises and small and medium-sized businesses are moving quickly to reap its benefits. Further, IPC offers value-add resellers and other solution providers exciting new opportunities to innovate, add value, and grow revenues and profits.
Just as the Internet and VPN technology let us take our corporate applications on the road, IPC lets us take our desktop communications, too. So many devices IP phones in a remote office, PCs in a hotel room, WiFi equipped PDAs, and soon dual-mode WiFi cellular phones are able to behave like a desk phone anywhere, providing full features and applications. When in the office, the IP phone is able to integrate with the desktop PC to provide LAN access and integration with collaborative tools, corporate directories and video.
Any device, anywhere, anytime: it just takes an Ethernet connection or WiFi.
Top Five Reasons To Migrate To IPC
1. Reduced expenses and total cost of ownership.
Reducing cost is always an important business driver, and IPC offers compelling value. Having one IPC network instead of three networks for voice, video, and data saves companies deployment and management costs. Having applications resident in the network and shared, rather than dedicated to each location/PBX, saves money too. And for corporations with multiple locations or mobile employees, the savings are tremendous as every call is toll-free. Its not uncommon to see ROI paybacks in less than one year.
2. Technology obsolescence.
For decision makers considering technology investments for their businesses, increased bandwidth, new data security, and communications are surfacing as top priorities. The perfect time to "design in" IPC is when a company is redesigning its network.
The last major motivator for voice upgrades was Y2K. Flash forward six years, and those equipment leases are up and the assets fully depreciated; now is an ideal time for another technology refresh.
3. Redundancy and business resilience.
Redundant PBXs have traditionally been very expensive. But redundancy and failover capability are inherent in state-of-the-art IP architectures; in fact, IP enables levels of redundancy and resilience never possible with time-division multiplexing (TDM) technology. In any failure, voice communications and applications can be served transparently and immediately from servers anywhere on a global IP network. Security is achieved with IP components that address privacy through secure connectivity, protection through threat defense systems and control through trust and identity systems.
4. Virtual networking of business locations (including partners and even customers).
Historically, tying multiple locations into one dial plan network, call center and voicemail system with all the productivity and improved customer satisfaction that brings was only attainable by large enterprises and required expensive software investments with PBX vendors. With IPC, this capability is also inherent, so even small and mid-size businesses now have many new communications possibilities within easy reach.
5. Enhanced employee productivity and customer satisfaction from applications integration.
In todays global economy, organizations need a variety of real-time and asynchronous communications tools. IPC customers have documented the employee productivity benefits of collaboration, unified messaging and video applications.
For many businesses, productivity and customer satisfaction have been focused on the call center. Now, call center functions such as customer relationship management (CRM)-based services are possible across the enterprise. Desktop applications, back-office applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and CRM, and even industry-specific solutions can be integrated in ways never possible with TDM.
A Note On Migration
Misconceptions and confusion about migration and about pure IP versus IP-enabled, or hybrid, solutions abound.
First, its important to be clear about what constitutes the embedded investment in a voice system: its not the PBX but rather the voice assets, the LAN/WAN assets, the data applications and so on. Leveraging the existing network assets for a converged IPC solution is often the most cost-effective.
The foundation for these innovations is IP to the desktop. Conversely, like using rotary dial phones today to access integrated voice response (IVR) systems, with traditional digital phones connected to an IP-enabled PBX, certain benefits of IP just will not be possible.
A second fallacy is that migrating to IPC requires a massive forklift replacement. Instead, its a matter of selecting an open-standard architecture and applications like voicemail, unified messaging and rich-media conferencing that are designed to support both IP and TDM connectivity. The faster a business moves to IP, the faster it gains the benefits and savings and with the right infrastructure, migration can occur at whatever pace a business desires.
IPC is not only reinventing the voice industry, it is reinventing how business works and how people communicate. As with any fundamental transformation, there will be innovators, winners and losers. What about your business? Are you well positioned for the next wave of innovation? IT
Richard N. McLeod is director, IP Communications Solutions, Worldwide Channels at Cisco Systems, Inc. For more information, please visit the company online at www.cisco.com.
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