How to Switch Your Organization to Voice Over IP (VoIP)
Switching your organization over to VoIP service can provide you with access to advanced phone features while saving your organization money and helping you become more efficient. While it isn’t always easy to make any transition, implementing VoIP doesn’t have to be impossible. In this guide, we’ll help you understand what’s involved so you can begin creating a strategy to help you move forward with the selection and installation process. From there, you can be prepared to make adjustments and configure your phone and Internet systems for changes as necessary.
In this article, we’ll introduce VoIP and talk about how you can explore which types of VoIP service might be best for your business. You’ll learn strategies for getting started. You’ll also discover ways to take your VoIP service to the next level through features that can help you improve service and become more efficient and productive.
- VoIP: Benefits and a Short Overview
- Considerations for Before You Switch
- The Process of Choosing and Implementing Service
We hope you’ll learn enough of the basics after reading this article that you can start your research and begin the process. Be sure to do your own research to find the best solutions for your business!
1. VoIP: Benefits and a Short Overview
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology began around the same time the Internet did, but service plans were not commercially available until the 1990s. This is because Internet access was initially too slow and low-quality to produce voice calls that could meaningfully compete with traditional landline telephone service.
Plain old telephone service (POTS) relies on a global network of copper wires to transmit phone calls. These communications use an infrastructure that is often aging and in need of constant repair and ongoing maintenance. As such, traditional service was expensive and offered limited features.
In contrast, VoIP uses the Internet to transmit phone calls. Calls are sent via the network as discrete packets of data. Data packets are reassembled at their destination back into meaningful voice audio. In other words, voice calls are broken into pieces and these pieces are often transported separately from each other along different routes–this happens because VoIP uses the most efficient routes available to the data, and data packets are often treated differently by servers in different situations. Because of how VoIP works, it’s really important to configure networks correctly and have the right equipment in use to process VoIP calls efficiently.
2. Considerations for Before You Switch
Whether you’re already using a VoIP plan or will be moving directly from a traditional phone service system, there are some important considerations to review as an organization before you take the leap. These considerations will help you ensure that your company is prepared for VoIP and has everything it needs:
- Check Your Infrastructure: You want to be sure your building is ready to support VoIP service. Old wiring may not be up-to-date enough to handle the amount of data and the high speeds your new VoIP system will need to perform properly. Work with any potential vendors to make sure your building has what it takes before you sign any agreements or pay deposits. If you do any upgrades, check to make sure the upgrades are needed and to ensure you are making the best changes for your new phone system.
- Plan a Budget: You will likely need to purchase equipment and you may need to do building and connection upgrades, in addition to any money you plan to spend on the actual service itself. Before you begin, get a realistic assessment of what you can be expected to pay and whether you have enough funds earmarked for the project. It’d be terrible to start and have budget surprises later!
- Decide What You Want: Every stakeholder with decision-making authority or input really needs to be part of the conversation about what your organization actually needs in a VoIP system. Make sure everyone’s on the same page and is in agreement on what will happen next. For instance, do you want to build a contact or call center for your business, or just provide a basic business phone system?
- Get Support: Determine the level of support your organization will need for your VoIP system. Will your vendor be able to provide full technical support, including tech support for any equipment you’re using? Or will you be responsible for having your own tech support? Will you need onsite IT personnel to maintain your system? Keep in mind that even bring your own equipment (BYOE) vendors that allow you to bring in your own phones to your plan may not provide support for all phone models.
- Equipment: Find out from your vendor what kind of equipment you’ll need to invest in. Be sure and ask them before you go out and make any purchases or sign any lease contracts, since you’ll be stuck with that equipment and will want to recoup the full investment if you can.
3. The Process of Choosing and Implementing Service
Once you’re ready to make your decisions and start the implementation process, you’ll need a good plan to guide you. Let your VoIP goals guide you through the vendor and plan selection process. Ask plenty of questions, dig deep and keep shopping until you find the right solution.
When you’re ready to start implementation, consider these steps:
- Plan out how calls are processed. Study the call flow that your new system will use and outline the steps involved in incoming and outgoing calls. Determine where each VoIP feature fits into the process.
- Get ready to run test calls as you start using equipment to make sure headsets and hardware are programmed correctly. You’ll also want to ensure that the software is all working as it is supposed to.
- Allow team members to test the phones with you. Walk them through any differences between the new system and your own phone service so they know what to expect when they start actually working with the new phones on a daily basis.
- Make sure your Internet connection and internal networks are configured properly for VoIP traffic. Keep in mind that having the wrong data prioritization setting or having a connection with bandwidth problems is likely going to introduce reduced sound quality. You want to make sure your systems are prepared for VoIP data and will process it correctly.
- If possible, have your vendor come in and do the installation, especially if there is a lot of equipment to set up and install. While some VoIP solutions use soft phones that are probably installed with little to no effort and may not require help from your vendor at all, you’ll want to get expert help with the installation if there’s hardware that needs to be customized or programmed.
- Allow for slower operations and possible issues in the beginning, especially on the first day of use, as everyone will still be getting accustomed to the new system. If necessary, provide extra training and assign “power users” to be resources when issues happen. Having onsite IT support during the beginning can help minimize the transition.
With a little advance planning, you can make the process much smoother. A successful transition to VoIP can save your organization time, money and resources. You’ll also gain great features in the process!