Should I Upgrade to VoIP, or use PBX

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Oct 7th, 2008
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We now use an Alcatel PBX, 15 years old, with Lucent 8410d digital phones. We have 200 users at one site, and 100 users at three remote sites, with data T-1s connecting them. Is VoIP absolutely the best way to go, or should I look at mid-range PBX solutions. If VoIP, is the Cisco brand the worth the extra money? Thanks. jc

Correct Answer by CHRIS CHARLEBOIS about 8 years 7 months ago

That is correct. The IP Phone acts as a two-port switch; It trunks up to the switch with a Voice and Native (Data) VLAN and provides an access port on the native VLAN to the PC.

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CHRIS CHARLEBOIS Tue, 10/07/2008 - 12:33
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Do you like Coke or Pepsi? Are you a Republician or a Democrat? Do you watch the Office or Heroes? The point is that there is alot of personal opinion in what you are asking. And a look of non-quangtifiables.

First choice, to VoIP or not to VoIP. WIth a 15-year only PBX, you are probably going to need a change anyway. The only serious options are a new IP PBX or an upgrade to the Alcatel that will enable IP. The IP-enabled option may end up being cheaper, because it allows you to keep existing handsets. It also reduces the amount of change that your users will face. However, it does tie you down to a single vendor and probably a single topology. And maintenance expenses will probably be higher.

A new IP PBX would probably be most people's choice here, but hey, it's a Cisco IPT forum. (If you go to a Ears, Nose, Throat doctor, he will probably tell you that you have a problem in your ears, your nose, or your throat.) This will probably included a larger initial outlay of capital and services, but in general, maintance will probably be cheaper. Now, if you go with an IP PBX, which do you go with? Obviously Cisco is the popular choice around here. It is expensive, but it also works. Lots of support is available and lots of trained and certified professionals can be found to install and support it. Asterix is the other major option, but this is the opposite of Cisco in a lot of ways. Cheap, difficult to find support, difficult to find people to install. However, when instaleld correctly, it works as well as Cisco. Some would say even better, as Asterix has a broader feature set. But typically the support issue is enough to drive most businesses away.

Aside from Cisco and Asterix, the only other IP PBX worth mentioning is Avaya's IP Office, but that is really more of just an IP enabled PBX/Key system. so probably not a canidate unless you are already using Avaya.

jimmyc_2 Tue, 10/07/2008 - 12:48
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Hi Charley,

As I understand it, I've got option "A", which is Cisco VoIP, or option "B", which is an Avaya or Asterix "IP enabled PBX". Do both options allow me to run phone calls over the existing data lines, so I can eliminate toll calls?

I read some marketing junk from ShoreTel; are they a viable VoIP solution?



Rob Huffman Tue, 10/07/2008 - 13:06
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Hey Jimmy,

Just to add another option to the great (funny) info from Chris.+5 points for this Chris :)

Maybe start off with a Hybrid solution where you can migrate users across slowly rather than "forklift" them out. That's what we did with our Nortel PBX.

Hope this helps!


jimmyc_2 Thu, 10/09/2008 - 06:18
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Hi Rob, Chris,

We have the telephones owned by the parent company, but all PC are controlled by the subcontractor. If we go with VoIP, can I push the telephony over our existing Cat3 lines. Do VoIP telephones have to have a PC in-line at the users desk?


CHRIS CHARLEBOIS Thu, 10/09/2008 - 10:22
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No, and no. The IP Phones typically cannot be run over Cat3 lines. Not 100% sure on that, but even if it is possible, I wouldn't recommend it. And the PC does not need to be inline, however, it is so convienent to do so, it own makes sense. One advanatge to VoIP is consolidating your wiring infrastructure. Now, it sounds like you may have political constraints that trump the technological advanatages. However, if you can connect the phones to the existing switches, you can still keep the traffic seperate by using voice VLANs.

jimmyc_2 Thu, 10/09/2008 - 10:27
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Hi Chris,

Thanks for the info. I just want to make sure i got this right; we can run VoIP and PC data over the same cat5, but by using trunking, the data streams never cross. Both companies are okay with VLAN separation, so this is just another example of that, yes?

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CHRIS CHARLEBOIS Thu, 10/09/2008 - 11:10
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That is correct. The IP Phone acts as a two-port switch; It trunks up to the switch with a Voice and Native (Data) VLAN and provides an access port on the native VLAN to the PC.

CHRIS CHARLEBOIS Tue, 10/07/2008 - 13:08
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Shoretel is another alternative. Shoretel is an IP PBX like Cisco and Asterix. Cheaper than Cisco, more support than Asterix. I guess you could call it the porridge that Goldilocks ate.

It would be unfair to lump Avaya and Asterix together in anyway. Asterix is a pure IP PBX, that is open source (i.e. the software is free) but has no formal support model. (Because it is open source, there is no manufacturer that provides support.) Avaya is a traditional PBX manufacturer (one of the biggest) that is making a big push into the VoIP market. Their solution is still based in part on the traditional PBX model, but it's better than old-school circuit switched PBXs.

All three options (four if you include Shoretel) will allow you to carry voice over the existing data lines to eliminate toll calls. However, you will need VoIP equipment on the far end also to receive the calls, and it is easy to setup and support if you use the same solution on both ends.


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