Thus: Don't run into convergence

Firms who are seduced by the delights of a converged network could struggle if they don't ensure that vital applications keep running

IT managers who are too eager to jump on the convergence bandwagon could end up costing their company dear unless they prioritise applications and implement a planning strategy, according to network operator Thus.

Jordan Gross, product manager at Thus, said on Friday that convergence will take off but warned that businesses could get caught up in the hype surrounding converged networks and fail to roll out new networks properly.

Network convergence should involve the entire company, Gross said. Previously it was just the responsibility of the IT department to make technology-related decisions but now the convergence of networks should form part of the core business strategy.

"There needs to be a planning phase, as convergence is a business-wide project so you have to make a careful assessment," Gross told ZDNet UK.

For example, a database used by both external suppliers and internal employees would be crucial to the business, so its performance should be prioritised on a converged IP network, as should VoIP traffic. Other data, such as Internet browsing, could be given lower priority.

A report published this week by the Economist Intelligence Unit for AT&T on convergence, Competing through Convergence,  found that 60 percent of companies expect to have a converged network, such as one that carries both voice and data traffic, by 2008.

Some 45 percent of those surveyed also said that convergence is "important" or "critical" to achieving their strategic IT and business objectives.

Along with potential cost savings, convergence provides a number of benefits such as the better use and exploitation of applications, for example video conferencing, as well as greater mobility for employees who can easily work from home or offsite by simply plugging in and picking up calls using just one number.

However, to optimise the potential of a converged network, companies should take a number of steps to ensure that a converged network is right for their needs.

Those with multiple sites will reap the most benefit from converging networks rather than businesses with just one site, according to Gross. "Some companies will actually lose money by converging networks and most won't see a return on investment until year two or three," he added.