In legacy communications environments, voice and data services operate independently of one another. Voice services are delivered via dedicated circuit-switched networks, while data services are provisioned over their own packet-based networks. Because IT must monitor and oversee two sets of infrastructure, capital and operating expenditures rise thanks to hardware and software acquisition and maintenance, along with the need for specialists to monitor and manage the dual enterprise footprint.
The introduction and subsequent maturation of the Internet protocol (IP) is changing the landscape. IP offers the opportunity for all forms of information – data, video, and voice – to be encapsulated within packets. With voice over IP (VoIP), deployment of a next-generation communications solution becomes feasible, where voice and data services co-exist on a single network.
The benefits of opting for VoIP are clear. The converged VoIP infrastructure offers the promise of fewer resources to purchase, a more homogeneous environment that is easier to maintain, and more straightforward network monitoring and management, where improved performance and faster mean-time-to-repair result in a more satisfying experience for the user community.
But VoIP has its drawbacks as well. Packets are subject to latency, jitter, and even loss as they traverse the network from their source to their destination location. For data-oriented services, the ramifications of these events are typically minor and often go unnoticed. For VoIP services, the impacts to call quality can be devastating, rendering conversations unintelligible and putting the investment in convergence at risk.
Implementing VoIP means recognizing that although voice and data can share the same network, they must be treated as distinct entities, giving rise to the creation of different classes of service. Effective VoIP monitoring and management requires assigning priority to voice packets to preserve call integrity, while simultaneously ensuring data applications continue to perform at levels users expect and demand.
In other words, moving to VoIP isn’t a trivial endeavor, but yields great rewards when executed properly. Therefore, it is imperative to identify critical considerations and follow best practices throughout the VoIP deployment lifecycle.