So Your Company Wants to Adopt VoIP… How Do You Know If Your Network Is Ready to Make the Transition?

While the cost savings and new applications of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) are rapidly attracting many small to mid-sized companies to this popular communication solution, it may come with a significant price to your network.  Not only must your network carry more traffic, but VoIP traffic demands very high performance and is more sensitive to normal network problems like delays and choppy communication.  Even modest levels of impairment, unnoticed by users of most data applications, will cause significant caller frustration and will not sit well with your customers, business partners, or even your own employees.

Before investing in a large-scale VoIP deployment or even in a small trial, you need to know how well your network infrastructure will handle the additional, quality-sensitive voice traffic.  Many seemingly well-planned trials encounter delay after delay, exceed cost estimates, and are eventually cancelled when the network proves unable to meet the unique requirements VoIP places on it.  However, these business issues can easily be avoided if your telecommunications provider properly assesses your network ahead of time to truly understand the scope and type of work required to ensure a successful transition to VoIP.

Gartner reports that 85% of networks are not ready for VoIP.  What’s even more shocking is that 75% of companies that do not perform a pre-implementation analysis of their network infrastructure will not realize a successful implementation.  These are astonishing statistics because without conducting a network assessment with a quality assessment tool, the potential for wasting time and money is extremely high.  In order to increase the likelihood of a successful VoIP implementation, an evaluation of the network must be properly executed and should include the following four steps.

  1. Pre-Deployment Assessment

The pre-deployment assessment step analyzes the current capabilities of the network, evaluates its ability to support VoIP, identifies potential problems, and determines the requirements needed to handle expected call traffic.  It is strongly recommended that the pre-deployment test is conducted prior to the purchase or installation of any VoIP equipment.  The analysis should include such items as bandwidth, utilization, jitter, throughput and latency.

  1. Post-Deployment Assessment

The purpose of the post-deployment assessment is to gain a complete understanding of VoIP quality and network efficiencies prior to turning it on.  This step determines the level of success and prevents issues with call quality or dropped calls.  Whenever new equipment is introduced to a network the chance for unexpected issues rises; therefore, it is critical that post-deployment assessment is not overlooked.  This assessment should be immediately performed so any changes can be made in a timely manner.

  1. Regular Maintenance Assessment

As you’re probably aware, your network is dynamic and constantly evolves.  New devices such as IP phones, laptops, switches, and routers are added or removed.  Whether it’s a minor change or a major one it will impact your network.  Therefore, it is important to re-evaluate your network regularly to identify any faults so they can be corrected as soon as possible.  Conducting ongoing assessments will help your organization increase quality, optimize system infrastructure, and reduce costs.

  1. Break/Fix Strategy

Unfortunately, unforeseen things may happen to a network that’s not readily identified by your IT department.  The situation may be brought to your company’s attention by a customer, an employee or business partner.  The Yankee Group has reported that some companies’ labor costs grew 30 to 40 percent with VoIP because of dealing with network problems.  Having a network assessment tool in place enables one to take action quickly, diagnose the problem, and resolve it, while minimizing its impact to the system as a whole.

Essentially, these four key steps have illustrated the primary objective and the many benefits of conducting network assessments.  Whether your company is about to take the plunge into VoIP or has already gone down that path, it is critical to deploy a tool that can accurately analyze your network.  Surprisingly, most companies overlook this integral component of the VoIP implementation process and the research clearly shows its negative impact.

As you tap into this relatively new communication solution that’s changing how business gets done, make sure you ask yourself this question.  What is my telecommunications provider doing to create a network environment that enables my company to take full advantage of VoIP? If network assessment is not included in the response then something is definitely wrong.

5 Pain Points Found in SMB VoIP Deployments

Sometimes small and medium-sized businesses focus too much on cost and not enough on deployment details.

In deploying VoIP, small and medium-sized businesses often experience pain points in five critical areas, Adtran found in examining its Custom Extended Services deployments. The troubles crop up for a variety of reasons, from poor equipment choices to shoddy installation work.

Is Somebody Managing the Switch?
Large enterprises may take managed networks for granted, but to many SMBs the concept of a managed switch doesn’t take hold until comparing a $119 stripped-down appliance lacking in features and performance to a fully managed switch appliance costing $1,000 or more. Throw in Power over Ethernet (PoE) and associated costs, and many SMBs will ask, “Why should we pay so much for a switch?”

In the answer to that is an old problem: value-added resellers (VARs) installing cheap retail solutions. While these “trusted” partners initially may garner kudos for providing low-cost deployments, they aren’t really helping their customers in the long term. Unfortunately, issues will eventually surface for any number of reasons, including when customers attempt to deploy VoIP, call recording, or a local server supporting voice recognition. Trying to troubleshoot a LAN without managed switches is akin to chasing your tail — and this can become very costly as VARs bill for time and material.

When installing managed switches back in the mid 1990s, we used to tell customers they had 10 days to cancel their orders. None ever did, because the managed switches resolved the target issues; business owners place value on solutions that address their problems.

During this same era, we had arguments with plenty of IT and non-IT people about ripping out hubs and replacing infrastructure with managed switches. Today, the argument spills over to managed vs. non-managed, with the inaccurate but deep-rooted perception that a switch is just a switch.

Got Enough Capacity on That LAN?
Insufficient bandwidth certainly impacts SMBs with streaming video requirements, but a sluggish switch is going to bog down performance for low-bandwidth applications, too. An unmanaged switch is going to allow havoc to occur on that customer network, and the ability to isolate core problems greatly diminishes.

When these off-the-shelf unmanaged switches are uplinked to other retail appliances, problems compound. “A switch is just a switch” — well, no, it’s not. This argument from the IT perspective isn’t only lame, it is ill founded. How much backplane bandwidth a switch supports matters just as much as which features it includes.

Making cost the key consideration is where many SMBs err. They shouldn’t be evaluating on price alone, but factoring in considerations such as productivity and ability to operate on a network with a degree of consistency. A user experience that involves constant rebooting as a “fix” is not a good one. A managed network can boost productivity, streamline business processes, and improve customer relationships.

You Really Think Your Cabling Infrastructure Is Ready?
In some cases, Adtran found that SMBs thought their cabling infrastructures were ready when they weren’t. It would find, for example, that materials in use were not appropriate for the type of job or environment. With such errors comes problems like reverse polarity; in general, shoddy work on cabling infrastructure can end up costing an SMB in repairs and lead to lost revenue and even lost customers. Yet, it’s totally avoidable.

portable

Sometimes I find cabling infrastructure that’s not just not ready, but a mess of old and new layers of cabling added in over the years. Different contractors touching the cable plant coupled with bad work or inferior or misaligned products spell trouble.

One of my favorite cabling anecdotes involves the men’s room of a certain establishment — its telephone connections are vulnerable and the work is shoddy. Even more importantly, who would hang a network interface over the men’s room door?

How Much Value Is in That Low-End Solution?
Customers cite the benefit of being able to log in to their IP/SIP telephone sets from anywhere in the world, but when it comes to logging into their LAN infrastructure locally or from any other location there’s a gap. Unmanaged LANs are troublesome and carry security and other risks. On the other hand, a managed switch can help an SMB meet compliance mandates and lock down the network and endpoint assets.

Many retail locations utilize low-end Wi-Fi to serve customers; however, these often uplink to unmanaged switches and a poorly secured LAN. These companies are putting themselves at risk and, when security issues arise, they disconnect and abandon the Wi-Fi. They utilize off-the-shelf products and, again, trusted partners or IT staffers throw in low-cost solutions that result in high-end problems.

The value of logging into a telephone is highly overrated; how often do employees really need this capability, and what are the real benefits of providing it? If the answer were to save on expenses for moves, adds, and changes, then I’d question that because most phones in most SMBs remain static for years or at least until there’s a turnover. Even then, some SMBs simply don’t manage or pay to manage these changes, and many users simply don’t care so long as they can utilize the desk phone for what they want to accomplish.

Got the Right Power?
Adtran found switch ports suffering damage and other issues caused by the use of local power supplies for endpoints. This timeless problem is completely avoidable, too. Local power bricks create the potential for a wired lightning rod of sorts. Investing in a centralized managed PoE switch that is power protected and backed up with an uninterruptible power supply pays off.

These issues are real, but some SMBs with whom I’ve engaged head on at times don’t fully understand the need to address them and the benefits in doing so — until they experience low latency and high availability after deployment. Adtran offers free pre-sales engineering services, including heat mapping for Wi-Fi deployments, and this should entice the many if not the few SMBs that move from off-the-shelf appliances and step into solutions that managed PoE switches offer.

Adtran has incorporated power protection into its Netvanta 1550 series switches to prevent damaged ports from the numerous transients that occur on LAN infrastructures. LANs and local power infrastructure married together equate to increased risk and loss from local power disturbances. Unless you mitigate those risks you will continue to have losses.

The was originally published on NoJitter. As a service to our readers-I thought to repost it here. Matt Brunk did a good job writing about this. Here is the link to the original post! http://www.nojitter.com/post/240170322/5-pain-points-found-in-smb-voip-deployments

 

The True Pros & Cons of VoIP for Your Business

Over the last several years, great strides have been made to improve communication capabilities through Hosted Voice over IP (VoIP) solutions—a series of transmission capabilities that make communication over the Internet possible. This cloud-based phone system not only provides significant cost savings and superior flexibility, but also offers businesses of all sizes productivity, mobility and functionality features that are unmatched by traditional telephony.

What is VoIP?

VoIP converts analog audio signals into digital data, which can then be transmitted over the Internet. Implementing a VoIP system eliminates the pressures and costs of managing and maintaining a PBX, while giving your employees enterprise-grade features and other common features, including:

  • Voicemail
  • Call waiting
  • Toll-free numbers
  • Call forwarding
  • Visual voicemail (voicemail to email transcription)
  • Simultaneous and sequential ring
  • Audio conferencing
  • Auto attendant
  • Call Recording

Additional features are also available that allow users to specify how incoming calls are routed and/or forwarded, ensuring no important calls are missed. Furthermore, employees can make and receive phone calls on their cell phones through various mobility features through the VoIP business number. This means that VoIP long-distance calling plans can be utilized while working remotely, even from a mobile phone.

Scalability and Flexibility

Utilizing VoIP means that even as a company grows, there is no need to worry about installing new phone lines. Instead, businesses can use their existing broadband and simply purchase new handsets as needed.

In addition to scalability, the flexibility of VoIP is also a unique benefit. Since VoIP phone systems work through computer-to-computer connections, users can make calls and hold conversations anywhere there is an Internet connection. In addition to audio calls, VoIP also allows for video conferencing, meaning businesses can stay in touch with their employees or clients, regardless of their location.

Cost

When it comes to cost, VoIP is a winner. Most VoIP services are offered through a subscription-based cost model, allowing businesses to purchase only what they need, and then allocate funds that would normally be spent on traditional phone expenses to other parts of the business. Additionally, VoIP runs on the same network as the data, versus traditional phone packages that require businesses to manage separate networks and hardware for voice and data. This not only brings considerable cost savings and streamlines management, but also delivers more efficient communications.

Reliability

While VoIP can certainly increase productivity, efficiency and collaboration efforts, reliability is a common drawback – especially if you frequently experience downtime or hiccups with your Internet. These types of issues can cause users to experience latency, jitter, and packet loss during VoIP conversations. Doing your home and finding the right provider for your business needs is crucial in guaranteeing reliability.

The Bottom Line

When considering VoIP services, it’s important to understand how a service provider manages quality of service across their network, how features compare, if and how voice traffic is prioritized, and what kind of post-sales support you’ll receive. For more information, contact us today.

 

Understanding the Power of SIP Trunking and How to Harness It to Take Your Business to the Next Level

How can a communications protocol elevate your business? Consider the impact of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications and its ability to lower costs and offer powerful new business applications.  These two benefits alone are accelerating the adoption of IP based technology, also known as the convergence of voice and data, on a global level regardless of the size of company.   Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) raises the bar of IP by adding intelligence to business processes and providing both users and IT departments with greater control over their communications.

SIP is an IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), internet-based protocol originally designed for call set-up and control.  According to the SIP RFC, the protocol defines how two or more end-points can negotiate to set up and control a communications connection that suits the capabilities of the devices and the needs of its users.  In simple terms, SIP supports any form of real-time communication regardless of whether the content is voice, video, instant messaging, or a collaboration application.  Additionally, SIP enables users to inform others of their status, their availability, and how they can be contacted before a communication is even initiated.

Many companies have made the transition to VoIP; however, most are only using it for communication on the LAN.  In this scenario VoIP is only being used as a one-to-one replacement for traditional telephony.  These businesses realize a sound return on investment by lowering administrative costs as well as costs associated with calls made within the company.  SIP trunking, on the other hand, provides a greater return because it takes VoIP a step further.  For instance, full potential for IP communications can be realized only when communication is taken outside of an organization’s LAN.  SIP trunks thus eliminate the need for local PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) gateways, costly BRIs (Basic Rate Interfaces) or PRIs (Primary Rate Interfaces).  Furthermore, it directly operates with existing IP PBXs so there is no need for additional hardware.
SIP trunking also offers a number of unique features that have a direct correlation on improving a company’s productivity.  These features include

  • Enhanced 911 Service
  • Disaster Recovery
  • 411 Directory Assistance
  • Interactive User Portal for setup and MAC’s
  • Multiple Location Interoperability
  • Long Distance Bundles available as well as A La Carte as needed
  • 800 Number

 

Essentially, SIP makes employees more productive, business processes more efficient, and customers more satisfied.  In today’s business world there are many communication channels, but with little or no integration between them.  This presents a guessing game for users and a problem for management.  SIP transforms communications into a single integrated tool determining how calls are handled and the manner in which they are routed.  Communication is the lifeline of every company and SIP gives users complete control.  As a result, SIP trunking has the ability to increase profitability and give businesses a competitive advantage in their marketplace.

 

Video and Telemedicine

For businesses, bringing people together face-to-face leads to advantages like improved communication, better, faster decision making and more effective team work.

In the case of telemedicine, high-quality video conferencing can save lives. Telemedicine can mean many different things, but often it involves connecting patients in small, remote clinics to specialists in large urban health care centers.

Telemedicine makes it possible for patients who need acute, chronic or emergency care to meet face-to-face with highly-trained specialists without the expense, inconvenience and delay associated with travel. Local providers perform assessments and provide care under the guidance of the specialists.

For patients, this means improved access to high-quality care. For local clinics, it means the ability to serve more patients locally and for specialists, it means being able to efficiently deliver more care to more patients from a single, centralized location.

When Renown Health (Northern Nevada’s largest integrated healthcare network) decided to implement a comprehensive telemedicine program to serve rural residents, they evaluated solutions from a number of video conferencing vendors including Cisco (Tandberg) and Polycom. In the end, Renown selected Scopia video solutions from Avaya. The result is the highly successful R-TeleMed program, currently covering 25 specialties with more on the way.

Scopia video solutions offer a number of advantages over competing solutions. Scopia video is the only option that provides HD-quality in both the data and the personal-interaction channel. For a specialist, the ability to view a diagnostic image, for example, in HD is critically important. Scopia solutions also offer important advantages in terms of security, ease-of-use and interoperability with existing systems.

You can learn more about Avaya and Renown Health’s R-TeleMed program here.

Seven Really Good Reasons to look at Hosted VoIP

Outrageously Affordable, Lower Total Cost of Ownership

Business is more unpredictable than ever––growth one year, contraction the next year. Ideally, you want to be able to secure the most advanced technologies without having to spend significant money upfront on hardware. Hosted VoIP makes this possible. With a Hosted VoIP solution, you save from  day one on your monthly communications service fees and upfront capital costs. All you need are VoIP-ready handsets. That’s right, no expensive boxes or systems required.

And the last thing you want to do in this economy, or any economic climate or that matter, is spend tens of thousands of dollars on a phone system. With Hosted VoIP, there are no large servers or systems to purchase. Other than the phones, there are no capital expenditures to depreciate over time. Which means it comes off of your books. And with low monthly communications service fees, you get an outrageously affordable solution that connects your business and employees to a host of capabilities thatdramatically improve productivity.

Minimal IT Support Required

Unlike the complex traditional phone systems that sit in a closet, Hosted VoIP requires very little IT support or training to administer. You can quickly add users, delete users, enable additional features––all without additional support or staff. The reason? A simple web interface. In fact, a Hosted VoIP solution is so simple, users can manage their own features right from their computers. It’s one management issue that can be taken off the shoulders of your IT or Office Manager. Who knows, maybe they’ll even thank you for a change.

Business Continuity

Let’s assume some worst case scenarios: Your building is flooded. Or an earthquake wreaks havoc. Or a fire knocks out power for miles around. Now, let’s assume you have Hosted VoIP. Want to know how things would be?

Business would go on––uninterrupted. Since no physical box resides on your premises––it resides in redundant and secure data centers––customers can still connect with your business because employees can work from anywhere.

The reason? A web-based portal that allows you to quickly forward calls to cell phones or other phones in unaffected locations. It’s an incredibly fast and easy way to take control of a disastrous situation and ensure that anything major becomes just a minor incident.

Scale Up/Scale Down

Five year projections? Ten year projections? Frankly, for most businesses, it has become nearly impossible to make accurate predictions. It’s why you need a highly-flexible technology like Hosted VoIP. Hosted VoIP is a sure way to give you the peace of mind that comes from not being constrained by a phone system that only supports a fixed number of employees and can be costly and complicated to expand. If resources become squeezed, you can quickly scale back. On the other hand, if you open a new branch office, or need to provide remote communications, or just need to prepare for a spike in demand around the holidays, it’s quick and easy to scale up without any disruption to your business.

Total flexibility. Easy to manage. Quick to deploy.

Hosted VoIP is a decision with only upside

More Functionality

Even if you’re jaded about technology, once you see all of the advanced features and functionality that are available from a Hosted VoIP system, you’ll be seriously impressed by the impact it can have on your business. And the best part is you can activate only those features that you need to make your company more productive. It starts with HD voice, the clearest a business call can get. That’s just scratching the surface. Through Hosted VoIP, you can have voicemails automatically forwarded to your email; you can make a call from a cell phone or remote office and have it appear as a call from the main office. You also have the ability to integrate with Outlook or Salesforce.com.

Basically there isn’t much you can’t do with Hosted VoIP.

Automatic Upgrades

With Hosted VoIP, there’s no box on your premises, so there’s no hardware to upgrade in order to take advantage of new features and technologies. Because your service is outsourced, upgrades are provided through software changes that happen automatically in the background. Of course, you’ll be made aware of any new capabilities as they come on line. That way, you can quickly utilize them to support your employees and better service customers.

So stay focused on your business and leave the upgrades to your Hosted VoIP service provider.

Focus on Your Business

One of the best ways to stay competitive is to focus on your core business. With a Hosted VoIP solution, the management of increasinglycomplex business communications is done for you off-site. It all happens in the background while you and your employees utilize advanced features and productivity tools like voice, web meetings, and internet fax to take up new goals and take down obstacles that stand in their way.

This information was taken from an article written for a leading hosted voice over IP provider. If you are interested in learning more, contact me and I will be sure to give you as much information as I can to assist in helping you make the right decision for your company

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Awareness- it’s not just for New Age Boomers anymore!

In the old, old days of business communications you would call someone on the phone and hope to reach them. Statistically, your chances of connecting to someone on the first try were quite low and you often ended up leaving a message with an assistant and waiting for a callback.

Then along came voicemail—now you could leave a message.  No assistant was needed, but your chances of reaching that person live probably worsened and you ended up playing “phone tag” and getting stuck in “voicemail jail.” The mobile phone helped, but also added a new problem: what number do you use to reach someone? When texting and Instant Messaging began to become popular, “presence” began to make an impact.  No one wanted to undergo the labor of typing out a message and hoping for the best. Instead, a little status indicator light next to a name or avatar indicates whether someone is available to receive your message. Now you can also get geo-presence—you can see exactly where a person is located.

According to Avaya, the next step beyond presence is “awareness.” A communications solution equipped with awareness will pay attention to not just where people are located and whether they are online, but also to their “real connection” to the matter at hand and what content needs to be shared.
Brett Shockley, Avaya’s senior VP and general manager for applications and emerging technologies, likens a communications-aware system to an executive assistant who parses and analyzes your email and other communications to arrange a meeting on your calendar, finds and delivers the documents you will need and then, when it’s time to connect, dials the number for you.

At a recent industry conference, Shockley showed a demonstration of awareness in action, using a smart filter in the Avaya Flare® Experience to set up a conference call. Starting with a display of his most recent and frequent contacts, he dragged and dropped contact cards for each potential participant.  As he made selections, the Avaya Flare software analyzed the connections between those people to identify the common project they were all working on and then pulled in documents related to that project.

Shockley said this kind of solution is designed to help “save the first 10 minutes out of every hour,” meaning the time you might waste pulling together the people and information required for the meeting to actually get started.

Are You Ready for a Pop-up Branch Office?

The need to have a physical office space where employees do their work has been under revision for years as more companies opt for telecommuting and home office working arrangements.

Now, this same thinking is being applied to traditional branch office expansion strategies.  Companies are now looking at what are called “pop-up” or “ultra-light” branch offices with an expected lifespan measured in months or a few years, at most.

To minimize IT costs, the pop-up branches rely on cloud services, IP-based communications solutions, mobile communications (both company- owned or BYOD), tight user authentication and security processes and remote management.

Interestingly, these branches often get Internet access via consumer and/or wireless as prices continue to decline and reliability increases.

They are also taking advantage of 802.11n-based WiFi solutions to get practical and high-performing multimedia communications. According to a recent Nemertes report, 802.11n “makes WiFi acceptable as the sole means of connectivity for laptops and desktops.”

Heightened security is critical to any pop-up branch strategy. IT will have to implement authenticated network access at a minimum, but also more robust health checks (i.e., is the device properly configured with antivirus software, firewall, etc.) and flexible virtual LAN management.

An alternative to the pop-up branch is the completely virtual branch.  Back in 2008, UMTB, Israel’s third largest bank, gave customers the virtual branch option. Those who enroll cannot get service at any of the bank’s physical branches, with the exception of using teller and ATM services for deposits and withdrawals. In return they have access to one-on-one phone support, e-mail, live online chat, extended service hours and a range of online tools to manage their interactions.  About 6,000 customers have opted for the virtual branch—not big numbers, but the bank says it is satisfied and some other Israeli financial institutions have followed suit.

For more on pop-up or ultralight branches see the full Nemertes report at nemertes.com/reports/ultralight-branch.

Avaya has also posted a wide range of source materials on BYOD and mobile strategies.  Go to http://www.avaya.com/usa/solution/mobile-collaboration

A Secure BYOD Strategy

Wireless devices are making their presence felt in every business. From smartphones and touch screen tablets to handheld video conferencing tools and traditional laptops, these devices enable employees to perform critical business functions at any time and any location.

That’s why more companies are embracing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies, enabling employees to choose the tools and in some cases,  move completely away from devices like desk phones and desktop PCs—both long considered to be indispensable.

But if businesses are not careful, BYOD can quickly turn into ‘bring your own difficulties” inviting a wide range of security issues. The challenge is to balance the need to control access, but not limit employee flexibility or create an onerous management burden for IT.

Organizations know that employees’ personal mobile devices are getting onto their networks, but, based on a recent study by the SANS Institute, only nine percent of organizations surveyed were “fully aware” of the devices accessing their networks, and only 50 percent were “vaguely or fairly” aware.  (Learn more about the SANS study at http://www.sans.org/press/first-annual-survey-webcast.php)

Many mobile devices support 802.1x (an IEEE Standard for port-based Network Access Control), though  often it is not enabled.  Also, many smaller companies without the IT resources find it too onerous to be configuring their network to control access via 802.1x.

One way to solve the BYOD challenge is to centralize management of your access, authentication and security controls. A centralized, standards-based, policy server deployable over any underpinning network infrastructure allows administrators to quickly and easily add devices from a central hub and even assign multiple devices to a single user.

A centralized solution gives you full visibility into who has accessed the network based on a combination of user identity, device type and location. If an employee brings a new device, it can get validated by comparing the user credentials and device attributes against corporate directories. Network access can be limited to all or select resources.

A centralized approach simplifies the process of providing guests wireless Internet access. For large events such as conferences or expos, enterprise staff can administer guest policies in bulk, eliminating the need to manually set guest preferences and rules. To ensure that guests don’t outstay their welcome, these credentials automatically expire at a specified date and time.

Avaya provides a range of centralized security capabilities through its Identity Engines portfolio of security solutions.  Many of these capabilities have traditionally been limited to large enterprise installations, but now much smaller organizations are taking advantage of them implementing them on networks with the Avaya Ethernet Routing Switch (ERS) 3500, a compact Ethernet switch designed exclusively for small and midsize enterprises and remote branches.

What Makes SIP Special?

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is one of the hot topics in communications today. At first, that may seem strange. SIP is a signaling protocol—part of the underlying technology that gets communication from Point A to Point B on a network.  Specifically, SIP is used for establishing sessions in an IP network. The key terms here are “session” and “IP Network.”

In the past, communications protocols were designed either for voice communications or data communications. But a “session” isn’t just about one mode of communication. A session can be a simple, two-way telephone call or a collaborative multimedia conference. You can be on a voice session and turn it into a video session.  Or you can text someone and then turn that text session into a voice session. In effect, SIP makes the communications infrastructure transparent and seamless.  Just as you can click a link on a website and play a video, read text, listen to music or download a PDF, with SIP you can do the same with real time communications: voice, video, text, click-to-dial, etc.

Companies that want to take advantage of SIP will be acquiring SIP trunks from their local service provider. SIP trunks are a kind of industrial-strength communications line specifically designed to handle multimedia communications sessions. With a SIP trunk, you can bypass conventional public telephone lines and receive all your voice and data communications via Internet channels. Once set up, your incoming and outgoing calls are essentially free. The more calling you do, the more you save. In fact, Avaya customers typically see a return on investment of 6–12 months for their trunking solutions.

Another feature of SIP is that it is “geographically agnostic.” A phone number is no longer associated with a specific extension in a business. You can pick up calls destined for you at any location—just like you can pick up your e-mail at any location. This allows you to have a local number with a local presence, but have the calls handled in a centralized location. It also provides you with a built-in backup plan. If a location goes down, the calls can be handled somewhere else and callers will never know the difference.

All of this makes SIP one of the most talked about trends in communications today. Numerous market studies all agree that there is a huge surge in the growth of SIP trunks and the trend is almost certain to continue, particularly as initial concerns over quality and performance fall by the wayside.

The Agency Group, a global talent agency with offices in Toronto, London Los Angeles, New York and Malmo, Sweden uses SIP trunks to get all of its IP Office and Nortel communications systems working together. If the New York office suddenly experiences problems, calls can be rerouted through the other offices. To learn more about how The Agency Group is benefiting from IP Office and SIP, go to http://bit.ly/mfhQUR

For a complete guide to SIP that you can download, go to http://prime18.com/uploads/2/9/5/2/2952544/sip_for_dummies.pdf