The convergence capabilities and benefits of voice-over-IP (VoIP) are well known in the contact centre environment, particularly the ability of an IP-based solution to ensure that not only can a company’s needs be met in the present, but that the solution can also scale to meet those of the future.

However, when it comes to the choice of solution, there is less understanding of just how much more cost effective an open source IP PBX can be when compared to a proprietary  one, according to Rob Lith, Managing Director of Connection Telecom.
“Not only does an Open Source IP PBX provide you with all the features and functionality of a proprietary version, it can do so at between one half and one third of the price,” he says.
“On top of this, such solutions are both scalable and flexible in terms of adding new users on to the system, but without the onerous licensing costs that are part and parcel of proprietary solutions. Also, the Open Source version can offer even an SME the same high level applications – like voice mailboxes and interactive voice recognition (IVR) software – that one would generally only get with high-end proprietary solutions.”
However, Lith claims that the number one reason his company’s clients give for switching to Open Source is the level of control, ownership and insight that it gives the IT manager with respect to something that was previously a black box, meaning that they can now administer it and make decisions and changes without having to bring in external consultants to effect these.
“Interoperability is also a vital cog in a solution such as our own Asterisk, as this allows the client to introduce a hybrid set up until such time as they have the confidence, or their legacy assets have reached the end of their life cycle, to move across to the full system. Effectively this means that customers can migrate as they need to or can afford to, there is no need to adopt a ‘big bang’ approach.”
He also claims that since recent legislative developments have forced Telkom and the mobile operators to interconnect with VoIP service providers and provide them with their own numbering system, it means that these players can receive revenue for termination of calls. In other words, one can use this to turn the contact centre – generally dismissed as a ‘cost centre’ – into a ‘revenue centre’ for the business.
“Such solutions are also far more easily customisable, as the Open Source environment allows the IT manager to go out into a considerable developer community and find the right applications to suit their particular circumstances, leading once again to huge cost savings, since purchasing, for example, a custom-built proprietary text-to-speech application would cost a fortune, whereas in this instance, it is free.”
He says that it is not only the direct benefits such as those already mentioned that can be useful to an organisation, but also the indirect ones, such as the cost savings to be had from the fact that, with the new 087 VoIP numbers being non-geographical, your numbers would not need to change, even if the business moved to another region.
“So not only does it save you the trouble of having to inform clients and suppliers of what your new numbers are, but you also save money because you do not need to change your business cards and stationery.”
“Besides this, another indirect benefit would be the manner in which the money saved through the use of an Open Source solution can thus be invested into other areas of the business, such as training, corporate social investment programmes or even passing these savings on to your customers.”
Lith states that any multi-branch organisation utilising an Open Source solution can – aside from keeping all its inter-branch calls on-Net – extend this service further, by routing calls to customers through to whichever regional branch is nearest to the customer before breaking out of the network, thereby only paying local, rather than national rates.
“I would have to say that the beauty of an Open Source solution essentially lies in the high level of control and ownership it gives to the user, the scalability and flexibility of the solution, its affordability, and the fantastic total cost of ownership that it offers.”
“Open Source telephony gives business a powerful tool that enables it to turn telephony from a pure voice application into a multidimensional business tool that will definitely ensure that the contact centre pays for itself, and may even allow it to move from being a cost centre to a genuine revenue generator,” he concludes.