Successfully deploying a network upgrade to move your business communications from analog phone lines and into a digital environment requires several specialized pieces of equipment. Of these, your SIP gateway will be among the most important.
Your SIP gateway is what makes Voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephone service possible. It uses a DSX-1 port to translate between analog and digital telephone signals, allowing phones on either system to call each other. Besides broadening your telephone options, this is what allows VoIP telephone service to be so much cheaper than traditional phone services, by
sending the voice data over the Internet.
So, today we're going to address a few questions we often hear about gateways and their features. Read on to learn more!
Q: Can I keep my standard phone features, like call waiting and caller ID?
A: All of those features are handled at the software level, in the firmware that runs the phones and gateways. Generally speaking, though, the answer is yes. You'll want to check the product specifications for the gateway you're interested in carefully to ensure it has all the features you currently subscribe to.
Q: Can I use my existing phones?
That depends on the gateway. You'll need to select one with plenty of FXS ports, which are what allow standard phones to connect directly into the data network. Virtually all modern gateways also support your existing internal telephone network, so you won't have to worry about reassigning extensions or making other changes to the system. As long as you have enough FXS ports for your existing phone system, it can be ported directly over.
(Note: If you're looking at the ADTRAN Total Access 900 series, the number after the nine specifies how many FXS ports it has. The 908 has 8 ports, the 916 has 16, and so forth. An “e” after the number means it has two Ethernet ports, rather than one.)
Q: Can I get 911?
911 service through SIP and VoIP services is handled by a system called “e911,” for Enhanced 911. This is a technology that continues to mature, as the equipment providers and telephone services work together to continue improving it. Generally speaking, e911 works fine for physical locations such as office buildings with set addresses, but it has some difficulty with precisely locating someone who's roaming on a mobile device, but still connecting via your network.
Speak to your VoIP provider first to find out how they've implemented e911 service. They'll
have more precise recommendations for you. However, if large portions of your workforce roam, you may want to provide them with low-cost cell phones with more guaranteed 911 access.
Q: What security do I need in my SIP gateway?
A: Most gateways come with built-in firewalls and security features that will do an
adequate job of shielding a typical company. However, if you're in a field where you handle a lot of sensitive or protected information, you may still want to consider purchasing a dedicated security system. Built-in security will never be as robust as what a stand-alone unit can offer.
Q: Will an SIP gateway save me money?
A: In the long run, the answer is almost certainly YES. Many companies balk at the amount of money it takes to convert to a data-based telecommunications network, but once it's in place, the cost savings are real and ongoing. VoIP service costs a fraction of traditional long distance, to the point that worldwide calls are essentially free. Over several years, SIP hardware quickly pays for itself.
If you've got any more questions about gateways and how to select the best one for your business, don't hesitate to let us know what you need. We'll be happy to help you with any networking project, big or small!