Introduction to VoIP Technologies
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) generates a tremendous amount of excitement these days. The cost savings associated with VoIP are potentially tremendous, regardless of whether you lease service from a provider or implement your own services. Imagine how much your boss would appreciate you, if you could demonstrate how to completely eliminate monthly long distance charges between your company’s two sites that are in different states; how grateful he would be if you could eliminate all the charges he has to pay for internal conference calls through whatever service he now uses; or how much you will be worth to him, if you can eliminate all the costs associated with your company’s current voice mail system.
All of these things are possible with VoIP technologies. In fact there are even many new features you can add that weren’t available with older phone technologies. Examples include: Being able to forward voicemail messages to your e-mail account and having your voice mail server read your emails to you over the phone.
There are several major concerns that come up when you begin discussing VoIP technologies:
· What does a converged network look like?
· Is your network fast enough to support converged networking?
· Do your current network devices support quality of service (QOS) and class of service (COS)?
· Do you have the facilities to provide services to your home-based employees?
· How do you secure your voice network?
I’ll address all these concerns in the next few sections of this article.
What Does a Converged Network Look Like?
This drawing shows many of the components of a VoIP network. You can see that PCs, PDAs, and file servers are sharing the network with a telephony server, VoIP soft phones and hard phones, and a fax machine connected to the network via an analog telephone adapter. The PCs, PDAs, and laptop can all make calls to any VoIP phone on the network or can place calls to regular telephones through either the telephony server or the long distance provider’s telephone switch.
Is Your Network Fast Enough to Support Converged Networking?
Converged networking defines a network that has sufficient resources to pass data and voice traffic simultaneously. This is one of the cost savers in VoIP technologies because you don’t have to maintain and install two separate wiring infrastructures within your building. To determine if it is fast enough, ping multiple times between network devices. If your round trip time is never greater than 200ms, your network is plenty fast enough to handle VoIP and data traffic simultaneously. Make sure you ping devices both on your local LAN and your WAN while doing your testing. If your ping times are slow, don’t worry, I will discuss network design more in a later article and I’ll give you all the tips and tricks to get you going in that article.
Do Your Current Network Devices Support QOS and COS?
It’s not possible to cover in detail every network device that would need to support QOS and COS. It is best that you check with the vendor from whom you purchased these products. Any devices that do not support QOS and COS should be replaced.
This rule only applies to those devices that are at the core of the network: Ethernet switches, routers, firewalls, and proxies. It is not a good idea to try to support more than about 10 wireless devices on a single access point because there are currently no WAPs that support QOS and COS. No other devices in the network are required to support QOS and COS. In a lot of cases, QOS and COS aren’t needed, especially in smaller offices, if the network is designed well, ping times are low, and you don’t have any users who are continuously downloading or moving very large files.
Do You Have Facilities to Support Your Home Based Employees?
If your business has home based employees, you likely have to pay for your employees’ internet access and a phone line. This is a cost of doing business, but with a VoIP system it is possible to support home based employees with a well designed and thoroughly tested VoIP system. If you have a reliable internet connection at your main site with sufficient bandwidth and your employee’s broadband internet provider is giving decent service, you can eliminate the cost of the phone line and just provide your employee VoIP service over the broadband connection.
If you are set up correctly, you can even assign your employees phone numbers from cities where you don’t even have facilities at all. I’ll give you more details on this in a later article.
Of course, all of this same information applies to family members that do not live in your house.
How Do You Secure Your VoIP Network?
With all the problems that come up about how to secure your data network, how do you ensure your voice network is also secure? The short answer is using the same methods you have always used to secure your network. Voice is no more or less vulnerable than any other network service. I will have a complete article later in this series that covers VoIP security concerns.
VoIP is a method of delivering phone service that allows significant cost savings versus traditional methods. It will more than likely be able to be added to your existing network without additional infrastructure cost, with the exception of a few minor software upgrades on some of your equipment. Once your VoIP network is installed you will be able to offer additional services to your users and might even be able to offer services to remote locations and employees that can save you big money.
This is only an article to get you started thinking about VoIP and what it can do for you. I will be providing additional articles concerning VoIP that cover the following topics:
- Calculating Savings from Adopting VoIP
- VoIP Protocols and Codecs
- Designing a VoIP Network
- VoIP Security
- VoIP Soft Switches Available Under GNU Public License
- Additional Services Available for VoIP Networks
- Comparison of Commercially Available VoIP Services
- Acquiring and Configuring a VoIP Soft Phone
- Acquiring and Configuring VoIP Hard Phones and Media Gateways
- Hardware Comparison of Commercial VoIP Soft Switches
If you would like additional general information on VoIP, please check out the following resources available on the web:
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