IP PBXs could be kink in unified communications plans

Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, Avaya, Nortel and Shoretel among myriad vendors who need to work together to meld IP PBX and UC

ROI is lacking

Most businesses have given up trying to justify VoIP based on return on investment, according to a study by Nemertes Research. Capital outlay for IP PBXes is about the same or more than for traditional PBXs, operational start-up costs are higher and it takes about three times longer to isolate and repair outages, says Robin Gareiss, Nemertes executive vice president, in a report on the business case for VoIP.

"To be sure there can be a net savings after the first two years, but organizations are focusing on other benefits, such as streamlined features, improved productivity and integrated voice/data/video collaborative applications," Gareiss says.

When blending IP PBXes into collaboration, messaging and presence, the cost of UC licensing will determine the customer's starting point, Lassman says.

A Microsoft shop, for instance, will look at its current licensing and determine whether adding UC is incremental or a significant cost jump. "If you're starting from scratch and you have Exchange 2003, it's going to be hard to justify UC because of the increase in the cost of the license," he says. On the other hand, if they already have Exchange 2007 a move to UC would cost less.

The open standards will allow customers to shop around. "If they're starting from scratch, they could look at some other vendors," Lassman says.

Another way to save is by limiting UC deployment at the outset, Lassman says. "I think some clients think they've got to do it to everybody everywhere, but the reality of it is there's no need to," he says.

Regardless of how fast UC grows, an IP PBX is a wise investment for now, he says. "Anybody who invests in one today will get a lot of mileage out of that for awhile. It will be part of any UC migration regardless of the UC platform," Lassman says.

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