With the release of products such as Microsoft Corp.’s Office Communications Server (OCS) and Avaya Inc.’s Aura, your next private branch exchange (PBX) could very well consist of software loaded on to a server you buy from the manufacturer of your choice, rather than a specialized piece of hardware purchased from a telecommunications vendor.
Most PBXs sold last year were based on Internet Protocol (IP) rather than traditional time division multiplexing (TDM), but the same concerns users have had since the 90s continue to dog IP PBX vendors.
Take emergency 911 services as an example. This is one important feature for PBXs for the University of Toronto.
Maher Saad is an IT manager at the University of Toronto in charge of telecom systems for a student residence. His organization uses a TDM PBX.
In an e-mail to Network World Canada, Saad cited emergency 911 as one critical service. Other PBX features important to him include: zero down time when a large number of users are making calls at the same time; availability of dial tone at all times; ease of management; and the ability to transfer and forward calls. The university also needs conferencing and caller ID.
In the past, the business case for IP telephony may have been the ability to cut long-distance charges by combining voice and data traffic, said Matthias Machowinski, directing analyst for enterprise voice and data at Campbell, Calif.-based Infonetics Research Inc. Today, the justification for spending money on IP telephony is the ability to combine voice and data networks into one, Machowinski said.
“It’s cheaper to run one network with multiple applications, instead of multiple application-specific networks,” he said.
Another driver is the ability to combine voice systems with other software. For example, a customer service agent could answer a call and refer to an e-mail a customer had sent to the company earlier.
Saad said voice over IP is not ideal for all types of businesses. He is convinced VoIP will provide more features than his organization needs at his location. But to implement it, the University of Toronto would have to replace all handsets and install Category 5e Ethernet cabling, which would not save the school money.
The decision to adopt VoIP depends on several factors, Saad wrote. These include the size of the organization; the nature of the building’s infrastructure and the quality of the Internet connection, which affects bandwidth and latency.
In the case of the University of Toronto, the school would need to buy more than one switch in order to handle enough concurrent calls, Saad wrote.
Saad has used phones based on Avaya Inc.’s Aura but has never managed such a system himself.
Aura, released last March by Basking Ridge, N.J.-based Avaya, is a concept whereby corporate telephony is run off a commercial off-the shelf server loaded with software such as Avaya Communications Manager