There are two sides to every story, so amidst speculation in November's Insider that IP telephony is a time bomb waiting to go off, Total looks at the positive impact its emergence will have.
Furthermore, whilst hosted solutions may be popular in the current economic climate, let's take a closer look at the real costs and implications.
IP telephony is a communications breakthrough. Though some may consider it not all together welcome, doesn't every piece of technology evolve? Isn't this natural emergence and not technology for technology's sake? All systems have a useful life span before newer technology emerges, rendering older systems obsolete. However, steps can be taken to future proof your investment and many systems are now designed with this in mind.
An IP phone is still a phone, all that changes is the way calls transit over the network and whilst the delivery is different and doesn't have it's own network, this needn't involve risks; just the right telecoms partner to offer the best solution to fit your requirements and a thorough network health check. Key attention areas are LAN switches which need Power Over Ethernet (PoE) and Quality of Service (QoS) to prioritise the voice data packets over the network. These steps ensure the quality of voice and negate phone calls fighting for space against email, web browsing etc. From the outset you can dictate what takes priority.
A major benefit of IP systems is lower maintenance and ownership costs, which are significantly reduced due to the flexibility in remote access, enabling the maintainer or IT department to run diagnostics from anywhere. Ongoing ownership costs are much lower due to ‘plug & play'. For example, the need to call out an engineer to move an extension is removed as most IP phones carry an internal VPN client, self-registering and activating anywhere on your LAN or WAN. As for costly software upgrades, due to the way the new systems are built, these are in many cases a thing of the past. Avaya do not charge for any new release versions of their core software, meaning you stay up to date with the latest functionality at no extra cost. Installation of an IP system is now simpler than ever and the tools needed to build the configuration are Windows based and graphical. The key to installation is in the planning stages, so all parties know when and where things are happening. The system is generally built off site, meaning the cutover in many cases is as little as ten minutes and install day/s can be spent training users on the phones and applications.
There is an alternative, namely the Hosted IP PBX, whereby effectively hardware ownership is relinquished and payment for each extension is made on a monthly basis. These models indeed carry benefits, primarily low capital expenditure, a capped cost model and full scalability. But the commercial aspect (cost of ownership) is not necessarily quite as you would imagine. An average per seat price is around £40 per month; equated to a 100 extension telephone system, means a yearly cost of ownership of £48,000 - and this is ongoing. Conversely, a top manufacturer's 100 extension IP enabled switch would cost around £43,000 plus a yearly maintenance figure of £4000 (including FOC software upgrades). When you also bear in mind an IP PBX also includes additional applications, which are often optional extras with the hosted model, it's easy to see which is the more appealing commercial decision in this case.
Another consideration is hosted companies are often startup businesses in a new technical market, so it's imperative you choose an established provider. With limited commercial longevity and security, what will happen if it goes wrong? If trading ceases, your communications could be seriously affected, you may be unable to switch providers immediately and face the possibility of being weeks without your telecoms infrastructure. Conversely, if a network goes down it is simple to switch supplier virtually instantaneously thus avoiding these issues.
In conclusion, it appears the IP telephony debate is not so clear cut, with all the positives and negatives to acknowledge. Most important of all, it must be recognised that everyone's needs are different, one solution does not surpass another and instead, must be judged on the merits of what is best for an individual business.
by Glyn Evans, systems sales manager, Total Ltd
Published with permission from Legal Technology Insider