Business guide to implementing VoIP

Business guide to implementing VoIP

Summary: How can you tell if your business is ready for Voice over IP? Also, who are the leading IP handset providers and systems integrators in Australia?

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Networking and VoIP
The IP in VoIP stands for Internet Protocol, and it's the same IP as in TCP/IP, which has been the standard networking protocol for quite a few years. It's what most networks run on these days, from a small office environment to the Internet itself. Within IP are two more protocols -- UDP and TCP -- each performing separate functions.

TCP, or Transmission Control Protocol, has a number of inbuilt features like handshaking and error correction. It's the favoured carrier when reliability of communication is more important than pure volume.

TCP packets carry information about where they've come from and where they're going, and require that the remote receiver acknowledge each packet to ensure continued reliability, and carry self-protective information in case things go wrong. This reliability comes at the cost of size and efficiency -- TCP packets are larger than their UDP counterparts, which results in additional networking overhead. UDP, or User Datagram Protocol, has none of the error correction or self-checking of TCP, so is inherently less reliable. However, it has the advantage of being light-weight and speedy -- perfect for situations where volume of traffic and throughput is more important.

Most network communication makes use of either TCP or UDP, but VoIP makes use of both. The reliability and handshaking of TCP is used to establish a proper connection with the receiver, and then the voice component is broken down and transmitted over quick UDP packets to ensure smooth communication. TCP monitors the call, correcting for errors, and then handles the hang-up.

A key feature of networking and one of the reasons for its efficiency is that each end point on a network knows very little about all the other points -- the computer in my office neither knows nor cares about the existence of another computer two offices away. But -- and here's the cool thing -- it knows how to find out. To talk on an IP-based network, all devices need three things (apart from a connection to the network):

1. An IP address, which is unique for at least as long as the device is connected
2. A subnet mask, to understand where its own address lies in the grand scheme of things
3. A default gateway, when attempting to connect to addresses not located in the local subnet

And that's basically it. Of course, for really seamless communication you need a few more things, like the address of a DNS server to resolve those odd IP addresses into understandable names (like www.google.com.au), but other than that, you can do quite a lot with just those three prerequisites.

The backend infrastructure of an IP network continues the concept in very much the same vein -- each point knows enough to forward traffic to the next logical point along the line, but no one device carries a working knowledge of the entire network. Additionally, all devices are adaptive learners. Network switches and routers carry dynamic information of the other devices directly connected to it -- change something and they will adjust that knowledge accordingly.

The wonderful advantage of this is that if a device fails, it's relatively easy to bypass it -- point the servers to another gateway and have them disseminate the information to the client machines, plug cables into another switch, rig up a temporary wireless connection, hang a cable from the ceiling -- anything. It all works.

And this is where the appeal of VoIP starts to take hold. A network is a dynamic, flexible environment, where communication and cross-communication is possible regardless of where you're plugged in. Upgrades are easy and are often done entirely in software -- no new hardware required, and telephony capabilities are much more dependent on the individual handsets. By comparison a telephone/switch voice network is static, inflexible and relies almost totally on the switching hardware for capability and capacity. If you want a new phone, you have to run a line straight back to the switch.

Topics: Telcos, Cisco, Hardware, Networking, Outsourcing, Unified Comms, AAPT, Optus, Telstra

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6 comments
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  • VoiP

    We just installed an Avaya IP Office SOE system. We have two digital extensions in our office, and two IP extensions. (one at home and the other in the office)

    The home IP extension talks to the Avaya unit at the office via a VPN provided by two Cisco PIX 501's on regular residential ADSL connections. (ADSL2 at one at the other)

    Even when downloading files at each end the phone conversation is unaffected.

    I can now work from home in a way thats completly transparent to our clients.

    We did hit a stumbling block along the way however, We purchased two NetGear FVS338 Firewall/vpn units however they do not support H.323 properly (even thou the cheaper 318 model has had firmware updates to correct bugs in this area the FVS338 has not)
    The NetGear vpns also have other known issues that were not in the marketing material, such as issues with simple things like creating a Remote Desktop session! They advised us it would be fixed in an upcomming firmware update -- What a joke!

    So after wasting our money on NetGear we purchased the Cisco PIX 501's and although they were more complicated to setup they provide a faultless VPN environment for our VoIP setup (so far).

    We also spend the extra on Voice Mail Pro - which provides us with rich customer interaction when the call is answered. For example we have two options (1 for sales, 2 for support) - the call is automatically routed to the next suitible and available exension number.

    Overall the initial cost was high, we have lifted the professionalism of our business as well as provided a foundation for future expansion. (adding handsets or IP extensions is easily achieved using simple management software and can be done fully in house)

    I would reccommend the Avaya system to any small business with either multiple small offices or office and home based situations.
    Thanks also goes out to Planet Communications (Castle Hill) for their help in setting this up and trouble shooting out VPN!
    anonymous
  • voip guide

    I have gone through the above article and it is interesting and I appreciate to the author and I to have a link related to refer with more information. and I feel it will be helpful to you.
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    anonymous
  • From the trenches...

    I work on a level 2 help desk in one of the nets more pervasive VoIP companies and these are the most common problems:

    How do I configure it?
    With a GUI everyone expects to be able to run the system themselves. They often can't. With a traditional PBX everyone knew they didn't know what to do and just paid an expert. See Asterisk for an example of how to scare off newbies.

    The quality isn't what I'm used to.
    As mentioned previously the standard from PSTN is high. Inphonex is the worst offender recently but all the major VoIP providers take turns at making my life hell by making subtle changes to their systems which disrupt lots of client programs.

    Find a real expert.
    Most of my day is wasted answering emails from experts who take your money to implement systems they know nothing about. Quiz your expert before they've had a chance to do any research.

    Set out EXACTLY how you want your calls to be handled before you go shopping. Figuring out your needs afterwards is just as costly with VoIP as it is for any other system or technology.
    That's my two cents. Best of luck.
    anonymous
  • I need a help too ..

    I would like to see how you configurate your PIX 501 for the VPN and VoIp .. I'm triying to do it with no success ..

    Please Help !
    anonymous
  • VoIP Myths and success's

    Great story and some great points.
    We have found that the setup is everything. Many ISP's and VoIP companies just dont give all the information to make the VoIP experience a success.
    We have been implimenting AVAYA platforms across the country and now around the world. There is a recipe for success and after going through the pitfalls of dealing with various ISP's VoIP works and woks well. By dealing with a Manufacturer that has been dpoing it for many years and a integrator that also is not testing the technology with you will enable a successful implimentation. There are great examples of great VoIP rollouts from AVAYA and Sholl Communications QLD is a market leader in making them work.
    VoiP suppliers such as Engin, Soul, One network, and others have been tested and SIP trunking from Carriers is the next frontier of delivering quality trunks to the business. PSTN and ISDN definately have a SIP relative that WILL impact on their connections by being quick easy and Very cost effective to implement and also number portability will make business case for VoIP completely praticle and real to the users.
    anonymous
  • Did you consider a Hosted option?

    I'm still surprised whenever anyone says were gonna host our own VoIP PBX. It just seems like a lot of headaches to me hey....

    You should try a hosted service like VONEX - http://www.vonex.com.au

    Whenever we get a new employee I just order a new handset off their website, plug it in and go... Easy peazy!

    The Avayas are good quality system though. How are you finding the quality 3 years on?
    anonymous