What is SIP and Why It’s a Big Part of Your Future

You may have already heard of SIP. And if you haven’t, the chances are good you will very soon.

SIP is a communications protocol that is becoming extremely popular. How popular? Consider this: Infonetics (www.infonetics.com) reports that in 2011, telco companies saw their revenues from SIP-based services jump 128%. So, even if you are not yet thinking about how to use SIP in your business, the chances are good that one of your competitors is ahead of you.

Very simply, SIP—the initials stand for Session Initiation Protocol—radically simplifies communication between people, places, devices, applications and services. Just about anything that can be tagged with an IP address can be connected via SIP. It simplifies how quickly people can connect and collaborate. And it eliminates the need for a lot of phone lines and extra hardware. In fact, many Avaya customers have reported a return on investment (ROI) of 6–12 months by investing in SIP-based solutions. To get a quick sense of the savings you can gain by moving existing voice circuits to SIP, try the Avaya Flip to SIP calculator at http://avaya-news.com/sip/ipoffice

But what makes SIP so revolutionary is not simply its ability to save money. SIP changes how you think about using communications in your business. Here are six SIP scenarios. See if any apply to you:

You have multiple business locations. Each one must have a local phone number. But you want calls to those locations to get routed to a central service center where they can be more efficiently handled by people with the time and training. In the past, to get this kind of capability you might have had to rent 800 numbers and/or extra lines that sat unused most of the time. SIP gives you the best of both worlds: local presence and the cost efficiencies of centralization.
You have a mobile phone, several e-mail addresses, a bunch of landlines and a slew of IM contact names. You are tired of giving out all your contact information. With SIP you won’t have to: SIP establishes an “address of record”—an AOR—that provides a single, unifying identifier as your “public address.” People can reach you without having to know each of your unique device addresses or phone numbers.
You find it annoying to keep letting people know about your availability, i.e., “for the rest of the day, call me on my mobile.” Let SIP do this for you. SIP can make call-routing decisions for you by checking your calendar or seeing when you last checked your e-mail or used your mobile phone.
You are handling a conference call from your hotel room, but have to check out and want to keep the call going on your mobile. Or, you are on your mobile, but need to view a document and would like to transfer the conference call to your tablet. SIP makes all of that possible.
You operate a customer service operation using agents working from home. You want them to be able to serve customers using e-mail, instant messaging, Web chat, video, or a phone call. Rely on SIP to make it happen.
You use various programs in your business to keep track of sales, inventory, production scheduling, etc. When a problem arises, i.e., a shortage in a particular part, you would like to have a click-to-conference button on the program itself so you can quickly see who is available, initiate the call and share the application. SIP makes that possible. In fact, many applications using dynamic linked libraries (DLLs in Windows and shared libraries in Linux) are ready to be connected using SIP.
Right now, a lot of businesses are looking to SIP to save money by using a single IP pipe to their provider for voice calls and reducing or eliminating recurring network charges. But that’s really just the start. The current uptake in SIP services is an indicator of what the future holds: SIP is big.

Want to learn more. Avaya has prepared a great introduction that’s an easy read. Get the free download of SIP for Dummies at http://www1.avaya.com/pc/SIP_for_Dummies.pdf

Using Mobile Tools to Drive Innovation

Mobile communications and collaboration tools are an inevitable part of the business world. But increasingly, the goal is not just to keep people in touch. It’s to drive more innovation in business processes and customer service:

  • Sales teams getting access to customer history, product inventory, pricing, and logistics information — while in their customer’s office — when they are closing a sale.
  • Insurers using mobile solutions to exchange digital pictures and insurance coverage documents to accelerate claims settlements.
  • Companies providing their customers with mobile apps to streamline access to support information and reduce the load on customer service agents.

To get a snapshot of the state-of-the-art in mobile implementations,  the technology consulting firm Forrester recently conducted a survey of more than 100 top IT and business decision makers. (To see the full report, go to http://www.avaya.com/usa/resource/assets/whitepapers/BCL%20-%20Mobile%20Collaboration%20-%20Mobile%20Solutions%20Connect%20Information%20Workers%20-%20Mar%202012.pdf)

Some of the findings were:

Few organizations have fully deployed mobile technologies across the board, but the majority are at least evaluating and piloting mobile technologies or rolling them out in limited production.

While phone calls and e-mail are still the top mobile applications, access to calendars, the corporate directory access and IM/presence are increasingly what’s driving mobile strategy.

More than one-third of businesses report implementing, or plans to implement, mobile applications for network and systems management, sales force, help desk, or emergency and critical response applications.

According to Forrester, counting on mobility to drive innovation won’t come without effort.  It counsels firms to turn to early adopters—executives, sales team, and field forces—to  be evangelists for the rest of the firm. And back up your strategies with training and communications support. “Assuming that users will flock to new mobile solutions and mandating adoption are tactics that won’t work,” Forrester notes.  “A clear communication of the benefits and advantages of mobile solutions is needed.”

How To Not Get Boxed Into a Communications Upgrade

Upgrading to any new technology is rarely a cut and dried decision. You hear about all the new things that are out there, but you also know that change means disruption and may force your business to give up features you now take for granted.

For most IT decision makers, the ideal technology upgrade scenario is to get new capabilities, but hold on to the things they like in their current solution. That’s exactly what Interline Brands did when it upgraded its communications at 130 locations to an Avaya IP Office solution.

A leading distributor and direct marketer of maintenance products, headquartered in Jacksonville, Fl., Interline was able to get a host of new capabilities while racking up huge savings in acquisition, operational and transition costs.

The Interline locations around the world are mostly small distribution centers/storefronts. Many of them used the PARTNER Communications Systems, a solution first introduced in the 1980s that over the years became one of the top selling small business communications systems of all time.

Interline wanted to keep using the PARTNER systems, but accepted the fact they were based on dated technology and no longer being manufactured. Then Interline discovered the best of both worlds: Avaya offers a “version of its best-selling small business IP Office solution that essentially mimics how the PARTNER system worked.  Interline was able to continue using many of the same features as its older PARTNER solution (cutting down dramatically on training and transition costs), hold on to its PARTNER telephones (cutting down on acquisition costs) and still get the benefits of moving up to a new IP-based communications solution.

With 130 locations, Interline also got the ability to administer the systems from a central location. Streamlined administration, together with consolidating existing analog lines at many locations into digital services, cut overall spending and enabled full ROI within three months.

Interline is also benefiting from:

  • One-number access. Calls to an individual’s office number can ring simultaneously on the mobile or home phone so calls are never missed
  • In-building wireless capabilities. A must for warehouse locations
  • Conferencing. It’s possible to quickly set up conference calls with up to 64 people to enable cost-effective collaboration.
  • Automated Attendant. Users can customize caller greetings so key callers receive a personal message and are routed directly to the most appropriate person or team.

To learn more about Interline’s experience and what it can mean for your business, read the case study at http://www.avaya.com/usa/case-for-avaya/customer-stories/interline-brands

For a great resource on upgrading your communications, see the Definitive Guide to Upgrading Your Communications System at http://www.avaya.com/usa/resource/assets/premiumcontent/thedefinitiveguidetoupgradingyouravayacomsys.pdf

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


Day in the Life: Small Business

Has anyone out there cracked the code on how to best manage your email inbox? If so, call me!  My inbox over-floweth to the point of no return.  I’m at the point where I can’t take a day off because if I do, I crash the email server – not really but it’s almost that bad.  The most difficult thing about email is that in today’s world it is a little ‘reactive’.  We are a society built on instant gratification and response. With email, you send something, not knowing if someone will read it or respond to it. And it often requires a lot of follow up.  But, without it, I am unproductive at best.

I long for the day when life will be simpler and I won’t be so dependent on technology.  But for now, it serves a critical purpose and so I am trying to accommodate for it. Things are starting to get a little easier though.  There are now ways to leverage my desktop via my work’s communication solution so that I can check someone’s availability without having to tap into my email system.  It’s an instantaneous view of someone’s status called ‘presence’. And the best thing about it is that I not only see the status of the people  I work with that are on the same network, but can view the status of colleagues and vendors that are external to my organization.  It’s great!

So now, instead of picking up the phone and having to leave voicemail, or sending an email and not knowing when I’ll get a response, I simply watch their status on my screen and wait until they are available to take action.  Seems like a no-brainer to me to use this technology – it’s such a time saver. Time I so badly need to follow up on emails!

Read about how presence and the other great time-saving benefits of Avaya IP Office helped one small business by visiting a Day in the Life: Small Business at http://bit.ly/kyaIlu.