Companies considering making the jump from traditional phone service to VoIP or unified communications need to perform thorough network readiness testing prior to deployment and should also consider taking a phased approach to implementation, a free white paper from IP phone system maker Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert) recommends.
As the white paper, “Paving a Successful Migration Path to VoIP: Five Checkpoints to Make Your Migration the Right Move,” points out, “You can deploy the most proven IP PBX (News - Alert) product in the world for VoIP and IP telephony, but it won’t matter if your network issues haven’t been addressed first.”
“Without question, preparing your network for VoIP is the most critical step in implementing an IP-based communications system, and selecting a vendor who shows a track record of successful IP network implementations and system deployments is critical, whether a local or wide area network (LAN/WAN) or a multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network such as those offered by AT&T (News - Alert) and other telco providers,” the white paper states.
Due to the advent of software-as-a-service and cloud-based applications and services, companies are placing ever-increasing demand on their local and wide-area networks. Much the same way the major service providers have to constantly optimize the performance of their networks, based on volume and customer demand, organizations need to “tweak” the performance of their LANs and WANs as well, in order to ensure application performance. This becomes all the more important as companies more routinely (and rapidly) upgrade and replace the systems and services they are using, due to SaaS (News - Alert) and cloud-based computing, which allows for rapid uptake.
“The vendor performing your network analysis should simulate VoIP traffic on the network to measure capacity and evaluate characteristics for VoIP traffic and quality of service, as well as congestion, reliability and other potential issues,” the white paper states. “By doing so, your organization can make needed changes and reasonably assure network success before launching its VoIP initiative.”
Simulating traffic, both voice and data, is the best way of ensuring network readiness. A common mistake companies make is testing the LAN or WAN for voice irrespective of other applications – then discovering that when data traffic peaks out during certain times of day, or due to certain events, voice quality erodes -- or worse yet calls start dropping completely. A worst case scenario is a complete network outage. (The white paper recommends that organizations perform network analysis only after they have outlined their VoIP infrastructure design.)
As the white paper points out, voice packets need to be prioritized over other data on an IP network in order to achieve and maintain call quality. While QoS minimizes or even eliminates the call latency that saddled early VoIP implementations, “it should not be confused with the actual voice quality of an IP-driven call, which instead is gauged by delay, or the amount of time it takes a voice packet to be created, sent across the network, and converted back into sound; echo, which results from the delay in voice packet networks and becomes more noticeable as delay increases; and jitter, which occurs when voice packets arrive at an interval greater than they’re sent.”
In addition, the white paper recommends that companies take a phased approach to VoIP migration. Most companies, it points out, don’t want to rip out their existing telephone system and make the transition all at once simply because there is too much risk involved – it's better to hold onto your old phone system until everyone has a chance to get comfortable (and confident) with the new one. Even companies making the transition to an “all-in-one” IP phone system combining IP PBX, ACD, IVR, voicemail, messaging and call monitoring/recording, such as Interactive Intelligence’s Customer Interaction Center platform, will likely find it easier and simpler to take incremental steps -- phasing their migration by replacing one system component at a time, or perhaps a few at a time, rather than all at once.
“In some cases an enterprise can integrate their new IP PBX suite to an existing PBX to anchor the first few migration phases, and then eventually replace the PBX system itself as IP telephony and VoIP come fully into play for initiating and managing calls,” the white paper points out.
“With well-thought planning and buy-in from senior management as well as IT teams and end-users, migrating to an IP communications platform in stages minimizes complexity helps protect the investments an enterprise already has in existing systems,” the white paper adds.
To download the free white paper and read about the other four “checkpoints” that will make your migration to VoIP a smooth one, click here.
Patrick Barnard is a senior Web editor for TMCnet, covering call and contact center technologies. He also compiles and regularly contributes to TMCnet e-Newsletters in the areas of robotics, IT, M2M, OCS and customer interaction solutions. To read more of Patrick's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Patrick Barnard