Even though VoIP technology has been around for more than 10 years now, most businesses still use an older legacy type telephone system for their calls. While these older phone systems were built to last, because of their expensive costs, a business owner is inclined to keep using it as long as they possibly can.
While trying to maximize a past purchase may seem like a good financial business decision, it is harder to defend as VoIP Service gains massive traction by providing businesses added value through improvements in technology and features.
These enhancements and Productivity increasing features makes the review of moving to a new VoIP service attractive, once a company reaches the point where moving forward with VoIP is the plan for your business, determining how you will transition from older legacy Telecom to VoIP becomes the top priority.
He we have outlined a few factors that should assist in a successful transition to VoIP, by addressing these issues associated with a move to VoIP you’ll be wondering why you didn’t do this sooner.
Now that you have made the decision your business is ready for VoIP, you need a plan. Changing to a new technology is not always simply a matter of flipping a switch! Although, once installed, a VoIP system is much simpler to manage and maintain than old Traditional PBXs, but there may be some small hiccups along the way during the conversion, but with a good plan of action, will make it all work out, and there is no question your business will be better off after making this transition.
Understand this transition is a journey to a destination
The most important thing you’ll need to understand is that VoIP service is an evolving technology, that now has both the Reliability and service that are able to replace a legacy system and service.
Broadband / Internet capacity is far more capable of supporting excellent voice quality today, then in the past and is more competitively priced.
It is surprising that even how fast the technology world is changing, to think that legacy telephony has remained static for so long. The reason why the time is right for a VoIP migration is that business has caught up to what’s changed, and the realization that legacy telephony has simply fallen too far behind what a business needs today.
The major piece of your VoIP transition is defining the reasons to change. The most obvious is the dramatic reduction in telecom related costs. However, when you take a broader look you’ll consider how VoIP can impact your business, the more strategic that sense of purpose becomes.
The best way to address a business’s reasons is to look at how VoIP will impact the 3 key departments within your company.
Each and every business has a different and distinct corporate structure, with several core group functions that are common to all businesses that stand to benefit from the use of VoIP Technology. The most important group is your employees, since they are the ones that will be using the technology and represent the biggest group of users.
The next group to consider is the ownership or management group, since they are the ultimate decision-makers for this transition. Of course, they are also users too, but their expectations as decision-makers will be quite different then general employees.
Finally, there is the IT Telecom department or the person responsible for your current network operation.
VoIP Technology will benefit each of these groups differently, and you didn’t need to think about this with legacy telephone systems.
With employees, they really won’t have any expectations since they’re not decision-makers, and their experience should be pretty transparent.
In most cases, a VoIP system will operated exactly the same as what they’re were used to before, where it gets interesting with end users is how they will benefit from the new capabilities that VoIP brings.
One example will be an increased volume of calls going over your phone system. Since domestic VoIP calls generally do not incur long distance charges, employees will be less reluctant to make those calls this way. Two benefits come from this.
- Benefit number one, employees will communicate more regularly by voice then before, which is especially good when dealing with customers. Email may be more efficient and cost-effective, but nothing beats a real-time voice conversation.
- Second Benefit, is they will rely less on Web-based options for making voice calls. While the initial attraction is to save the company long distance charges, the voice experience will not be as good compared to your VoIP phone system.
These are just a few of many ways an end user will benefit from VoIP Services, over time, the other benefits will validate your choice to switch. Things like Voice mail to email features, so they can listen to a message via email so they can listen to the message from their PC or mobile device, or extending VoIP to the PC via a softphone, providing the same calling features as the desk phone. Not only are there many others that can be used today, but VoIP is constantly innovating, and more will be coming down the road.
Then there is the economic benefits of VoIP and business owners will certainly be interested in how much money they can save with VoIP, so you need to validate that, both comprehensively and quickly. VoIP will deliver a number of savings right away, and presuming you can generate that data from your provider, you’ll be able to address this concern early on. While this is the most important expectation to manage, but you can raise the business value of VoIP by showing executives how VoIP can make employees more productive. They may not be thinking this way, but with help from VoIP vendors you can provide them with examples to show that VoIP is more than just an updated phone system.
Think about being able to track every aspect of every call – something you couldn’t do with legacy telephony. VoIP also can integrate with other communications modes for richer experiences that can help streamline business processes, and the productivity enhancing feature list is long.
Whether a business has one IT person or a team of them, the conversion to VoIP must address their needs. The big picture benefit is network convergence, in which voice traffic is ported from a
Separate voice network to the LAN.
Legacy environments are expensive to maintain, and having these parallel networks is a big reason why VOIP will provide both financial and operational benefits that IT staff will welcome. Another upside is that VoIP requires less hand-holding from IT. Many VoIP features and updates can be self-provisioned by employees rather than being handled as help desk requests.
On a financial level, the costs associated with MACs (Moves, Adds and Changes) can basically be eliminated all together. Unlike old legacy systems, where a service call was usually required, along with new wiring to keep the phones connected to the network. VoIP is fundamentally different this way, since the IP address resides in the endpoint, and can access the LAN from any broadband connection.
After you have taken into account how VoIP will impact the business and employees, the next
step is to consider the network level implications. With legacy, a phone system decision
was quite straightforward, how many phones and how many calls do you need to handle, since they all worked the same way on the voice network.
Since VoIP service will run over your data network, it must share resources, and that will require varying degrees of bandwidth. This is extremely important since VoIP calls are a real time application that can easily be compromised with sudden shifts in bandwidth availability, effecting call quality.
For this reason, a key aspect of your transition plan is choosing a deployment method that is
best suited for your current IT infrastructure. Unless you expect any radical changes, you must
be realistic about your ability to properly support VoIP calling today. Fortunately, there are a few options for any level of IT readiness.
This is where the actual PBX hardware is installed in the office and represents a continuation for what you are used to with legacy systems. A majority of legacy phone systems are premise-based, meaning that
the business owns the phones and hardware that is installed on Premise and actively manages the network to ensure service continuity.
While this provides the greatest amount of end-to-end control, it is the most costly option for a business and requires dedicated IT resources. VoIP systems can certainly be installed this way, but only if you are
certain that the means are there to do it.
Cloud-based – Hosted PBX
This is the way most Small Businesses are moving and is the opposite of premise-based, with the main hardware being managed or hosted off site. In either case, a company chooses to outsource some aspects of VoIP, making this a very cost effective financial decision, but also one based on expertise and priorities for how your available IT resources should be used.
A hosted PBX scenario involves having the VoIP service operated remotely from the carries network, but the business still manages the local network environment.
Is a premise-based model best for companies that want the least disruptive migration path,
whereas cloud is best when the driving force is to spend as little money as possible and/or
when IT resources will not be sufficient to support VoIP.
These options will address most situations, but other cases exist where a hybrid model works
best. This is the best-of-both-worlds scenario whereby the business wants to deploy VoIP now,
but the legacy phone system still has good life left. If the business has a lot of unamortized
capital tied up in a phone system, the cost savings from VoIP won’t be enough to justify
a changeover to IP phones. This poses a challenge, since legacy phones are not natively
compatible with VoIP.
Hybrid offers a workaround by adding an ATA peripheral to the phones – Analog Telephone
Adapter. These devices are inexpensive, and will VoIP-enable analog phones by converting
them to a digital signal. While this does not provide a true VoIP experience, it will support
enough basic features to make the deployment worthwhile. This way the business can keep
using their legacy phone system and take their first step on the VoIP migration path with a
minimal amount of change.
There are several Telecom providers that provide and very good Hybrid Migration process to effectively manage the steps to Digital.
Choose the right Provider
This goes hand-in-hand with the deployment model selected, especially when you consider there
are two elements involved for any VoIP solution.
First is the choice provider for your phone system and second is the decision around the VoIP service provider. In some cases, one partner can provide both, but in others you may prefer separate decisions for each.
There are many VoIP service and System Providers and you’ll want to take a look at several options when making your selection.
Once you decide which tier you’re most comfortable with, there’s a different and broader
decision point to address next. With legacy systems, your vendor is almost certainly telephony based,
and this may well apply for all the phone system vendors you’re aware of as well as
willing to consider for this migration. There is nothing wrong with that, but you’ll be drawing
from the same pool as your competitors, so this path won’t give you much of an edge for
Depending on how well you are educated about the VoIP ecosystem, you may be surprised
to learn how many options are available from vendors outside the telephony world. This is
especially true for cloud-based solutions where the brains of the service are hosted, and all
you need in your office are IP phones.
If your VoIP vision is to leapfrog the competition and be on the leading edge of communications innovation, this will likely be the path for you. This adds another layer of risk by taking on an unknown partner, but the payoff will be worth it if you can execute on your plan.
Prepare for the implementation process
There are many steps in this process, and we would need a dedicated guide to cover them in detail. For purposes of this guide, our intention is to summarize the key steps to ensure you understand the scope of what your VoIP implementation will entail. What follows are five key steps that outline the overall process.
1 – Review current contractual obligations with current providers for your phone system and service. You need to know your obligations for either remaining with or moving on
from these partners. This would include options for replacing your phone system as
well as payment methods – either for owning or leasing.
2 – Chose a new provider, and develop an Installation timeline. This will include a roadmap for the various phases of implementation, key milestones, rewards/penalties for hitting/missing targets, and
clear roles/responsibilities for all parties. You’ll need this not just to manage the process but also to share with management so they stay informed along the way.
3 – Complete a network assessment to determine IP-readiness. This may need to be done
earlier in the process, especially for deciding on whether to remain premise-based or to go with the cloud. Upgrades may be needed either way, and getting them out of the way upfront will greatly enhance VoIP performance later.
4 – User engagement input. At minimum, they’ll need to know about what’s
new/different, but also that most of what they’ll be doing doesn’t change at all. By involving different users you can mimic the current system set up and reduce any additional learning curve once a new system is deployed, For example, the dial plan should remain in place, as well as most of the programmable
options on the desk phone keypad. However you choose to proceed, the important
thing is to let them know a change is coming, and it’s one that will help them be more
productive without having to learn new skills
Final Step – Testing and fine tuning system. Since a lot will be new technology-wise with
VoIP, you’re best off initially doing a test before cutting service over, by installing the VoIP system concurrent to the Legacy system for a few days before porting over the phone numbers will allow you to work out any of the bugs and fine tune the service to make sure VoIP performs as designed and that your network is properly optimized. Before rolling it out across your organization, you’ll need to know, for example, that quality will hold up when bandwidth demand spikes or that the network can support concurrent call volumes when expected peaks occur.
All types of change can carry risk, but you wouldn’t pursue them if you didn’t think the benefits
Were worth it.
In that regard, VoIP is somewhat speculative since none of the benefits will be
realized until the cut over takes place, and even then, there are no firm guarantees. However, In the
vast majority of cases the impact is very real, with real cost savings and better productivity.
The anticipated benefits will be expected and not hoped for. VoIP Technology has established enough of a track record that any business can believe in it, so the risks associated with your implementation should be very manageable. Whether your migration goals are modest or leading edge, VoIP can be implemented successfully with a good plan.
As an authorized Agent of most Major Providers and our work with SMBs, this post has summarized a generic transition plan based on the success factors we have experienced moving clients. While there is a lot to consider when moving to a new technology like VoIP – especially for something as mission-critical as telephony – these success points will go a long way to ensuring your plan will succeed as well as position the business to benefit from emerging technologies that follow in VoIP’s footsteps.