In the recent past, the biggest drivers for implementing a Voice over IP (VoIP) infrastructure were its cost benefits. Because the traditional circuit providers have addressed this challenge in the voice market by reducing rates and alleviating their past capacity issues, the VoIP cost cutting business driver has lost some of its bite. However, the application benefits of VoIP have become major focal points for companies that use their IT infrastructures as a competitive advantage in today's business. At a high level, this tip discusses three of the VoIP applications currently available.
Unified messaging is the application that allows voice mail messages to be stored as WAV files and delivered as e-mail attachments. In addition, faxes can be transmitted and stored electronically. Therefore, these components of day-to-day business can be archived with meaningful filenames, recalled from a hard drive or storage array, and forwarded as attachments to key personnel. These features are particularly useful for the employees required to work remotely. Traveling staff would no longer have to call into their office to retrieve voice mails or have facsimiles physically forwarded to their hotel or remote office location. Their only business requirement would be having internet access to download e-mail.
The presence applications, also known as "find me/follow me", is a feature that can determine how an employee can be located (via office phone, cell phone, instant messaging, or e-mail). This information can be configured and distributed as necessary to management or direct reports. Another component of this application is the ability to "clock-in" over the phone as personnel arrive at the company in lieu of walking to the time clock and "punching in".
Automated applications within the call center are available to assist with routing calls to appropriate employees or locations. Auto-attendants are frequently being utilized in lieu of live operators initially routing calls to departments of businesses. Web-enabled contact centers integrate various contact information of personnel such as e-mail, instant messaging identification, fax, and phone information. Via the Web, customers or co-workers have an alternate means to efficiently solve issues or meet their needs. For some, this would eliminate the frustration of navigating through voice menus or being routed by administrative personnel.
If the many features inherent with a Voice over IP infrastructure do not specifically augment a company's business operation, voice applications can be customized. Although the creation of custom applications was difficult in the traditional telephony world, an XML or Java programmer can create custom applications in an IP Telephony environment. Additionally, manufacturers have provided software development kits for this purpose.
Richard Parsons (CCIE#5719) is a Manager of Professional Services for Callisma Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of SBC. He has built a solid foundation in networking concepts, advanced troubleshooting, and monitoring in areas such as optical, ATM, VoIP, routed, routing, and storage infrastructures. Rich resides in Atlanta GA, and is a graduate of Clemson University. His background includes senior and principal consulting positions at International Network Services, Lucent, and Callisma.