Gateways In Action: How To Avoid Annoying Dinosaurs With Forklifts

By Steve Sokol

PBX systems are generally viewed as a long-term investment. According to the industry mavens who track buying trends, most companies refresh their voice communications technology about once every 10 years – generally when moving to a new location or when some kind of tragedy strikes the old system. Compared with computers, which tend to be replaced every 36 months, PBXs move at a glacial pace. Why the slow roll on the phone gear? Because changing out the old in favor of the new is disruptive, expensive and historically didn’t bring much of a value-add to the company. But as the man said, the times – they are ‘a changing.

Today, there are several excellent reasons to ditch the old PBX dinosaur in favor of one of the many mammals that have recently appeared on the market. Top among those is Voice over IP (VoIP). Rather than requiring a separate phone line or channel for each phone call, VoIP uses a much more efficient means of moving your voice from one place to another. In a VoIP system, the audio gets converted into data and is sent across a data network (most often the Internet). It uses the same pipes as your email, IM and web packets. Once voice is turned into data it can do some pretty cool stuff. It can connect multiple locations together for free. It can tie-in remote employees anywhere in the world. Most intriguingly, it can let you give the local phone company the big heave-ho, replacing their overpriced lines with a less costly service from an Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP) or competitive carrier.

How does this relate to dinosaurs and forklifts? Well, in some cases it just doesn’t make sense to crank up the forklift and heave the old PBX beast out the door. Perhaps it’s been tied into your workflow. Maybe your staff just loves those avocado green phones from 1978. Or perhaps you just don’t want to spend the gobs of money it will take to replace it. Fair enough. If any of those cases is true for you and yours, what you really need is a Digium VoIP gateway. A gateway is a small box that hooks to the data network on one side, and to your PBX on the other. It speaks T1 (or E1, if you happen to be outside the US) to the dinosaur while speaking SIP (the most common flavor of VoIP) to an ITSP, remote worker or location.

The Digium VoIP Gateway looks just like the evil old phone company to your evil old PBX. It will never know the difference. But just on the other side of the cable, the gateway is quietly converting the phone calls into VoIP calls and routing them across the Internet. The gateway is a clever little thing. You can set it up to send calls to various destinations based on the number dialed. That way you can set up free calling between your locations (a function frequently called “toll bypass”) and discount calling to outside destinations using a ITSP. Depending on how much calling your business does, this can reduce your monthly phone costs by as much as half. All without engaging the services of the forklift or annoying the dinosaur.

For more information on Digium gateways, register for this free webinar, “Gateway To Paradise: Discover Digium’s New VoIP Gateways.” The webinar provides practical tips to make VoIP installations easier for you. You can also learn more about Digium gateways with this free e-guide that you can download now. (And if you think it may be time to shoo the dinosaurs out of your life, take a gander at Switchvox , our IP PBX and Unified Communications system.)

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About the Author

Steve Sokol

Steven Sokol is co-founder and product lead for Respoke, Digium's real-time communications (WebRTC) platform and continues to serve as the director of strategic programs at Digium (aka entrepreneur in residence), identifying and capitalizing on emerging technologies.. He has previously served as the Asterisk marketing director and as a product manager. He joined Digium in the summer of 2007 when his startup was acquired. Steve co-founded both AstriCon, the annual Asterisk user conference, and the Asterisk Bootcamp training program. He lives in Kansas City.

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