The benefits of an Internet phone based communications system are well known and undeniable. That the business will benefit from savings on phone bills, from increases in business profile, from flexibility in usage is no longer in doubt. Having made the decision to move to VoIP , the big question is when to make the move.
Simply put, the answer is as soon as possible. The longer you delay, the longer it will be before you accrue the cost, operational and profile benefits of a VoIP system.
When you move and how you move to a VoIP for business system will be driven by several factors.
These will include the current arrangement with your voice service provider and your networking and electrical infrastructures. There will also be considerations in respect of the security of the installation, and user training requirements. How you cut-over will also need planning.
A perfect time will be if you are moving office. In the past, an office move usually meant a few days of no communication while your new telephone services were installed and configured. A VoIP system can be installed and configured in tandem with the broadband connection, greatly reducing the wait time.
The timing of the agreement associated with your current phone system is another consideration. If it is at or near termination, then the time is definitely now. If not, then you need to draw up a financial case for replacement of the system before the end of the current contract. This will probably require a quotation for early contract termination from the supplier.
Another consideration are the current IT and Electrical infrastructures:
- The IT cabling must be of a high technical standard. In cable-speak, Category 5e at least, preferably Category 6 is needed to support VoIP.
- There must be a network point wherever you want a VoIP phone. New phone points might need a cable to be run.
- The normal method of providing power to VoIP desktop handsets is through the network cabling by installing Power over Ethernet (“PoE”) switches. Again, PoE requires Cat5e or Cat6 cabling.
- If the IT network does not support Power over Ethernet, there must be a power point wherever you want a VoIP phone.
This review and preparation of a schedule of the remedial work needed is carried out through a network audit.
Some organisations operate alarm and security notifications over their phone lines. You must check with the VoIP supplier if they support equivalent alarm and security features using their VoIP systems.
Finally, you need to look at your phone list. The only accurate one is usually the paper copy with Tippex and ballpen scribbles at reception. Create an accurate and up to date list ready for loading onto the new VoIP system. Make sure names and extensions are correct. You may need to correlate your phone list with the network audit to make sure any new points are included in both and any discontinued ones are removed.
You also need to allocate a type, security level and cost centre to each user which will be included in their VoIP profile. The user level will indicate if they are an advanced user, needing a highly configured phone. As an example an executive secretary needs call screening and forwarding, membership of calling groups and the ability to intercept calls. Other users might need access to hunting groups, call-pickup services and voicemail.
The security level may be internal only, local only, local and regional only and International. By allocating security levels and usually a PIN number to the user rather than to a device, a user can make a call from any network attached device with their personal security level. In addition, if you are monitoring call costs the cost reports will be more accurate.
VoIP also provides the opportunity to use a smartphone as a telephone extension. With appropriate software, and access to a corporate WiFi network, a call can be routed to a smartphone wherever it might be.
Training is vital. If the user does not understand how to use the new facilities, then the investment will be wasted. The opportunities provided by the additional features and functions of a VoIP phone are similar to those of a smartphone.
To answer the question – when is the best time to move to VoIP – the answer is NOW.