Friday, June 20, 2008

VoIP or not to VoIP, is that the question?


When we first conceived of Interoute One and its integration with Microsoft Office the vision was of the compelling combination of the world’s largest online business end point community (Outlook) and Europe’s largest SIP delivery platform (200 of the worlds biggest carriers connected). In simple terms, unlike many attempts previously, here was an opportunity to turn the world of corporate communications on its head. Corporate communications that eliminated all the middle men, CAPEX and bewilderingly complex (expensive) decisions about the direction they should take.

No sooner had we had the thought then the incumbent operators and equipment vendors went into overdrive on their messaging dismissing VOIP saying it’s really the same as standard Voice; productivity and OPEX gains yes, but at a fairly hefty price. Customers are told its a choice between either reliable black phones, phone numbers, auto attendant and voicemail or a version of Skype with cheap plastic headsets hanging out of PCs, nightmare!

The problem with corporate VOIP stems from its presentation, it’s always presented as a choice and a fairly risky one. This is flat wrong. The vendors say it’s a choice, because that's how they make money, selling kit. The more pragmatic will testify that its far less dramatic, in fact the first steps are positively banal in their investment but they hit the cost base instantly achieving goal one, cheap phone calls.

What am I talking about? The objective of many with VOIP is to lower the cost of calls and increase productivity in one hit. The problem is no single vendor has the solution to all of this in anything like a sensible form. To the traditional world of corporate communication, that has revolved around the PBX and minutes termination, this cross vendor quasi DIY approach is particularly unpalatable.

Interoute One introduces a simple and effective solution to this dilemma. Interoute presents an approach to VOIP migration which involves minimal disruption and additional cost overhead. This allows you to discover what works with your organisation without the risk. Unfortunately for technologists we have to work with people and you will be surprised how they react to new forms of communication.

The approach is simple in its execution. First get all your interoffice termination zero rated by connecting your communication end points (phones, pbx’s etc) to Interoute one. We don't insist on direct connectivity, we also don't insist on it being IP (as we do the conversion for you) so what ever makes geographic, cost and resource sense is fine. If it’s a PBX, your connectivity is no more than adding a trunk group to you PBX and everyday activity. If it’s your Microsoft office communicator server you can sign up online in the time it takes to drink your coffee. Or if it’s an Avaya, Nortel or Cisco IP telephony platform then a simple SIP trunk, none of this nonsense about buying an MPLS network to make it work. Any combination of the above is also just a series of connections some simpler than others.

What happens next is up to you. The absolutely brilliant thing about Microsoft communicator is you’re signing up a domain at a time, instead of a PBX trunk at a time. 100,000s of people getting free calls, presence, free roaming and secure calls to the largest federated community in the world the PSTN. Fast simple and cheap. Following this method you keep what you have always had, get cheap phone calls, simple routing, cost flexibility and get to try the whole mixed media communications offering for free. You will be surprised by the results, I was. We have 60% of all our calls via soft phone (OC), why? It’s the address book. People are brilliantly lazy they use the simplest and easiest solution, that’s why the mobile is so popular. The integration of communicator with active directory means, its up to date, centrally controlled and always the same no matter where you are.

The alternative to doing it this way? Plug your office communicator server into your PBX. Before you say so what's wrong with that, try it. If you think a PBX at a time is faster than an entire active directory sign up you are a genius as you've just harnessed quantum transport, so skip telecoms pick up your noble prize and live off the lecture earnings. Don't be shy Microsoft get off the fence and own up to the reality that corporate communications isn't all about keeping the PBX happy. Oh did I mention Mobile........?

Matthew Finnie, CTO, Interoute


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