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Book review: IP Telephony Unveiled

A thorough look at the new Cisco Press title, IP Telephony Unveiled.

Every now and then a book comes along that's more than just a technology primer. Kevin Brown's recent title for Cisco Press, IP Telephony Unveiled (2004, ISBN: 2-58720-075-9) is just such a book. Part of Cisco's successful and interesting Network Business Series, IP Telephony Unveiled is short and direct (only 186 pages) but also full of useful information, descriptions, and analogies.

As somebody who wrote a telephony book myself back in 1998-9 (before VoIP or IP Telephony really got going), I've spend a fair amount of time pondering the perils and pitfalls, as well as the features and benefits, of converging voice and data networks, communications, and most important, applications. Even so, Brown's book taught me a thing or two about important differences between VoIP and IP Telephony (IPT). Much hinges on whether to treat a digital telephone as a device attached to a PBX and integrated with IP networks elsewhere in the infrastructure (VoIP), or as just another IP device attached to a switch and integrated with IP networks, protocols, services, and applications from the get-go (IPT).

He also does a good job of explaining how IPT enables devices to become virtual phones, given the right connections, software (and IPT application of some kind), and hardware add-ons (like a headset). Brown writes for intelligent laypeople, rather than technophiles (though some basic telephony and networking knowledge will help readers make better sense of the book). Thus, he is able to use interesting and useful examples—such as high-priority virus alerts via e-mail and voicemail in chapter 2, and smart, adaptable call handling in a secondary school setting in chapter 3—to help illuminate IPT's capabilities and benefits in simple, straightforward terms.

The best part of the book is where he addresses typical "networking voice" concerns about which many IT professionals fret when IPT is introduced. He does a great job of explaining the impacts of voice traffic on data networks. He also helps readers to understand, anticipate, and plan for typical problems that can arise when integrating IP voice and data traffic, including bandwidth issues (there's often not enough to go around), router utilization, voice quality, and response time. Finally, he leads readers into useful metrics and planning techniques to ensure that IPT rollouts are workable and successful without resorting to breathless hype or gee whiz rhetoric.

Anybody who's interested in IPT but doesn't have much background will find this book useful, but technical and business managers seeking to understand and appreciate IPT's business implications should find it especially useful. Because it doesn't over-promise and takes a reasonable look at costs and capabilities, it's a book you can give your CIO or CEO, without regretting the impulse later, to help get them educated on the subject.

Ed Tittel is a regular contributor to numerous TechTarget Web sites, and the author of over 100 books on a wide range of computing subjects from markup languages to information security. He's also a contributing editor for Certification Magazine, and series editor for Que Publising's Exam Cram 2 series of cert prep books. E-mail Ed at

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