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Six Options for Managed IP Communications

Many traditional businesses maintain separate networks for data and voice communication. With a converged voice-and-data network, companies can often reduce costs and gain significant productivity benefits.

However, the cost of implementing and managing the solution internally can be prohibitive. A more affordable option is to out-task IP communications to a managed services provider. This arrangement avoids initial CapEx and provides economies of scale -- because the service provider already owns the required infrastructure.

You can choose from several options for managed IP communications services. The following describes typical managed IP communications service offerings, and how you can apply them.

Business IP Telephony Services
This includes both subscriber and group calling services. Companies that need sophisticated PBX features can use a managed IP telephony service. Many small businesses can also receive the functionality that they require with a managed IP telephony solution.

Site-to-Site Voice
This service is really useful for companies with several branch offices that communicate regularly. A site-to-site voice service enables you to call from one site to another using the service provider's voice-over-IP (VoIP) infrastructure, avoiding long-distance toll costs. You can maintain a private dial plan, including support for simple 4-digit dialing.

Public Switched Telephone Network Access
Access to the traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN) can be enabled centrally over the service provider's network. Central PSTN access provides economies of scale, which, in turn, help reduce your costs.

Unified Messaging
These capabilities enable you to retrieve and respond to voice, fax, and e-mail messages from any phone or PC within your organization. Your team can check any type of message from the same inbox -- either the voicemail box, accessed from a phone, or the e-mail inbox, accessed from a computer. Rules-based call routing and speech recognition can further enhance usage for you, and your callers.

Voice over VPN
This service can reduce toll charges for your telecommuters and mobile team members. Using an IP phone from home, or SoftPhone software on your laptop during travel, you can easily make voice calls over the same, secure Virtual Private Network connection that's used to access data network applications.

Other Enhanced Services
You can also increase productivity by delivering new applications and information directly to your team's IP phones. As part of a managed IP telephony service, providers can provide customized Extensible Markup Language (XML) applications -- for example, to access team calendar information or read news stories relevant to your business.

Contact a managed service provider, to learn more about these IP communication capabilities, and the associated cost savings or productivity benefits. Most providers will have customer case studies for your consideration.