Weighing the Pros and Cons of Migrating to SIP
For years, enterprises have relied on the PSTN to serve as the foundation of their telecom environments. However, due to an FCC order calling for the transition from PSTN to IP environments, organizations will soon have no choice but to adopt an IP-based technology. Within the spectrum of IP, enterprises can choose options such as MPLS and SIP trunking. But when it comes to firms with hosted VoIP and unified communications in place, SIP looks like the better choice.
That’s because SIP quality has greatly accelerated, said Dieter Rencken, senior product manager at ShoreTel. With this improvement comes technology that is easier to use, as well as more flexible and scalable. Not to mention, SIP often saves money, which provides the initial appeal. “Customers are looking at SIP as a way to save costs,” said Jim Price, CEO at ICOMM Inc. But, as with many aspects of communications, financial gains only skim the surface of what can be gained from a SIP implementation.
The Benefits of Switching to SIP
Of course, money provides a direct way for telecom to affect the bottom line – when companies switch to SIP, they can save up to 50 percent each month. On top of that, SIP introduces features and functionality such as:
- Increased flexibility
- Improved redundancy and reliability
- Consolidated network
- More efficiency throughout the network
- Control returned to the enterprise
With a SIP network, enterprises can supply employees with email, collaboration services, voicemail, and instant messaging all through one service provider. “You can bring all feature sets to a multitude of enterprise subscribers in a very standard way,” said Vic Bozzo, co-founder and CEO of Pareteum.
This helps the telecom department manage vendor relationships but SIP offers more than that. “IP networks are inherently more efficient,” said Mack Greene, senior product manager at IntelePeer. “SIP provides mechanisms to allow networks to efficiently use internal resources for delivery and the transportation of calls, which provide cost savings for the end users.”
SIP further works well for multi-national organizations and employees because it unifies inventory across carriers and countries, Price said. “Functionality, reliability, redundancy and administrative ease of managing [SIP] have taken it to the next level,” he said.
Is SIP a No-Brainer? Not So Fast
Considering all the positives, it might seem impossible to find a reason why an enterprise would not want to use SIP. Still, many organizations haven’t yet, and for good reason. For many companies, not evolving to SIP is simple – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Greene says similar to the vintage phone in a grandmother’s apartment, many firms don’t see the need to replace something that continues to function well. “Organizations have spent capital and operational expense to build out their phone system,” he said. “If it’s still working, why change it?”
In other instances, enterprises may want to change, but contract terms punish clients who leave their current vendor. When companies buy PRIs, they usually sign a contract for up to three years; jumping ship to adopt SIP is either legally barred or may incur penalty fees, said Wes Rogers, COO of NexVortex.
Another reality is that end users still feel trepidation when it comes to securing SIP. SIP requires enterprises to share one Internet connection with all of their services and locations. And for companies without strong, knowledgeable IT departments, this poses more risk for a breach.
Despite those potential problems, most security concerns stem from SIP’s primitive days when the technology was less stable than traditional connectivity. “In the legacy world, when a site lost a PRI, the other sites were fine,” Price said. “In the early iterations of SIP networks, whole regions would go down.”
Over the years, SIP networks have seen drastic improvement. For example, carriers such as AT&T and Verizon have gotten better at deploying and supporting SIP, and they have built redundancy to provide an extra layer of backup.
The Future Will Be SIP
SIP has not been adopted as quickly or openly as expected. As Bozzo said, in the year 2000, industry experts predicted every call would be made over IP or VoIP by 2010, but “here we are in 2017, and we’re not there yet.”
People tend to take time adopting new technology. SIP has proven no different. Add that to the costs of implementation and enterprises have a lot to consider. But once it’s established that installation costs are outweighed by the ROI, the move to SIP happens more swiftly. Bozzo attributes this shift to finances and the flattening of the globe. “Almost every company is required to do business everywhere in the world,” he said. “That’s what will drive adoption faster.”
And as SIP becomes more integral to the enterprise, management will take notice. Jeffrey Pearl, CEO and founder of OTG Consulting, said when firms don’t know what is available, they have no incentive to move to SIP. But as SIP deployments grow and the results speak for themselves, that will all change. “It’s a matter of time,” Pearl said.
Adopting SIP Without Losing Your Mind
With any transition to something new, there is potential for hiccups. Knowing from the outset what could go wrong can help avoid delays – or at least temper their frustrations.
IntelePeer’s Mack Greene says enterprises should enter into a SIP implementation knowing the process may not move as quickly as hoped. While SIP does hold a reputation for installing on a fast timeline, firms often don’t account for the extra hours needed to train employees on the new services and features. And remember to plan a cushion for moving landline phone numbers from the incumbent to the SIP provider – this can take as long as four weeks.
Installation difficulties also can arise from hardware SIP standards, said ShoreTel’s Dieter Rencken. “Interoperability can be an issue,” he said. In an ideal scenario, the SIP vendor will vet these possible holdups during the RFP process. If a phone won’t talk to the network, for example, the enterprise likely will have to buy new equipment. Adding a “miscellaneous” category to the SIP transition budget might come in handy.
Finally, more hurdles can pop up if an enterprise hasn’t taken a full inventory, said ICOMM’s Price. Make sure to tally all the numbers and accounts that will link to SIP; without that information ahead of time, the project will become harder to manage.