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Enterprise IP telephony's "baby steps" problem

We hear a lot about companies making "wholesale" switches from traditional telephony to VoIP.We hear less about companies that are getting there by a series of baby steps.

We hear a lot about companies making "wholesale" switches from traditional telephony to VoIP.

We hear less about companies that are getting there by a series of baby steps. But my sense is that in the enterprise space,there are far more baby-steppers than mass adopters.

In some cases, these baby steps are trials that are generated as a result of a senior IT's pet project, or a simple desire of managment to test the waters. In other cases, it appears these baby steps are because there's a lot of legacy telephony equipment being used- equipment that has yet to age to that point in the natural replacement cycle when the risk of obsolescence trumps the pain of cap ex.

Allstate Insurance, the folks that would like you to be held in their good hands, appears to be one of the latter.

To their credit, they have used VoIP to build two on-the-fly claims centers in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

According to Computerworld magazine, these centers are a 206-phone operation in Baton Rouge, La., and a 300-phone facility in Mobile, Ala.

From the remarks of Allstate senior manager of network and voice solutions Brandi Landreth, it seems that these projects are being driven by mobility needs.

"We deploy VoIP where it makes sense, as in some areas where we need mobility because of a hurricane or other catastrophe," Landreth told reporter Matt Hamblen.

Hamblen adds that Landreth also told him VoIP also allows Allstate to quickly switch calls from an affected region to call centre agents working hundreds of miles away. With Katrina and Rita, Allstate enlisted more than 100 claims adjusters from throughout the US, all of whom used softphones based on IP, she said.

At the same time, though, it appears that Allstate is looking at VoIP for strategic situations, not for mass adoption.

"We have been conservative and strategic" with VoIP deployments, Landreth said. "We're not forklifting our infrastructure just to say we're on IP. And we've looked at targeted deployments of IP or areas where there is a cost savings because [it resulted in] reduced equipment."