What is a converged network?

A convergent network integrates voice, video and data into one system

By Sheila Shanker
Updated: February 09, 2011

Computer networks have been around for decades linking computers, servers and printers, making businesses more efficient and effective. If you want to print a large document, you sign in the network and choose where you want your material to be printed. When computers are linked, you can share printers, files and other resources, saving time and money in the process.

A converged network is defined per Global Knowledge as:

"A single network with the capacity to carry a combination of data, voice and video traffic"

A convergent network is the next level in computer communications – not only data is transferred, but also voice and video are shared using Internet protocol (IP). You can consider a converged network as a “super network.” Instead of regular phone lines, a converged network is used, decreasing or eliminating long distance costs, a major plus to any business.

Requirements

Broadband
Since a converged network transports lots of data, an important requirement is for a large broadband to handle high volume of transactions. You don’t want to be faced with a situation where a video cannot be played at a conference because too many people are using a voice/phone service.

Tools
Businesses have to invest in software and hardware that not only handle the converged network demands, but also control and maintain adequate data flow with tools such as QoS (Quality of Service) systems. You want to get the tools that help your IT staff to diagnose and fix issues in the network with minimum time and expense. Since the network uses Internet protocol, these systems can be built with "html," minimizing training time.

Architecture
If you don't have an expert in your company you should hire an IT consulting firm with the experience and knowledge to do the job right, including designing an architecture that will work well long-term for your firm. It's a good idea to invest in a converged network infra-structure that will allow for scalability and security of the entire system.

Advantages

Savings
A major advantage of converged networks is the savings in phone costs related to long-distance and international calls. These are substantial when using VoIP, also known as voice over Internet protocol, a common feature in converged networks.

Flexibility
Another benefit of convergent networks is the flexibility and scalability of the network structure -- you can add or modify phones or computers with relatively ease without the involvement of phone companies.

Simplicity
Many businesses decide on a converged network to simplify and integrate IT systems. It’s easier to maintain and upgrade one “super network,” rather than to handle various different types of networks. If you have phone issues, you call on your IT department to fix it -- not your old phone company, which may require days to add service or to make any changes to your system. Per InfoWorld,

"The nature of the converged network makes future growth and modifications easier, more so than making changes and replacements to separate, individual systems."

Convergent network technology is here to stay and to take businesses to the next level. It's not just for firms with large budgets, but also for small to medium size (SMB) companies, such as Coldwater Vision Center, a two-location optometric business in Mississippi, that made a very successful change to this new technology. You can find out more about converged networks for SMBs in our whitepaper Phone Systems for Small, Medium & Enterprise.

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