Service Opportunities For VoIP

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Barry Goldstein, president and CEO of Hauppauge, N.Y.-based CT Networks, on VoIP services opportunities:

• GET USED TO CHARGING: We used to sell our [traditional] PBXes with the profit built into the physical system, and there would never be a line item for professional services. Now everyone knows the price of routers and switches, so you have to retain your profit by charging for professional services. You have to be aware of that and get comfortable billing for them.

• BIG PIECE OF THE PIE: For us, I would say about one-third of the cost of the IP-PBX solution now is going to be professional services, so if you're looking at a $1 million deal, $200,000 to $300,000 in professional services will be included in that.

• GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY: It used to be you'd install a PBX and program some voice-mail boards, maybe program a few hunt groups. Now it's a different game. You have to integrate with Microsoft. You have to deploy softphones on everyone's PCs. There will be interoperability issues with these devices. You may have a program behind Citrix that doesn't work well with unified communications. You'd better have that expertise on hand.

• TAKE A LOOK AT ADD-ONS: The additional services opportunities are now in the peripheral equipment, like Fax-over-IP servers. Now that people have unified messaging, they want their faxes to pop up in their in-boxes. We've been working with XMediusFax from Sagem-Interstar, the latest Cisco-compliant Fax-over-IP solution, and we're certainly generating professional services revenue from this type of peripheral equipment.

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• DON'T FORGET APPLICATIONS: We're also adding on IVR [Interactive Voice Response] applications. Since the device running the communications system is now PC-based, typically Windows or Linux, it's easy to integrate into customers' databases. ... We have one customer, a New York City-based outfit that does transit cards and has lots of calls coming in. People want to load up their cards. We did their IVR system because we did their VoIP system. The IVR dwarfed the IP-PBX rollout.

• FOCUS ON INFRASTRUCTURE: The people that will gain market share as trusted advisers will be the people that understand the WAN and the LAN. Those are the integrators that customers are going to come to as advisers for what communications systems they're going to buy. The biggest service opportunities really come with support services, the same as it did in the PBX world.