Moving to VoIP is the first step toward creating a hybrid unified communications architecture. Learn how to test and maintain voice quality for a successful migration.

Moving to VoIP is the first step toward creating a hybrid unified communications architecture. Learn how to test and maintain voice quality for a successful migration.
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The term unified communications implies a range of services. However, voice is a key service, and it should be the starting point for hybrid communications when moving telephony from traditional analog or time division multiplexer infrastructure to voice over IP running over broadband.
Your current analog PBX provider can help with the hybrid part of the migration, as it will need to provide the gateway between the analog and VoIP worlds. Depending on the vendor, this might be called a media gateway, session border controller or another term.
The primary service of unified communications (UC) is VoIP, and VoIP migrations have been occurring for quite some time. While your PBX vendor might want you to take the plunge into full-blown UC right away, it’s best to inquire about the practicality of taking a phased approach. Telephony and communications in general are a crucial part of the business, and they should be implemented with care.
Taking the first step into hybrid UC
Limit exposure by focusing phase one of your hybrid communications migration on migrating lower-priority, outbound convenience calling to the VoIP gateway. This way, the system can run and work out the kinks without affecting important calls, like those to inbound call centers.
Your UC system should be able to provide you with an easy fallback if you decide VoIP sessions aren’t performing as required. A fallback plan can be as simple as a configuration change in your PBX.
While your PBX vendor might want you to take the plunge into full-blown UC right away, it’s best to inquire about the practicality of taking a phased approach.
While LAN bandwidth could be an area of concern during a UC migration, VoIP is unlikely to experience LAN-based issues. VoIP sessions use little bandwidth, and problems like latency, jitter and packet loss are rarely an issue on LANs. It’s certainly good to understand the network characteristics of your LAN before layering in new applications, but most LANs have plenty of capacity for VoIP.
Maintaining quality during a hybrid communications migration
One big factor to consider is the broadband network your VoIP and UC sessions will traverse. Moving from TDM dedicated lines to free-for-all broadband is one of the biggest moves you can make in the networking world.
Think about it: Your media gateway can work perfectly, and yet calls still experience miserable voice quality — all because of the economical, but potentially unreliable, broadband network that is now your new UC highway. So, what do you do?
Quality of service (QoS) can save the day. The media gateway and the broadband network all need to work in concert to provide sufficient bandwidth and low latency across the network so voice quality will be acceptable.

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