If you're thinking about rolling out VoIP to the desktop, think twice and think small.

Using VoIP on the back end, either between facilities or to communications carriers, often doesn't require any changes to employees' phones. But companies looking for more features such as a single inbox or user-managed services should take their VoIP rollouts one step at a time. Users and analysts recommend beginning with a limited number of seats and rolling out in stages. In fact, VoIP systems today tend toward the small and focused. Meta's Willis says his company's recent analysis of Cisco Systems Inc.'s VoIP customers showed an average of just over 100 phones per installation.

You'll first need to do a health check on your internal network. Inside the firewall, poky, "latent" packets mean unacceptably choppy voice calls, so your network sleuths have to ferret out and fine-tune the system's throttle points. With some networks, that may require no more than reconfiguring equipment to remove points where packets regularly slow down. For others, it can require a wholesale upgrade of hubs and routers to make sure they can provide the kind of performance VoIP needs.

With that done, concerns about the quality of VoIP service can be laid to rest. Some IT execs report that the best way to test a new VoIP offering is to simply avoid telling users when they switch over from the regular voice system. Few users, they say, will notice—but woe betide you if the bulletproof phone service they're used to suddenly deteriorates or dies.

When businesses go all the way and roll out VoIP to the desktop, they report that most users are satisfied with the additional features. Moving an office is as simple as plugging an IP phone into a new wall jack. And IT departments like the fact that they can manage IP switches from remote locations using a Web browser alone.

Ask your voice specialists:

What kind of life is left in our current communications gear?

Ask your network guru:

How likely is it that we can remove latency in our existing network?

Ask the company's facilities planners:

Are we planning on moving or opening new offices within the next few years?

This article was originally published on 10-02-2002
eWeek eWeek

Have the latest technology news and resources emailed to you everyday.