By Rory J. Thompson, Web Editor
With the New Year and new budgets finally here, smart enterprises are beginning to take a close look at VoIP and all it can offer them. While some are still hesitant to take the plunge, others are going ahead, albeit with some trepidation.
If your company is considering making the switch, Rich Winslow, senior director of product management at ShoreTel (News - Alert) Communications, offered some excellent guidelines in a recent blog post. With his “Seven Steps to a Pain-Free Migration to VoIP,” Winslow gives a thorough rundown on what enterprises need to do to make this launch a successful one.
To start, Winslow advises you begin at the beginning: “Do a thorough assessment of your network to determine whether you need to do any network upgrades or add capacity to the wide-area network,” he said. “VoIP is highly sensitive to network latency and jitter, which can result in poor sound quality or dropped calls for your workers. In addition, your network switches need to support Power over Ethernet (PoE) to connect and power the IP phones, so if you have older switches in your wiring closets you may need to upgrade.”
By taking such steps early in the process, you can identify potential trouble spots early on, and adjust your plans accordingly.
With the ubiquity of wireless in the workplace today, Winslow advises that your wireless LAN might need an upgrade as well. Again, do your homework; this isn’t something you want to discover after your transition has been completed.
Moving down his checklist, it’s also advised that you run a pilot test. The idea is to give your IT staff a chance to test out various systems before a full implementation is rolled out. As the Obama Administration recently discovered with the failed launch of the Affordable Care Act website, once you launch, everyone expects it to run perfectly. No one wants to hear your excuses.
“A pilot gives your IT staff a chance to become familiar with what they will need to deliver a good user experience and a reliable, secure UC service,” Winslow says. “It will uncover any last-minute issues before implementation and get your staff comfortable with the technology. And it will give your business confidence that the solution that you chose works as advertised.”
Switching over to a VoIP system need not be an all-at-once endeavor. “When people replace a legacy phone system, they often think that they need to do a flash cut, where they migrate all at once at night or over a weekend,” commented Wayne Cochrane, manager of sales engineering at ShoreTel. “With IP phone systems, you can take a phased approach.” Such an approach will allow for a smoother phase-in, where potential problems can be addressed immediately.
Speaking of problems, it’s also wise at this point to plan for disaster recovery, as a network outage can have wide-ranging implications. Equally as important, make sure that users and administrators are well trained in the new system before rollout begins. “Be sure to provide training and quick-start guides to help users and administrators adapt quickly and get the most out of the new business phone system,” Winslow recommends.
Last but certainly not least, he notes that security in an IP phone system is paramount. “An IP phone system shares the network with data and other applications, which means that you must take additional steps for security,” he advises. “You need to guard the UC system against malware and other attacks that could bring your organization’s communications to a halt.”
As noted, a VoIP system can offer significant savings and offer real benefits to the enterprise. But a few cautious steps before making the switch will pay off in big dividends later.
Edited by Blaise McNamee