Most people are not aware that they have options when it comes to voice over internet protocol (VoIP) telephone systems.  There are basically three choices available on the market today: Hybrid IP/Digital, Native IP and Hosted IP. For the sake of this discussion I will not address legacy Analog/Digital systems (probably what is hanging on your wall today).

The Hybrid IP/Digital:

The hybrid was born out of the traditional Telecom manufacturers positioning their products to enable their legacy equipment to play in the IP world. The systems can be pure IP or Digital as well as playing in a mixed environment. The cost is approximately 20% lower than a Native IP system and offers you the ability to utilize IP now or when your business application calls for it in the future.  The strength of the product lies in its ability for choice. If there is no compelling reason to utilize VoIP technology or the cost to re-cable your facility for pure IP Phones is prohibitive, the Hybrid system may be a good choice for your organization. The Hybrid technology has been the most utilized technology over the last 5 years and will still be a staple within the communications industry in the years to come.

Native VoIP Systems:

This is a pure VoIP telephone system.  The first VoIP communication system to come on the market was the 3com NBX (Now Hewlett Packard) in 1998. Native VoIP systems had trouble mimicking the traditional voice systems in their early releases and subsequently had trouble getting traction other than the early adopters. That is not the case today; most of the traditional telecom functionality is now available on VoIP telephone systems.  As the market has matured, the price has dropped and the benefit of added functionality has made Native VoIP systems a compelling option. The Native VoIP systems are like cars today, most of the applications come standard within the systems including: unified communications, remote worker access, voice-mail to e-mail that is software upgradeable. The initial cost may appear to be a little higher. However, when you factor in the lower cost of administration (most systems you can administer yourself), ease of upgrades, license upgrade versus hardware upgrades, and 3rd party software integration the Native VoIP systems have a distinct advantage. Where I have seen challenges for organizations that want to utilize a Native VoIP systems is when their existing network cannot support added services, inadequate cabling,  or have very basic needs. The Native VoIP systems should dominate the industry over the next few years.

Hosted VoIP Systems (Service):

The Hosted service offers the same functionality as on premise VoIP systems but requires no on site hardware other than your telephone handsets. The same functionality that you receive from an onsite Native VoIP system is available without having to support on premise hardware. The benefits include no major capital outlay, predictable monthly cost, full software functionality including unified communication, remote worker, telephone number portability, and no yearly hardware maintenance costs. This is definitely the wave of the future if the industry can get over some innate hurdles. For most medium to large installations dedicated T-1 services are needed (which add to the monthly cost) to support  the hosted voice services, limited backup solutions , and voicemail is stored at the hosted providers site which leads to some Compliance issues for medical and financial institutions. Even with these challenges hosted services is a viable and growing option especially in the SMB market. As the provider networks improve you will see major moves toward hosted VoIP service.

As companies move their legacy data hardware into the clouds, the natural progression is to move their voice services.

If you have had experience with any of the VoIP services please share your comments with our online community.

Peter Farley

Vice President of Sales & Marketing