by Nate Rand
What you need to know before you get started
The deployment of any new technology is both an exciting and an intimidating time for businesses, even more so for those businesses aiming to replace or optimize their existing communications system with the cutting edge prowess of voice-over-IP.
Migrating to VoIP is a fairly straightforward process, and truthfully most businesses are able to abandon their analog system in exchange for a VoIP line quite successfully. However, that doesn’t mean that they were instantly ready to make the switch.
Here are a list of requirements that you can use to determine if you are ready for migration, or if some tweaks, add-ons or upgrades might still be needed.
Can your LAN support increased traffic with VoIP calls?
It’s nearly impossible to realize the full potential of a speedboat if it never leaves the harbor. The same can be said of VoIP that runs on crowded networks. Think of the VoIP service as the boat and the network as the open water. In order to achieve optimal results from any VoIP service, it is necessary to utilize a network that is not congested or crowded.
If your business regularly sees a lot of web traffic, or your employees are frequently sending and receiving large files, it will likely be necessary to establish a secondary network that prioritizes VoIP traffic. It is now much easier to procure affordable network switches and infrastructure, making it worthwhile to invest in separate networks to ensure Quality of Service.
Do you have enough bandwidth to support the increased activity?
The most common problem encountered by businesses switching to VoIP revolves around something referred to as ‘The Last Mile of Service.’ Like most, you’ve probably begun investigating VoIP because of the cost savings benefits, however, try not to overlook the fact that you may actually need to spend money in order to get the results you expect. Many companies find that they have to increase their Internet service in order to compensate for increased incoming and outgoing traffic.
In order to ensure that your network has enough bandwidth, ask prospective VoIP solutions providers how big their voice packets are and multiply that times the number of simultaneous calls that will be made. The result will tell you how much bandwidth will be consumed by VoIP.
Will you be making mostly local or long distance calls?
You may be surprised to learn that the widely touted cost-savings of VoIP may not be ask far reaching for those who only make local calls. In fact, the breadth of all money savings opportunities come to those who frequently make long distance calls.
What will you do with your existing telephone system?
As previously discussed, not every business will benefit from VoIP, and there are cases where sticking with the publically switched telephone network might be the best choice. However, if you do fall into the category of businesses that stand to reap great rewards from IP telephony, it might still be wise to keep at least one standard phone line as a fail-safe. This way, should something happy that results in network failure, it is still possible to make or receive voice calls over the standard network.
What will you do if disaster strikes and the power goes out or the network crashes?
It is not often that business locations become inaccessible or that networks go down entirely – however, it does still happen. Making a carefully thought out continuity plan essential to the success of any operation.
VoIP Phone Systems leverages the Internet and a local network in order to transport calls, if one of the other were to fail, you would be without VoIP service. This should be taken into account when exploring VoIP options. Speak to all potential providers about redundancy and power protection.
Who is going to manage your phone system?
Every business is unique. Every VoIP deployment is unique.
As an example, smaller offices of less than 3 employees might receive the results they are looking for with a very basic VoIP service. Whereas businesses with more employees may wish to go the route of a hosted VoIP service. In this type of scenario, the equipment and the service are managed and maintained off-site by the provider.
Which company should you get your VoIP service from?
This is somewhat of a loaded question, there is no shortage of available solutions providers all promising top results and sliding pricing options.
After you’ve determined whether or not you are looking for a hosted on premise-based system, you will need to research and trial run all providers that deliver the services you are looking for. Look into things like service guarantees, uptime, and customer reviews prior to signing any agreements.
What type of calling package best works for you?
Depending on your typical calling volume, you may be able to get a better deal from either flat rate or per minute calling. It is beneficial to review calling patterns and decide what solution works best for you since most VoIP phone system providers offer both options.
What type of equipment will you need?
In order to answer this question, you will need to consider who exactly will be using the equipment and conduct your assessment based on their typical activity. For example, will you need a multi-line phone? A speaker phone? Conferencing equipment?
How quickly will you see a Return on Investment?
Most business report experiencing a decrease in calling charges almost instantly. The quickest way to calculate ROI is to divide the total monthly cost savings by the total upfront costs. This will help you to determine the number of months that will pass before you break even.
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