Paglione says the cost savings with VoIP phones has been significant. Using the hosted model, BCG saved more than $9,000 in phone bills last year and over $80,000 in hardware costs than if the company had gone with an on-premise VoIP system.
But making the move to IP can be a fairly expensive proposition. In many cases, companies will have to make physical upgrades to the WAN, as well as add air-conditioning systems and Ethernet switches.
Gartner's Hafner explains why additional cooling is sometimes required. "People want to upgrade to IP phones, but IP phones need power. So they power the phones using Power over Ethernet," he says. So that means they generally need to install more power in workgroup closets on each floor. "This can be a lot of power in a small room and often requires air conditioning to cool the room." This can even be worse if the users' expectation is that the phones work when building power is lost; that means users need to put batteries (UPS) in the workgroup closet too. This too generates some heat.
Nevertheless, some 82 percent of companies have VoIP deployed somewhere in their organization right now, while 10 percent have VoIP deployed across their entire enterprise, according to research firm Yankee Group Research.
"There's no doubt in my mind that a number of years from now ... almost every call we make will be over IP because of the simplicity it brings," says Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group.
No more call waiting
WebiMax.com, a provider of online lead-generation marketing services, wasn't daunted by the initial costs to set up a VoIP phone system, which President Ken Wisnefski acknowledged were "expensive" -- some $40,000, which includes wiring, call-tracking software and faxing features from each phone in addition to the phone system itself. Wisnefski says the system paid for itself in just "a couple of months," although he saw the benefits to workers "almost immediately." He estimates they save between $500 and $1,000 monthly in long-distance calls alone, and WebiMax has experienced better quality of service in terms of scalability and flexibility.
"We have times where salespeople or others work remotely; they can plug the IP phones into their routers wherever they are, and it's as if they were in the office," says Wisnefski. The company also has a couple of employees who are completely remote workers and with the VoIP system, WebiMax doesn't have to pay for separate landlines. No special training was required, he says.
There are other benefits to the VoIP system. The phones can forward calls to a cell phone. If a salesperson doesn't pick up a call, the system sends an e-mail to their BlackBerry and also leaves a message on their office phone. "It centralizes all your work messages in one place," he says.
WebiMax works with two ISPs to ensure no lapse in service. Wisnefski says with VoIP phones, "fewer things fall through the cracks, and it's a better process. We won't ever go back" to traditional landlines.