• United States

Q&A with VoIP expert Robin Gareiss

Aug 25, 20044 mins

* Robin Gareiss, Nemertes chief research officer, on VoIP considerations and pitfalls

In the run-up to our VoIP Technology Tour in September, we used last week’s newsletter to talk about the knotty issue of regulation in VoIP. Today, we’re going to home in on the other issues surrounding VoIP: deployment, security and management. And who better to get the ball rolling on the discussion both here and at the event than the seminar’s moderator, Robin Gareiss.

Gareiss is chief research officer at Nemertes Research, and I sat down with her last week to quiz her about issues that are top of mind for IT executives evaluating VoIP technologies. Here is a write-up of our Q&A.

Q: How can organizations identify whether they are suitable candidates for VoIP?

Virtually every company that we’ve interviewed for our most recent benchmark is assessing, implementing or using VoIP. That said, not everyone actually decides to use the technology. There are a few key events and situations that clearly dictate an assessment of VoIP:

* Moving to a new building.

* Replacing an aged PBX.

* Enabling remote workers or “virtual offices.”

* Reducing costs for contact centers.

* Spending money to have a vendor/outside firm handle moves, adds and changes.

* Requiring collaborative tools.

* High volume of video- or audio- conferencing calls.

* High volume of international traffic.

What should you ask your potential VoIP vendor?

Many, many things. But some key questions and demands include:

* Provide me with some reference clients. (Talk to these clients about all of the vendors to learn about which they chose and didn’t choose – and why!)

* Do you provide direct customer support and technical troubleshooting, or do I need to go through a channel partner? If the latter, how do I know they’re properly trained?

* What are your future plans, in terms of applications, partnerships and management tools?

* Do you conduct a baseline network assessment, and how much does it cost?

* What kind of training do you offer?

What are the hidden pitfalls in a VoIP rollout?

A few things: First, companies often don’t conduct a complete ROI analysis, so the savings they thought they’d have doesn’t pan out.

Second, companies often don’t conduct baseline network assessments to determine if the existing bandwidth and networking gear can handle voice/video traffic. They wind up spending an enormous amount of time and money troubleshooting, and often they must upgrade their networks.

Third, companies don’t implement the right management and network-optimization tools. Converged networks are simpler from a basic Layer 1 perspective. But they’re more complex as you move up the stack. So it’s imperative to consider network-optimization tools that help manage the bandwidth and prioritize traffic.

Finally, they don’t consider personnel, both within IT and the end-user population. Within IT, companies often don’t involve both the voice and data experts. They need both to make the project successful. And, organizations often don’t budget for end-user training and assessment. This will change the way they work, so don’t underestimate the resistance. Identify what people are afraid of losing and address those concerns head-on.

What are the issues with VoIP management?

The biggest problem with VoIP management is that companies don’t budget for this up front. IT staffs think that their existing management tools, coupled with the tools vendors provide with the IP PBXs, will be enough to effectively run their newly converged networks. Usually, this isn’t the case. About 6 to 12 months into the implementation, they realize they need more tools – and that means finding the budget for them. The best bet is to budget about 10% of the total equipment cost for management tools. For small and midsize companies, entry-level, third-party management tools run about $50,000; larger companies should budget $100,000 or more.

What are the major considerations surrounding VoIP security?

The main challenge today is simply awareness! Many companies don’t assess VoIP security requirements. One of the most important design considerations is to segment voice traffic into its own virtual LAN, both for reasons of security and performance.


Network World Technology Tour: VoIP

Sept. 14-29, at a city near you

For corporate executives, VoIP raises expectations and fears that impact every corner of the enterprise. Data. Budgets. Users. Technology.Convergence. And so in support of IT executives who must meet every challenge, Network World presents a crucial new Technology Tour event.

Claim one of the limited number of complimentary seats at this high-demand event and you’ll learn how to plan, configure, troubleshoot, and leverage your VoIP infrastructure in ways that please CEOs, CTOs, CFOs and everyone who reports to them.

For more information and to register: