Magazine article University Business

Ready for VoIP? Here's How to Tell: Voice-Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, Is One of the Fastest-Growing Technologies Being Deployed at Colleges and Universities

Magazine article University Business

Ready for VoIP? Here's How to Tell: Voice-Over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, Is One of the Fastest-Growing Technologies Being Deployed at Colleges and Universities

Article excerpt

Bruce Grant, NEC's assistant general manager for product management and an expert on VoIP, explains this technology and how to prepare for it.

Q: VoIP "101". What is it?

A: Voice-over IP is the ability to transmit voice over your data network. In its simplest form, it's moving voice from traditional telephony standards into an IP environment.

Q: How can VoIP improve productivity for administrative staff and faculty?

A: First and foremost is providing faculty and staff with the right software applications on their PC or laptop. VoIP applications provide a multitude of communication tools ranging from presence management to inbound and outbound call logging to unified communications. Take for instance presence management; it provides faculty and staff with the ability to prioritize their communications by status, availability and caller. It provides them with control over their own communications--all calls and messages are simply and easily managed from a single application--reducing the complexity of dealing with multiple communication types and increasing personal productivity. With the addition of unified communications, they also have easy and quick access to voice, fax and email messages from a PC, telephone or the Internet--whichever is most convenient.

Another example is inbound and outbound call logging. This application provides faculty and staff with single-click call return so that if somebody calls and the call is missed the user can access the log, click the entry, and return the call. The same application also integrates with Outlook so that contacts are readily accessible for one-click dialing. It's one of NEC's many innovative call handling solutions that's currently available.

Another great application of Voice-over IP technology is the soft phone, which is turning your PC or laptop into a device that has the ability to operate as a desk phone. You could use the microphone and speakers of the PC if you wanted to, or a headset or a handset. Then you would communicate just as if you were talking on a normal phone. A soft phone gives you the ability to carry your phone anywhere you want. So if you have faculty visiting other campuses, even internationally, if they have broadband access back to the main campus, they could have telephone capability directly from their notebook computers. For all intents and purposes, to people calling them even though they may be in locales as distant as Egypt or Singapore, it would appear that they're actually back in their office on campus. Plus they'll have the full set of communications capabilities so that, should they need to check in with home or with the dean or a student, they can do that.

Q: What are the questions that IT managers at colleges and universities should be asking themselves to determine if Voice-over IP is an appropriate solution for them?

A: First, are you ready for it? Can your network infrastructure support it? Second, is there really an ROI benefit? Are you going to be able to reduce some of the costs of the traditional telephony infrastructure? Third, are you looking to have savings from a personnel standpoint? Are you going to be able to take some of your current cost structure and move those people into other departments? Fourth, do you have a need for disaster recovery, fail-over, and survivability? Fifth, do you have a desire or need to provide soft phones to faculty or administration so they can work virtually anywhere on campus or from any location with high-speed Internet access? …

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