Global digital communications, VOIP and Unified Communications

Even a few years ago, connecting international offices was a nightmare in terms of complexity and associated cost. The attraction to connect many offices has many advantages. It helps cut the carbon footprint of employees through less travelling, enhances communications security, as files are not required to be kept on the laptop/removable media, it can save telephone costs by using Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology, allows collaboration of employees globally through Unified Communications (UC) technologies and creates an infrastructure that is scalable according to the requirements of the business.

The technology that is increasingly being utilised to setup this global infrastructure is Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS). MPLS utilises both Class of Service (CoS) and Quality of Service (QoS). This means that data is prioritised according to let’s say, video/voice. For our example, if Video/Voice carries a CoS of 7 that would mean that it has a higher priority for transmission to let’s say data files and then the QoS could reflect that further by fine tuning other parameters such as latency etc.

When creating an international communications strategy, it is advisable to identify the requirements very carefully and to choose a global service provision partner that has experience of enabling international communications such as BT, Cable and Wireless and others.

The improvement that most businesses require immediately is to connect their employees remotely to their internal business network for reaching their business documents, presentations and business applications. The way this is achieved is through ensuring that the headquarter (HQ) or business data centre site has a larger capacity link compared to other sites, as this will be the link that will be the most used by all other sites and remote workers. A few years ago, many businesses used to host all their data and business applications at their headquarter sites. Now, increasingly, as businesses are growing and capacity (bandwidth) is becoming cheaper, they either have their own data centres or use Cloud Computing services.

Next, each remote site’s data requirements are mapped out and the required capacity agreed and enabled. In parallel, most remote workers are granted access to the business systems by using secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections and associated solutions such as iPass and RSA SecureID .

Once, the global infrastructure is setup, businesses can start to think about moving away from their Private branch exchange (PBX/PABX)’s telephone network and to start utilising VOIP for Internet Protocol Telephony (IPT). It is also worth noting that VOIP is not allowed in many countries as these countries would like their own country’s Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) carrier to carry the VOIP voice traffic and thus make money themselves. Many VOIP solutions, get around these by breaking out voice transmissions locally, in country, and if, for example, they have their own international VOIP system, to utilise their own network for the international traffic only.

An immediate transfer to a complete VOIP system is not required by most vendors and is facilitated by the introduction of VOIP gateways that link the legacy PBX to the new VOIP system. That ensures that investment in the current PBX is realised until a transition to the eventual VOIP benefits and system is completed. The largest disadvantage of VOIP systems is their inability to cope with electricity blackouts (Design consideration can overcome this) and tracing emergency VOIP calls (potential solutions currently being offered by vendors). Most VOIP vendors also sell UC solutions as well. This is where the power of the digital communications strategy starts to pay dividends. VOIP, for example, allows the user to have one extension globally. The power of unified communications is that it starts to utilise presence awareness (Where someone actually is/logged in to a computer/device) and starts to present that information to anyone who wants to connect or collaborate with that individual. This allows geographically diverse teams to connect anytime, anywhere globally. This could be via email, instant messaging, web conferencing, voice, SMS, Fax and even through collaborative technologies such as SharePoint. Now, follows an example:

Peter Smith was reluctant to go to the US but sales were down and a major potential client beckoned. Peter logged off his computer and phone system and made his way to Heathrow airport. Once checked in, he decided to make some calls to colleagues. A quick conference on the laptop ensued that meant he was discussing the project with a global team that he could view and discuss the final phases of a project with, across three offices globally. He was now walking to board the plane and quickly transferred his call to his mobile and continued walking. The call had ended and he had an urgent message to leave another colleague. He knew his colleague was in a meeting and would be checking his emails on his laptop frequently, so he left a voicemail (Voicemail would be emailed as text to his colleague). Once at the US office, he logged in to the system and had instant access to all his files and his personal phone extension.

I am intentionally not discussing VOIP or IP technologies in general as I feel that Unified Communications is where businesses should be making an investment. According to Gartner’s 2009 magic quadrant for Unified Communications, 2011 Microsoft’s UC solution is considered to be the leader, with Cisco, IBM and Siemen’s communications following closely. It was interesting to see that Avaya is only a strong contender and it is noteworthy to inform everyone that Avaya completed its acquisition of Nortel recently (the quadrant does not reflect the acquisition). There are quite a few VOIP/UC vendors currently and I would suggest that the one’s to watch are Microsoft, Cisco, Mitel and Avaya.

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About mubbisherahmed
I am passionate about IT and its ability to deliver cost effective, value for money solutions that can enhance performance and in many cases provide competitive advantage by using a range of solutions and approaches in innovative ways.

2 Responses to Global digital communications, VOIP and Unified Communications

  1. mubbisherahmed says:

    Ashok Badawadagi IBM clients at celero solutions, is a fellow member of one of my social media groups, said:

    AWESOME,WORTH AND RICHFULL INFO

    I replied:

    Thanks for your feedback, its good to get feedback as I feed off it and it keeps me willing to post more articles. I am glad you liked the article. With your permission, I will post your comments on my blog. Thanks.

  2. mubbisherahmed says:

    Stanley Yang Experienced System and Network Professional, is a fellow member of one of my social media groups and he said:

    Great blog. You give me the whole picture of global digital communication. Thanks.

    I replied:

    Its always to good get positive feedback as it keeps me sane and wanting to blog on more subjects. With your permission, I’ll add your comments to my blog. Thanks.

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