Corporate responsibility has become more prominent recently, and enterprises are increasingly implementing environmental practices that impact organizational decisions. However, many otherwise-thoughtful firms fail to consider the potential environmental impact of VoIP migration. These enterprises evaluate many factors to try and ensure the best possible migration: selecting the best vendor(s), reducing migration expenses, minimizing disruption, retraining users in advance of deployment. The potential environmental impact of the voice network should be another fundamental factor in this assessment and deployment process.
Now let’s get real. Regardless of the prominence of green issues, most enterprises base their VoIP migration decisions on economics. Taking the “green” path on any corporate initiative is often perceived as being more expensive. Surprisingly, deploying an environmentally conscious VoIP network need not cost more, and in fact may cost substantially less, providing a compelling balance between economics and corporate responsibility. The remainder of this article offers five ways enterprises can minimize the environmental impact of their voice network while obtaining the cost-savings and productivity enhancing benefits of VoIP.
TDM PBXs are historically very power hungry. Replacing it with a server-based IP PBX, especially an energy-efficient model, is a good first step toward a green voice network. A hosted VoIP service may be even more beneficial. Service providers generally cluster servers in climate-controlled centers with managed air conditioning and power backup, providing much greater efficiencies than most enterprises can accomplish on their own. Power and maintenance of those servers is passed on to the enterprise as part of the monthly service, “pooled” and divided among a large number of customers, providing further efficiencies.
Because most IP PBX manufacturers derive substantial revenue and margin from the sale of IP handsets, their sales people and distribution channels push these devices as the “exclusive” means to obtain the features and functionality of the IP PBX. However, it is generally not necessary (or recommended) to replace every digital handset with a new IP phone. In some cases, a softphone application can be installed on the user’s desktop or laptop computer, providing similar functionality to a desktop IP phone. But many users are accustomed to having a phone on their desk, and this solution may result in lower productivity. Another alternative is to “VoIP-enable” existing handsets with Telephone VoIP Adapter (TVA™) technology. Users access VoIP features from their existing desktop handset for the most common voice functions (call pickup, call forwarding, conference, hold, voice mail, etc.), and access enhanced VoIP features (find-me/follow-me, click-to-call, simultaneous ring, etc.) from a browser window on a desktop or laptop. Enterprises often believe that reselling unwanted but still functional handsets can be a good way to minimize waste. Be careful, however, as buyers of used equipment often simply strip the valuable components out of these handsets and dump the rest either in a landfill, or in a foreign country, as supposedly usable goods (greencitizen).
The energy requirements of new IP phones and Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches come as a surprise to many. In a SearchVoIP.com article, Gary Audin, president of Dephi, Inc. estimates that “on a simple per-phone basis, running VoIP [phones] requires roughly 30% to 40% more power than old TDM phones.” So although an enterprise may gain efficiencies utilizing a premise or hosted IP PBX, those efficiencies can be more than lost powering new IP handsets.
New IP phones require Cat5e/6 LAN cable. Many older buildings, including banks, universities and health care complexes, are still cabled with Cat3, insufficient for IP traffic. Running new cable in these buildings is expensive, time consuming, and can be harmful to the environment. Special permits, environmental evaluations, or even regulated materials management may be required to ensure health, safety, and regulatory compliance while installing new wiring. Enterprises can avoid these potential issues by using TVAs, which deliver VoIP features to existing handsets over existing Cat 3 wiring. And because the TVAs avoid the LAN, enterprises donít need to upgrade or replace LAN infrastructure to accommodate the additional burden of voice traffic.
Currently, there are approximately 365 million digital handsets and millions of miles of Cat3 cable installed in enterprises today. Even though new technologies, such as TVAs, have been developed to minimize the environmental impact of VoIP migration, discarded infrastructure will continue to pile up in landfills, and worse, in the streets of developing nations without sophisticated disposal systems (as detailed by organizations such as greencitizen). Much of this equipment includes potentially hazardous materials, including lead and mercury, which should be disposed of in compliance with federal, state, and local regulations. Several organizations and websites have been established that provide information about the problem and guidelines for the proper disposal of telephone, PBX hardware and cabling, including WEEE Man, eWasteGuide, and the EPA.
Citel enables SMBs, large enterprises, and service providers to realize the cost and productivity benefits of IP telephony while at the same time leveraging their existing PBX infrastructure investment. Businesses with single or distributed locations and PBX vendors can now deploy next-generation IP applications and services at their own pace, with little business disruption. Service providers can deploy hosted IP telephony services quickly, without having to "rip and replace" existing enterprise PBX handsets and LAN cabling. Citel is a privately-held company with corporate headquarters in Amherst, New York, and offices in Concord, Ontario and Loughborough, England. For more information, visit www.citel.com.