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IP telephony pilots are taking flight

A look at IP telephony pilots, a VoIP testing method.

Once a company has decided that a particular VoIP solution will best improve their business, they correctly decide to conduct "pilot" testing. These tests enable the customer to thoroughly analyze the performance and benefits of an IP telephony solution over a scaled down representation of their production network. This tip discusses the goals of conducting an IP telephony pilot.

My current employer Callisma, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of SBC, is a professional services organization that has successfully tested and demonstrated the capabilities of many VoIP solutions throughout the United States. By planning, designing, implementing, testing and thoroughly documenting these scaled down solutions, the customer can see the solution work within their environment with minimal capital risk when compared to the cost of a full IP Telephony deployment. The tests also can be an opportunity to correct deficiencies within a corporation's network infrastructure with the implementation of Quality of Service solutions or the addition of redundant hardware or links to prevent a single point of failure.

These non-intrusive pilots are initiated by determining the company's required calling features and functionality in order to test the solution's capabilities to meet those needs. Based on this discovery, the scaled down IP telephony solution is designed and installed. The components of the solution implementation include but are not limited to the call processing software, station installations, QoS configuration on the network, the proper voice encoding, soft phone installations, and a customized dial plan.

Once implemented, the company's current calling features and the new IP telephony features are tested. High-level examples of features tested over a scaled down solution are: abbreviated dialing or speed dial, shared line appearance and with privacy, call park, call pickup, call coverage, call forwarding (on and off network), ad hoc and meet-me conference, distinctive ringing, hold, intercom, and attendant console. Some of the more advanced features are extension mobility, xml services, user settings, and IP manager or assistant settings. Call routing features are tested via extension or 4-digit calling, outbound or 9 + calling, and inbound calling. The call processing software, hardware, and classes of restriction are then tested to meet the companies and industry best practices security requirements. Finally, the solution is analyzed in terms of operational support. Some of these topics include platform monitoring, capacity and performance reporting, and call detail recording.

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.

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