VoIP: Is it worth the hassle?

If product placement for film and TV is as effective as companies hope, Cisco must be rolling in it. If you've seen any scene in the last few years involving some form of office — no matter whether it's in a high-rise commercial building, a hospital or a morgue — there's a significant chance you'll see a Cisco-branded, IP-based phone sitting on a desk. If fiction mirrored reality, Voice over IP (VoIP) is ubiquitous already.

Unfortunately for Cisco, that isn't exactly the case. In fact, I think I'm yet to see an entire corporation that has made the switch to VoIP. Sure, there are the odd cases here and there — small businesses trying to cut costs wherever possible, for example — but unless you happen to work for a VoIP company, chances are you are on the same traditional PSTN line as everyone else.

So is VoIP really worth the hassle? Sure, there are the cost benefits if it is set up and organised properly, but the idea of adding layer of technology on top of your standard office network is mind-boggling. Load the network bandwidth of VoIP on top of your standard, snail-slow office Internet connection and there's a good chance your employees will find yet another way to remain unproductive, as IT staff struggle to rebuild the IP network in time for that all-important conference call.

For homes, the situation isn't too different. Sure, there are naked DSL plans, Analog Telephone Adaptors and dual-mode VoIP phones, but add VoIP onto your average broadband plan — already cluttered with BitTorrent and Facebook — and don't be surprised if it's nightmares ahoy. Not to mention that most naked DSL plans include uploads in the bandwidth quota, making the trip to dial-up town all that much shorter. If you happen to be the resident techie in your household and you feel confident to take the cons with the pros, go for it. For Joe the Plumber, though, VoIP is still a pipe dream.

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James Hutchinson

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