IP Telephony Systems
Cisco Unified Communications 2009
IP telephony and unified communications (UC) is a technology area that is actually benefiting from cost consciousness this year. Businesses are examining their budgets from all angles, and collaboration tools are one of the major investments executives are approving, hoping to make a moderate investment in order to gain long-term savings and enable innovation in the way their employees interact with one another, partners and customers.
Although IP telephony is not necessary for collaboration and UC applications, there are many benefits to voice and data convergence. IP telephony systems allow enterprises to layer an unlimited number of applications onto the data network. Among these applications are unified messaging, voice portals, presence and collaboration tools, video conferencing and telepresence, mixed-media contact centers, and social networking.
IP telephony systems also allow companies to reduce the resources needed for management. Because voice, data and applications are all running on one network, it can be managed as one entity by fewer administrators than in the past. In effect, the system has the potential to greatly increase worker productivity while decreasing administrative and maintenance costs.
A June 2009 report by Infonetics Research found that enterprises are expecting to continue to spend on internal telephony infrastructure as a strategy to help them decrease communications services bills.
"Ultimately, companies do want to decrease or slow the growth of their overall voice communications expenditures," said Matthias Machowinski, Infonetics' directing analyst, enterprise voice and data, in a statement. "One item they're looking at cutting is communication services [long distance, trunking, conferencing, etc.], which take up the largest portion of the budget. Meanwhile, they're willing to invest in new infrastructure and applications if it contains or reduces communication services."
Infonetics found that organizations are planning slight reductions in communication services but increases in infrastructure investments such as IP telephony, one of the most competitive categories in our awards program.
This year, our Product Leadership survey respondents once again gave the coveted gold award in the IP telephony category to Cisco's Unified Communications system. According to Cisco, its IP telephony products are an integral part of Cisco Unified Communications, which unify voice, video, data and mobile applications on fixed and mobile networks, enabling users to communicate in any workspace, using any media, device or operating system. Using "the network as the platform," Cisco IP telephony solutions help organizations of all sizes realize greater security, resilience and scalability in addition to the inherent benefits of using a converged network for transport and interconnection.
Our readers were again most impressed by the telephony portion of the product. In our Product Leadership survey, voice quality was rated four or five stars on a five-star scale by more than 80% of respondents. One user of the system commented that it has "rock solid performance and excellent voice quality."
The Unified Communications system also received almost equally strong marks in scalability and network integration and interoperability. One user noted that Cisco's system "has a lot of flexibility and is easy to incorporate into your network," a sentiment that was echoed by others, although some readers complained of interoperability issues.
One respondent who turned out to be a satisfied end user commented: "We have had major success using this product. I receive voicemail messages anywhere in the world through my email; the quality is excellent."