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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Implementing VoIP
So you've done the analysis and decided that VoIP is the way forward. Where to start? What do you need?

Unfortunately there's no simple answer to this. VoIP solutions come in many shades and flavours. There are fully hosted solutions, partially hosted solutions, locally hosted solutions, true VoIP, partial VoIP, IP-capable PBX units, softPBX devices, VoIP servers, messaging gateways and the list just goes on and on. The best solution for one business is unlikely to suit the business next door. So, the best first step is to seek advice from industry experts -- VoIP solution providers and system integrators.

If you have a small business and your voice requirements are minimal, investigate what your ISP has to offer. Many ISPs are offering broadband-based VoIP solutions, and they're generally pretty good. See what features you'll receive, how the call costs compare to your current plan and whether you'd make savings over time. This way, you don't have to worry about implementing a local solution -- someone else takes care of everything.

For medium businesses and larger, the options are simply too varied to list comprehensively in one spot. Each vendor will offer you a different package, different solutions, different hardware, different software products, different features, hosting options and support agreements. As much as it sounds like a cop-out (and it feels like one too), there are simply too many companies, vendors and products to list them comprehensively in one place.

The best course of action is to approach a small number of VoIP integrators to get an overview from each one as to what is likely to be suitable for your business, and compare them. If they're any good, the proposals should be fairly close to each other, which makes it easy to discard any obviously inflated quotes. Start with your current voice carrier -- all major telcos in Australia now offer VoIP solutions for business.

However, you can start getting to grips with VoIP in the office by setting up a test environment and involving a few key users to test messaging functionality, service integration and hardware. You can easily set up a software-based PBX server for free, get hold of some handsets and softphone applications and start assessing their value. To assist you, we've included tables of VoIP handsets and server products, as well as a list of VoIP systems integrators to get you started. This list covers the majority of players in the VoIP market, and should help to give you a comparison of the various products out there.

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

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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