Voice and Data: When Will They Converge?

Back in the day when I was a young administrator building networks for companies, we always supported multiple types of networks. It was just the way things were done then. Vendors did not play well with other vendors. And the technology was just not there yet. Even now in many companies I still continue to see separate networks: data and voice. All of which take up valuable resources.

Why hasn’t voice been migrated over to the data backbone? The technology is there and has been there for some time. Why are firms still supporting multiple networks?

IP Telephony and Voice over IP (VoIP) can help your firm reduce costs and simplify your network by using existing bandwidth that might be inefficiently used. That is assuming you have available bandwidth. VoIP has the intelligence to only use the bandwidth needed, and is even able to compress that usage on its own. This results in significantly less bandwidth being used, which is more cost effective data usage, compared to the voice or PSTN links. In addition, an IP-PBX offers much more functionality and flexibility to your network.

You must have heard of other firms migrating over to VoIP and having quality issues. This is true when voice traffic must compete for bandwidth with other applications on the network, the quality of calls will suffer even if the IP network is working perfectly. The “jitters” was a real problem for most early adopters. However, proper QoS and data shaping will ensure that the voice traffic will have the bandwidth it needs, when needed. This is critical for IP Telephony call quality. However, while ensuring uncongested bandwidth is available to voice is critical for superior call quality, other applications must also perform well to keep the business running.

Untangling and converging your voice and data networks will allow your networks to do more with less by reducing communications costs, simplifying administration, and increasing employee productivity.

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Blogs for November 2009

Here are some blog postings that I found interesting this month:

Managing against the tide by Lui Sieh

Support your CIO! by Ade McCormack

Rules of IT are Changing by Mark Brewer

Fits and starts: staying “tech savvy” as a CIO by Peter Kretzman

Healthcare Reform and the Reliance on IT by Don Lewis

Consultants and the CIO by Eric Brown

Keeping It Simple – The 3 ‘S’ Rule

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I was talking to a new network manager the other day. He was picking my brain for ideas on how best to manage his small network. He is a staff of one and therefore must be everywhere all the time. We have all been there at some point in our careers so I wanted to give him some help to calm his fears of being overwhelmed.

When I first started in IT, I was schmoozed by many a vendor. What did I care at the time? I did not know better and this was a time when everyone was beating down my door. Aahhh the good ole days….

One of the first tools I needed was tool to monitor my core/edge and server heart beat.  Many vendors came in and I paid a lot for various software and hardware packages to do the job. I won’t name names but after the first three or four months the various solutions I purchased seem to fail, break or go berserk. Of course the vendor was nowhere to be found or blamed my environment. My CFO was not happy with me. Lesson learned. Don’t be swayed by salespeople.

I found a product by chance because I was tired of coming in on the weekends for false alarms and outages. The product was WhatsUp Gold by Ipswitch (http://www.whatsupgold.com/). I started using this at version 2 and now they are up to version 12.4 at the time of this post. 

What attracted me to Ipswitch was its simplicity. You can perform a simple heartbeat with very little traffic congestion being generated. You can have it email you when equipment goes down. And you can have reports generated on the health of your network. There is an annual service agreement based on the number of devices being monitored which gives you phone support and updates. It is far cheaper than what other products cost. Whats’Up has a very small footprint. Once up and running it required very little care and feeding. And is this not what we all want.

What’sUp saved me many times. As my department grew we expanded monitoring for each group so they would be able to monitor their equipment accordingly. As a manager I was able to get a snapshot of my entire environment to show how healthy the environment was doing. 100% uptime is a great number to throw around to corporate management.

So what lesson did I learn from all this and what lesson should new IT managers follow – Keep It Simple. Bells and whistles are great but too much of a good thing is not. Any new product should follow the 3 ‘S’ rule – Simple, Stable and Scalable.

Once you follow this you will be a happier IT person. Good Luck

A New York Chief Information Officer’s Search

Over the last several months I have started growing my “brand” to increase my exposure to the world. In my search for a new job, there are a few processes that one needs to have in place.

First, you have to network. It sounds hard and it could be depending on how you go about it. Never forget the people you worked with or went to school with. That guy in the mailroom might be working at a better position at another firm. Your college professor might be working as a consultant now and remembers what a good student you were. Always keep a rolodex of contacts and try to stay in touch with them periodically. Never burn your bridges unless you really have to and even then do not do it. And always enlist your friends and family. They are a good source to network for you.

Second, get on social networking sites like LinkedIn or Facebook. I have recently gotten on Facebook and I am still trying to find my way around as a tool. LinkedIn is a must for any professional. I have grown my network ten-fold without leaving my house. As a tool you can target individuals and groups that meet your interests. Your profile should always be up-to-date and you should have recommendations and connections to people.

Third, if you are an executive you should be writing. Whether in print or online you should do so. This gets your name out and grows your reputation and brand. It also keeps you thinking and your mind active. Starting a blog is free and easy to get started. In this day and age there is no reason not to be publishing something.

Fourth, join professional groups. I belong to TENG and as a group I think they are fabulous. Groups bring together people with similar backgrounds and interests. Do a search on Yahoo groups to find those relevant to you. Also Meetup.com is also another site that has groups that might be of interest. It is not necessary to join only professional groups but join those that are fun like golf or photography. Who knows, your golf club group might have people that can help you.

Fifth, subscription sites like The Ladders or Bluesteps should be approached cautiously. I have had some success with sites like this but overall I do not recommend them. Also free sites like Dice and Monster are a total waste for anyone with a lot of experience.

Sixth, have a handful of recruiters ready. Most senior level jobs, when available, are usually sent through a recruiting agency. So it is best to have a few that know you on your call list. Always remember, recruiters do not work for you but for their clients.

Last, it is important to give back. If you do land a position, remember that are many more out there without work. If you can help someone then you should. You will sleep better at night.