Consider options carefully before making jump to VoIP

In writing a story about how an improvement in frame relay networks could have big benefits for voice over IP, it was refreshing to hear the thoughts of Jim Slaby, an analyst with Giga Information Group in the suburbs of Boston. He actually had the gall to point out that VoIP just might not be the best option for managers responsible for corporate voice networks.

Please understand that after reading press release after press release, every day, about how wonderful VoIP is and how it will absolutely “revolutionize the way businesses communicate”, one’s eyes start to glaze over and one’s mind begins to ask whether all the hype is deserved. And just like anything that is trumpeted too loudly and too often, the hype isn’t totally warranted, and Slaby pointed this harsh reality out.

While the technical difficulties that previously plagued the average VoIP call have been significantly reduced, and while vendors have been bringing the price points down and thereby making it a more financially appealing option, barriers to widespread adoption remain. The most notable is one that has nothing to do with VoIP itself, but rather with its main nemesis, the traditional leased line phone network. Consider the benefits to staying with such a tried and true system:

– No need to rip out any existing equipment: If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Although this industry has built itself on trendiness, shifting fashions and a seemingly innate desire to shove out the old and bring in the new every six months, the conventional phone line has withstood the storm – mainly because it just works so darn well.

– No need to retrain end users on how to use a new system: Engineering degrees certainly aren’t required to operate a VoIP phone, but we all know that shifting a department, let alone an entire enterprise, over to a new technology, especially one that is utilized as often as the telephone, is a one-way ticket to Headache Hell. Why foist this odorous situation on yourself and your IT staff if the benefits of VoIP don’t significantly outweigh those of leased lines?

– Prices can be a lot lower through carriers: As Slaby pointed out, today’s typical carrier is more than willing to negotiate a price point that is extremely inviting to your corporation. They more or less have to, what with the highly competitive nature of the business they’re in. Why not see what you can get from them before making the VoIP leap?

Make no mistake about it, many companies have decided that VoIP is the best option for them. Let’s hope that they considered their options carefully and determined that VoIP’s compelling aspects – of which there are quite a few, to be sure – were measured against those of its competitors. Let’s hope they didn’t make their decision based on the hype factor alone.