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Choosing a VoIP Gateway for Your Company (Part 1)

Gateways are essential aspects of any enterprise VoIP system. These transfer voice (and other traffic) between the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and the IP (Internet Protocol) network. This means VoIP gateways should be able to do much more than traditional PBXes that only interface your internal analog network with the PSTN. As such, you should also expect the gateway to handle other tasks, such as call management, and routing of voice traffic, and translation across the various VoIP protocols, when needed.

Organizations looking into adopting a VoIP solution may be doing so for several reasons. For some, it’s a way to mitigate expensive long-distance and even overseas charges, particularly if offices and branches are located far away from each other (spanning continents, for instance). For others, VoIP gateways offer a more feature-rich network than possible with traditional telephone exchanges.

VoIP gateways basically offer the following features and functionalities: packetization (translation of analog signals to digital packets), compression and decompression (“codecs”), control signaling and voice/packet routing. If you intend to buy a gateway for your company, your decision should go beyond these basics. For one, you should consider the ease of integration of the gateway with your existing PSTN and PBX. You should also consider the level of support that the vendor is provding. Then, of course, you should consider whether the gateway is compatible with your existing VoIP equipment and infrastructure (if any). Finally, there are the added stability and usability features that you might want to have on your system, such as PSTN failover (you can move to the analog line if the VoIP connection fails), H323 and SIP survivability, multiplexing, NAT transversal (if you’re working behind a corporate firewall).

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