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As happens with new undertakings, key “lessons learned” often result. Such is the case with our recent experience in designing our new State College office building. We would like to share with you some of this know-how regarding the selection of a new communications platform, specifically a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) platform. VoIP may not be the most suitable solution for everyone. In the instances where a VoIP platform is appropriate, several key factors are important when deciding exactly which product to choose.

Can your existing network handle the additional VoIP traffic and is it optimized to operate with the proposed system? One of the selling points of VoIP is that it can use your existing data network. However, many manufacturers will recommend that their network equipment be used with their VoIP platform. This is due primarily to the fact that each manufacturer has attempted to optimize the quality of the voice conversation on the IP network, and one way to accomplish this is to have control over the conversation from end-to-end. If your network switches are not optimized for the proposed system, upgrading the network equipment to accommodate the VoIP platform may be necessary, increasing overall project costs.

“Unified Messaging…means that your messages (mobile phone voicemail, office phone voicemail, email, faxes) come to one inbox.”

Do you understand your messaging goals and are you able to accomplish them with the proposed system? Unified Messaging is a buzzword in the VoIP world. In short, this terminology means that your messages (mobile phone voicemail, office phone voicemail, email, faxes) come to one “inbox”. If you have access to this “inbox”, you have access to all of your messages, which can greatly improve efficiency and customer service through being able to obtain your messages from several places and respond to them quickly. Access may come in many forms: an email client on your primary PC (i.e. Microsoft Outlook), an internet connection (i.e. Microsoft Internet Explorer or Outlook Web Access), a handheld device (i.e. PDA or mobile phone), or a telephone line directly into the system. It is very important to understand explicitly how each of the points of access work and what messages you have access to with the proposed system. Further, knowing how your organization wants to access that “inbox”, now and in the future, is essential.

Our recent experience in establishing a VoIP system also yielded “lessons learned” in areas such as wireless integration, single number reach, system administration, remote locations, etc. Many of the VoIP products that are available today are difficult to compare. Each manufacturer has approached the technology from a slightly different angle in order to differentiate their product, which has created confusion for the consumer. Further, with such a robust and flexible technology as VoIP, options and add-ons are numerous and can be expensive. No matter which communications platform you may choose, talking through all of the factors and understanding them relative to your core business practices is crucial.

– Michael J. Sanzotti, RCDD, LEED AP

Michael is Reese Engineering’s Director of Technology Solutions, a Registered Communications Distribution Designer, and a LEED Accredited Professional. Please feel free to contact Michael for further details regarding the above information.