Plug and play VoIP won't cut it

IP telephony deals must be candid

This week Computerworld reported on the failings of VoIP implementations, which prompted St George Bank chief manager of IT network services Paul Bristow, to outline additional environmental, technical, and cultural issues which should be addressed for business to squeeze the most out of IP telephony.

According to Bristow, VoIP vendors must speak candidly about the technological and cultural issues of an IP telephony roll-out, as over simplified plug-and-play selling points are being retired.

He said VoIP often falls short of hype because vendors are mum on the full risks and requirements of deploying such systems, particularly in enterprise environments.

The data blokes don't want [voice] applications telling 'their' routers how to route traffic, and the voice blokes can't understand why convergence takes so long when a link goes down,"

Paul Bristow - St George Bank chief manager of IT network services

"The biggest issues with VoIP vendors is they rarely tell you the extent of detailed attention that needs to be applied to equipment to make IP telephony work in a corporate market," Bristow said.

"I don't believe there is any business case that would support IP telephony, [with the exception] that the evolution of networks is leading to convergence.

"While we will see benefits and [we] want to get ahead of the game, [the benefits] are some way off."

Bristow said business should employ multiple tools to monitor network performance, which involves predicting and routing traffic around problem spots that could jeopardize VoIP traffic, and reporting the cost of bandwidth consumption by individual applications to business units.

Bristow, who's team is currently working on an IP telephony project, said single monitoring tools are often inadequate for the job.

Effective traffic shaping can be ensured by adding more servers to the network, while network segmentation can be solved by installing a firewall to restrict internal traffic.

Distributed power and cooling must be installed in all closets, and controlled by centralized management.

Bristow said the reliance on network data continuity for voice quality can put data and voice network administrators at each others' throats.

"The data blokes don't want [voice] applications telling 'their' routers how and when to route [voice] traffic, and the voice blokes can't understand why convergence takes so long when a link goes down," he said, noting that staff training will help erode the conflict between the two factions.

Training also makes users aware of the uses of VoIP including remote office or Web interfaces which can set any line as the office, according to Verizon Business regional manager for advanced voice solutions Sean Barkley.

He said staff training is critical and was one reason why IP deployments failed to meet ROI projections.

The other problem is a lack of network auditing.

"Extensive network audits must be conducted prior to implementing IP telephony to minimize security risks and to maintain quality of service," Barkley said.

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