This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Lucian Calugaru of Claro Enterprise Solutions
The purpose of the call is to propose a major new product initiative. You’ve prepared for weeks. You and your team dial in. Your CEO joins the bridge. Just as you launch into your pitch, the boss interrupts. “You’re breaking up….”
That nightmare scenario -- losing voice connectivity at the most critical moment -- is a major reason businesses are reluctant to migrate to VoIP solutions. Cost and flexibility benefits notwithstanding, the reality is that basic VoIP service can be spotty. Traditionally, adding backup functionality to VoIP to ensure higher quality and reliability has been a complex and costly undertaking – diluting the benefit of migrating to VoIP in the first place.
This is changing. Today’s VoIP solutions offer an increasingly wider range of options around robust functionality, redundancy and pricing, allowing businesses to provide an optimal combination of quality, low cost and flexibility. In other words, you can enjoy the benefits of VoIP – without losing sleep the night before that big call with the CEO.
The benefits of VoIP in terms of lower costs and reduced complexity can’t be denied. Over a five-year period, a business can cut voice costs by 60 percent by replacing a traditional telephony system with a VoIP solution. A business with as few as ten employees can reduce costs by 20K over the five-year span – while a global enterprise with thousands of users can save millions.
VoIP also replaces complex legacy Time-Division Multiplexing (TDM) environments characterized by PBX, SS7 telephony trunks (POTS lines) and digital ISDN. While reliable, these services require extensive maintenance, MACDs, troubleshooting and on-site technicians. In addition, billing is user-based and inflexible, and doesn’t reflect fluctuations in usage.
Despite these benefits, many businesses remain reluctant to make the switch. One constraint is resistance to change and concerns about disruption following the installation of new equipment and use of new technology. More importantly, businesses are skittish about entrusting critical business communications to VoIP because of the possibility of dropped calls and compromised voice quality, typically resulting from high volumes of Internet data traffic.
Efforts to enhance VoIP quality and reliability have traditionally focused on the deployment of voice compression algorithms such as the G.729 codec. While “freeing” up bandwidth and potentially reducing costs, this approach can be counterproductive, as compression can actually have a negative impact on voice quality by creating distortion and producing a metallic sound.
New Tools, Smarter Approaches
Today, businesses are taking a more sophisticated approach and deploying a wide range of solutions and technologies to enhance voice and video streams. Redundant paths for failover can provide multi-tenant coverage on transport layers to address problems like jitter and lost video and audio connections on web conferences. Routers, moreover, can be configured to optimize network traffic and enhance Quality of Service (QoS). These tools allow businesses to address the complex relationship between bandwidth, quality and cost, and to configure network components to determine the appropriate compression algorithm to use in a given scenario to optimize voice quality.
That said, the real key to a VoIP solution lies in the ability to configure tools to align to business needs. Similarly, effective bundling of technology components involves assessing a variety of criteria, including number and distribution of locations and users, geo-redundancy, solution architecture (hosted vs cloud vs customer premise), existing LAN/WAN infrastructure and migration path. Scalability and flexibility needs are also critical considerations. Businesses must assess factors such as expansion plans and fluctuations in bandwidth requirements. Defining the appropriate mix involves industry-specific business insight as well as technical knowledge. The expertise required is comparable to that of a master chef who assembles a gourmet meal from a set of ingredients – the “recipes” may vary, but the meal is tailored to appeal to particular tastes.
Beyond aligning with immediate needs, a VoIP solution can support a longer-term digital transformation strategy. Specifically, Unified Communications and Collaboration platforms can support mobile apps, AI-powered virtual assistants, chatbots and visual interactive voice recognition systems. These capabilities are essential for enterprises seeking to optimize operations, drive digital transformation and deliver a more engaging customer experience.
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