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Low-cost enterprise VoIP services

Are there any stand-out low-cost VoIP services that you recommend for an enterprise? I have heard a lot about SBC's offering in the news.

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Many of the large carriers offer a wealth of services that can help a company implement, manage or outsource their VoIP infrastructure. As customers of Alinean, SBC and BellSouth, are two such providers with beneficial and cost-effective offerings. Because of their large customer bases and economies of scale, they can often provide better pricing than smaller providers, as well as superior service area and support coverage.

As with all managed services, it is important to review the capability and maturity of the resources that will be assigned to your company, understand specifically the services needed versus those being provided (such as the number of moves, adds and changes), and to review and compare service level agreements.

For outsourced services, due diligence needs to be even more thorough because the company you are outsourcing to will be running your telecommunications infrastructure as an invaluable business utility. In addition to understanding the variables for managed services, several additional ones need to be considered:

1) Technology matters: Technologies offered by service providers can vary, and are not always comparable to what can be obtained via in-house solutions. We've seen this cause issues with some solutions, from limiting the features or applications which can be added to requiring more bandwidth than state-of-the-art solutions due to lagging compression technology.

2) Technology refresh is not guaranteed: One of the benefits of outsourcing is that the outsourced provider takes on more of the technology risk. However, for companies that outsource in order to push all risks to the vendor, we have seen that technology refresh, where the outsourced provider upgrades the core technology on a regular basis to the latest offerings, is not guaranteed or even covered in many contracts.

3) Coverage is important: Coverage areas can sometimes be limited, curtailing some of the services provided and service level agreement commitments.

4) Service provider stability: The telecommunications marketplace continues to consolidate; selecting the right vendor that will be around to provide services in the future is important – usually bigger is better.

This was first published in August 2005

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