A Publication of WTVP

Since 2005, more businesses have implemented IP-based phones compared to traditional digital phone systems, and research and development for legacy systems has effectively halted. Though most are aware of the changing telephony industry landscape, it is important to realize that the rate of change toward IP-based phone systems is continually accelerating.

What is Voice over IP (VoIP) and IP Telephony (IPT)? Though the terms are used interchangeably, historically, VoIP represented transmission of a phone call over private lines or the Internet. IPT extends the traditional concept of VoIP by also transmitting a phone call over a local data network, directly to and from a handset.

For some organizations, the hesitation to switch to VoIP/IPT technology is based on five persistent myths:

  1. This solution doesn’t make sense for a single-location business with a minimal long distance phone bill. Single-location businesses do realize benefits and costs savings due to shared data and voice infrastructure equipment and self-sufficient line moves, adds and changes. Whether big or small, optional features and functions can be incorporated as needed or desired over the life of the system. Relative to the overall benefits, long distance or toll charges represent only one of many variables evaluated, and in some cases are immaterial, in justifying an IP phone system.
  2. Implementation costs are too high and systems include unnecessary features. Competition has generated a broad range of system platforms. Before moving forward, a business must evaluate all relevant options to help ensure that the solution considered is the best fit. Paying a material amount for unnecessary features can often be avoided by identifying a best-fit system that also supports pay-as-you-go features and functionality. Implementation costs are often higher than expected if recent network infrastructure investments did not take an IP-based phone system into consideration.
  3. Support and maintenance are more expensive. Traditional phone system infrastructures (cabling and equipment) are separate from the computer network, requiring distinct maintenance and support. With VoIP/IPT, technology is shared, which reduces costs associated with support and maintenance.
  4. Unreliability. From a business continuity perspective, the distributed architecture inherent to IP phone systems contributes to higher availability and rapid recovery. Most other reliability concerns are well addressed by applying relevant best practices. Examples include prioritizing voice traffic over data using Quality of Service (QoS), segregating voice and data with Virtual LANs (VLANs), protecting critical voice-dependent equipment with UPS devices, and so on.
  5. Vulnerability to hackers and virus outbreaks. Phone-related security concerns are never things to dismiss, even if you have a legacy system. In fact, VoIP/IPT solutions provide a higher level of security over traditional systems as the voice calls go through a process of alteration as they cross the network. This alteration makes it difficult for a security breach of communications.

With the marketing around many of the residential VoIP options, including Skype and Vonage, there has been some confusion about VoIP/IPT technology for the business. As the two solutions are designed with different goals in mind, they should not be compared. A business-grade VoIP/IPT solution is a highly reliable and functional system that provides for cost savings among other benefits.

When selecting a phone system that you expect to serve your needs for 10, 15 or more years, planning and preparation should begin 12 to 24 months in advance to ensure a “best fit” selection. Engaging a reputable third party to perform a telecommunications assessment can be invaluable. Knowing an IP phone system implementation may occur helps to ensure that network infrastructure investments do not result in needless costs. iBi

Dean Lemons, managing director of RSM McGladrey, can be reached at [email protected]. Ron Beck, telecommunications practice leader for RSM McGladrey, can be reached at [email protected].