What is VoIP and what are the benefits? By John Stokdyk

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Large bandwidth internet services have subverted the staid world of business telecommunications by opening up a wide variety of new options. In the early 1990s, we were content with standard issue PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) lines which would carry our phone calls and fax transmissions.

Now, with broadband connections coming at us from all directions, business customers are beginning to wonder whether they need to continue to rely on the 20th century dinosaurs who cannot wean themselves off price tarriffs that have carried over from the age of public sector telephone monopolies.

Most readers will have some awareness of the current market leader for internet telephony, Skype, which was acquired last year by eBay for $2.6 billion. While Skype is struggling to break into the busine...

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06th Oct 2006 15:16

I can't find part 2!
Has part 2 been posted?

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13th Jul 2006 12:55

Means ...
... Voice over Internet Protocol.

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By bseddon
31st May 2006 12:58

VoIP can be so much more than Skype?
VoIP is offers so much more business potential - especially for SMEs - than point-to-point calling provided by likes of Skype though this is the headline use for the technology. Also, it was really disappointing that the review seems to be little more than an advertisment for Skype.

We've been using VoIP for nearly 2 years using an open source exchange. Although we have spent more than I'd like on maintenance, I think we've been able to gain benefits beyond just savings on call costs which themselves are significant.

Our VoIP system replaces our exchange and connects to both POTS and VoIP systems. The Staff use regular handsets so there is no need to teach anyone to change habits. Importantly for us, staff can be on our "internal" telephone system wherever they are, so it is a benefit to home and remote workers. Staff have to login to access the telephone system just as they have to login to access the company systems over the internet.

Because it is VoIP we can have several access numbers and depending upon the number being dialled, the call will be made via landline or over the internet. When using the internet we define where it will dial out to the POTS world which means we control whether a call appears to be originated (and charged as if) from the UK, Germany, France or the US. The article is right, there could be a problem with the network and the exchange is capable of falling back to POTS if other, cheaper, routes are not available. However, there are better alternatives. For example, the exchange can use an alternative broadband connection.

The system also provides voicemail and fax to email, queues, group pick and all other features you'd expect of an exchange.

Are there security issues? I imagine so but nothing we do by phone is so important that the tangible benefits can be influenced by the risk that someone, might, somehow listen in.

But the point is, there is more to VoIP than just calling and it is disappointing that the article does nothing to shed light on other benefits of the technology.

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01st Jun 2006 13:51

POTS are ok
but PANS are better

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01st Jun 2006 12:49

Voip - dont consider Vonage
John recommended vonage for voip. Before you do so search on the internet for 'problems with vonage' using google or the like.

With our experiences this is not what is needed for a SME. Have a good look around at the different offering including www.voxhub.com (which we use).

What you need is an easily accessible person how can sort out problems effectively. Not a call queue. Need I say that if you go for the cheapest option it can turn out to be more expensive in the long run.

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01st Jun 2006 10:38

VoIP without a computer
Having used their product (www.vonage.com) for a while now one comes to appreciate that you should not be without a POTS line. Although they say that emergency calls can be made don't rely on it as their servers can go down.

You can have the best of both worlds by installing a budget PABX, e.g. http://www.tmilimited.co.uk/panasonic_kxtea308.htm which can route calls to your wireless phone network.

Callers often mention that the voice level is very quiet so don't even consider using a VoIP product unless your broadband upload value is at least 128 kbps. You can test this on http://www.vonage-forum.com.

This product is ideal for SME's especially ones running out of a home office where that always on PC is not available.

The POTS line although not used for outgoing calls can become that private connection with the outside world for incoming calls.

Will we stick with them? Yes! The cost savings are too much to ignore and the quality of service is acceptable but not as good as the POTS solution. You also get better utilisation of an always on broadband connection.

POTS: Plain old telephone service.

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By NeilW
31st May 2006 10:08

5) If you're worried about band width, get a new contract. I now have 3.5mb for not a lot from BT. How much more do you want?

How much is not a lot? What is your dedicated commit and your contention ration.

Fundamentally this is where the cost moves to - your hardware infrastructure and your bandwidth provision.

Bear in mind that a 'work from home' individual could have a Talktalk service for £20.99 per month and make all the calls they want - including international - all for free. And they get broadband into the bargain.

Not that VOIP is necessarily a bad thing. It's just that this is as good as it gets. If lots of people start using the infrastructure then it will degrade or the price will go up - simply due to the nature of IP networks.


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30th May 2006 15:29

ICAEW members
the IT facility have just produced a booklet on VoIP, if you like a dry read this is the one for you

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By appacc
26th May 2006 13:57

VoIP and mobile phones
I live in an area with very little mobile signal.
Does anyone know if its possible to use VoIP to receive calls on my mobile using my wireless router.
I think BT has a system (Fusion) but it depends upon you having BT as your internet and mobile provider.
Is anyone else doing this independently?

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25th May 2006 15:10

Too negative
Most accountingweb users are SMEs (and mainly SEs if we're honest). So let's ignore the corproate world issues and let's look at the realities.

1) Skype works - well (if you bother to set it up right and if, when it garbles something (which it has done for me, once) you go back and check your settings again - but this is not rocket science stuff)

2) I wouldn't be without Skype now

3) If you look at your calls the 80 / 20 rule will apply. Get the 20% on Skype and 80% of calls will tumble in price - I've halved my telephone costs

4) If you call internationally (and I do, a lot) this is a no-brainer

5) If you're worried about band width, get a new contract. I now have 3.5mb for not a lot from BT. How much more do you want?

6) So what if my machne is used to host a call? I gave it permission to do so and can't see the security issue. Give me real examples that this has been a trojan horse. My guess is people who update their anti-virus software once a week are 100 time more at risk.

In my opinion Skype (or equivalent) is a simple "must do".

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25th May 2006 03:21

Not sure about this
Nit - Skype was not sold for $2.6bn but $4.1bn if they achieve the earn out. When I met Niklas Zennstrom last week (1/2 of original Skype team), he was smiling so... A full analysis can be found at my friend Jeff Clavier's site.

Who says there's no money in 'free?'

Slight nit - there's no cost to get basic Skype services.

I love that remark - 'make decisions at the top.' If only it was enforceable. I don't see how you're ever going to stop in-house users from implementing services of this kind.

In 3 years of using Skype every day, I've never had the problem of supernode bandwidth sucking on either PC or Mac. Not to say it won't happen but none of my Skype contacts report it as an issue - some of whom work in investment banks/VC operations.

I don't see any real downside for SMEs - especially if the majority of their apps are hosted offsite.

Packet loss is deffo a pain in the butt[***] - especially with calls between the UK and US. But rarely an issue for me in EU. That's a broadband problem rather than Skype itself.

The 'server going down' argument screws you up anyway so you should have redundancy and failover as a baseline operating principle. If there was a fire, the last thing I'd worry about is the phone system. I'd be out the door calling emergency services on my cell phone as fast as my legs could carry me! (Another argument for hosted data methinks.)

Question? Intrigued by 'internet technology is embryonic.' Sure - there's lots to come but...I've been on the Internet for 15 years. That's one heck of a gestation period!

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25th May 2006 14:22

We use VOIP
Some of the arguments in the article are good but.

1 To gain Broadband in your office you need an anologue line. This is available for emergencies
2 A seperate Broadband for your VOIP cuts out all security issues - since it does not go through your computer system. But use a top quality provider such as zen.
3 For small sme the flexibility pays dividends
4 We use voxhub wwww.voxhub.com. You can have almost any uk dialing code as well

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