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Before deploying cloud telephony, inspect your networks

A cloud telephony forecast: Before implementing a cloud IP telephony service, be sure to address your current infrastructure performance and needs.

Moving to a cloud IP telephony (IPT) service is not as simple as handing over a credit card to a service provider and plugging in phones when the provider arrives at your office. The reality is, a successful implementation of cloud telephony requires pre-planning to ensure local area networks, wide area networks and internal operating processes are ready for cloud.

The first area to address is LAN infrastructure, especially for those businesses that are replacing digital systems with IP-based cloud services. Cloud IPT is no different than on-premises platforms in that both require an underlying network capable of delivering a voice packet from one caller to another without dropping it or excessively delaying it.

IT leaders must ensure they have sufficient bandwidth (especially if the cloud service also supports video), application prioritization and performance management all the way down to the phone -- or the PC if using softphones. IT leaders must understand if they call their provider to report a problem, the provider will need insight into the performance of the local area network to troubleshoot the issue.

Infrastructure requirements may also include the following:

  • Power over Ethernet to support IP phones
  • Backup power for Ethernet switches or phones if they are plugged into a local outlet
  • Endpoint registration and location tracking for 911 call response
  • Session border controllers to manage policy and provide security at the demarcation point between the enterprise location and the Internet or WAN connection to the cloud IPT provider

The WAN is the second area to address when moving to the cloud. Some companies have success in simply connecting to their cloud provider over the public Internet. But midsized and large organizations -- or smaller companies that want highly reliable voice communications -- will likely choose to connect to their cloud telephony provider over a private WAN link or via virtual WAN services that leverage one or more ISPs to provide reliable WAN performance.

Virtual WAN approaches are often cheaper for larger companies but will require additional expertise and capital costs to implement and manage. Those companies using Internet services will also need to ensure their firewall and Internet connectivity approaches align with their cloud IPT connectivity plans.

Finally, the last area requiring attention is back-end processing. Moving to the cloud typically means shifting from a perpetual license to a subscription service. This shift may entail changes to the way IT funds operations and allocates costs to business units. And roles would change as well; those people responsible for running a phone system would now manage the provider or shift into other IT roles.

Support services, too, would have to overcome some loss of control when moving to the cloud -- from being able to call the person who runs the system to having to call the service provider to report a problem.

Addressing local area networks, wide area networks and back-end processes won't guarantee a successful implementation of cloud telephony, but it will minimize the risks involved and position technology buyers on the path to achieve their goals.

About the author:
Irwin Lazar is vice president and service director at Nemertes Research.

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