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9/27/2007
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Sean Ginevan
Sean Ginevan
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IT Survival Guide: Voice Over IP Makes Convergence Possible

Want efficient and effective business processes? VoIP is the base on which advanced communications systems like UC and FMC are built.

Voice Over IP isn't the future, it's here: 47% of companies have IP PBX deployments under way, and an additional 29% are evaluating or testing the technology, according to Forrester Research.

What's the draw? VoIP started as a way to cut telecommunications costs. But while avoiding toll charges is still a factor, along with simplified adds, moves, and changes, it takes a long time to pay for a new IP PBX based on those savings alone. Rather, vendors are now positioning VoIP as a vital cog for unified communications and fixed-mobile convergence. If you haven't put an IP PBX in place, you'll miss out on productivity enhancements that could provide a competitive edge.

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Unified communications is all about merging collaboration tools, like calendaring, e-mail, and instant messaging, with voice. For example, e-mail can be read to users from the voice-mail system, and voice mail can be accessed via e-mail. A user's presence status can be viewed before a call is placed. By meshing a variety of communications mediums, employees can be reached through the most appropriate method.

The Opportunity
>> COST CUTTING
Reduced costs for toll calls help offset the investment in an IP PBX and phones. If your outdated PBX is nearing its end of life, VoIP is the way to go to take advantage of emerging technologies.
>> INNOVATION
Unified communications lets users access voice, e-mail, calendaring, and IM from a variety of devices--a better way of working for employees. Fixed-mobile convergence ties mobile users into that environment and eliminates artificial technical boundaries in the process.
>> KEYS TO SUCCESS
Get buy-in and support from beyond the enterprise voice team. Network operations, applications, voice, and business units must work together.
Microsoft is entering unified communications with Office Communications 2007, slated to launch this year, and through its partnership with Nortel. Meanwhile, Avaya and Cisco Systems, the leaders in the space, are working with enterprise application companies such as Salesforce.com and SAP to integrate voice communications technologies into business processes.

Fixed-mobile convergence is poised to extend the advantages of unified communications to mobile workers. With FMC, users can be reached via their IP PBX extensions on their VoIP phones and their mobile devices. Users can place calls through the PBX over a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. By placing calls through the PBX, IT gets better auditing control and cost savings. Some FMC products even let users access unified communications features like IM and presence from mobile devices.

PERILS AND PITFALLS
You'll need wide buy-in because VoIP uses the enterprise data infrastructure and requires quality of service from the edge to the core. Unified communications relies on the corporate messaging environment, for instance, Microsoft Exchange. Wrapping UC into business apps like CRM and ERP doesn't just mean working with developers. The goal is to truly integrate communications into business processes, not just apps, so the appropriate management teams will need to ensure that the technology properly meshes.

Involvement from these teams won't end with deployment, either. The variety of integration points mean lines of communication must stay open to quickly diagnose and resolve issues as they occur.

An important point: Be cognizant of E-911 for nomadic workers to ensure that as they change locations they're routed to the right emergency services departments.

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