The lowdown on VOIP

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The networked phone

What is it? Voice over IP makes use of private networks and the Internet, rather than traditional switched phone systems, to transmit phone calls. Telephony uses your data network.

What's the first step in implementing it? Make sure your network has the bandwidth, hardware and quality of service to support voice; vendors will often perform the assessment.

What's down the road? Convergence with developing technologies such as 'presence' technology, which indicates when a user is reachable; hybrid WiFi/cellular phones that can switch from a WiFi hotspot to a cellular network; software-only simulations of IP phones that run on PCs equipped with headsets and microphones; and WiMax, which extends the range of wireless.

Must-know info? Plan well. 'You need to have the system designed by an engineer who understands that space,' IDC's Shawn McCarthy said. 'It's a project. You have to approach it from a project-management standpoint.' And get users involved early, cautioned Jeff Ridley of ShoreTel. 'Otherwise, they start to know the IT organization as 'the people that bought that phone system.' '

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