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Top 5 Considerations When Upgrading Your Network for VoIP or UC

Are you considering an on-premises Voice over IP (VoIP) private branch exchange (PBX) system? Are you upgrading from an existing system and adding additional capabilities? There are many considerations when upgrading to a new system. This article explores the top five considerations when planning and implementing an upgraded VoIP or unified communications (UC) system on site.

  • Employees and locations
  • Growth planning and equipment scalability
  • Phone system management
  • Business-critical availability
  • Network infrastructure

When these key considerations are addressed, the upgrade will go more smoothly.

Employees and Locations

The number of employees and locations is the first consideration. As new IP handsets emerge, there are no-frills types that are placed in open areas, conference phones for conference rooms, colour touch screens and other advanced features for executive and management offices, and basic handsets for all other offices. Price, performance, and bandwidth are important. Ask the following questions:

  • How many employees require a desktop handset?
  • How many executives and departments require advanced feature handsets? These can require gigabit network connections.
  • If you have less than 50 employees, do you want everyone to have the same IP phone to benefit from employee-assisted help and lower training costs?
  • Are there remote workers? If so, quality of service (QoS) routers and high-speed broadband will be required for high-quality voice.
  • What is the call load, meaning the number of phone lines active at any moment in time? The number of concurrent calls also drives PBX capacities.

Growth Planning and Equipment Scalability

When selecting an on-premises VoIP system, advanced planning for expansion is more important than with hosted systems. Server size and virtualization may come into the decision process to handle growth plans for the number of phone lines, number of concurrent calls, and number of remote workers. Be able to answer the following questions:

  • How many phone lines are needed now? How many will be needed one, three, and five years from now?
  • How does the selected supplier’s system scale?
  • Are there software or feature licensing costs at higher user levels?
  • Is there a customer call centre for sales or customer service? Whether it’s an inbound or outbound call centre can drive the configuration of capacities.
  • For gigabyte phones, do you have at least category 5 enhanced cabling?
  • Are your switches and phones enabled for Power over Ethernet to support higher-powered wireless access points? Access points use 15 watts and phones use 4–7 watts, so calculate accurate power requirements. Resellers can help significantly with this.
  • Does the system integrate social channels with normal business operations? Many new UC systems integrate social media into the overall business applications.
  • Are servers ready and able to handle the VoIP phone system?

Phone System Management

If the company is large enough, internal IT support personnel may be able to manage the phone system. If not, you can outsource through a trusted advisor or reseller. Consider the following when determining which is best for your organization:

  • Are there internal IT resources?
  • Will you use an IT consultant?
  • Will your reseller or trusted advisor provide the management services?

If you will outsource management and tech support, review a sample support contract and meet with your potential support technicians to gain confidence. Sometimes resellers simply resell manufacturer’s support, which may not meet your requirements or may be costly.

Business-Critical Availability

For some businesses, the phone system is an absolute requirement for sales and service and the business cannot afford to miss a call. Other businesses may be suited to non-real time phone services. Contemplate the following:

  • Does your business require 100 percent availability where a live voice answers all the time or all business hours?
  • What type of redundancy is offered? Virtual machines in separate servers? Cold or hot standby appliances or servers?
  • What type of disaster recovery service is offered? How does it solve for either telephone company or local area failure?
  • Are voicemail or interactive voice response systems sufficient?

Network Infrastructure

Last, but most importantly, the local area network must be capable of handling the bandwidth for the number of phone lines, handsets, concurrent calls, and planned growth. A router with the ability to provide QoS is necessary to reserve prioritized bandwidth for voice and video. Analyze the following:

  • Is wide area phone access through Session Initiation Protocol, T1, or Primary Rate Interface trunks? Is it business cable? Don’t use residential cable for business services.
  • What is the available bandwidth and existing latency?
  • Are the proposed bandwidth and latency enough to scale with your one-, three-, and five-year plans? If needed, what is the path to expand?
  • Is there an emergency phone system handling procedure?
  • Is your network fully documented as built?
  • Is there a virtual private network in place for remote or travelling workers?

To ensure the network is ready for VoIP, many companies use a reseller who specializes in VoIP or UC to perform a pre-deployment network assessment. The reseller uses a network tool that measures performance and identifies network problems or configuration exposures.

Specifically consider the following:

  • Voice quality
  • Ability to deliver video for conferencing, if it’s a requirement
  • Ability to always receive calls, even during times of high data traffic
  • Ability to support remote and travelling workers

Adding high-quality voice traffic to your network can be a challenge for an IP network that can’t provide QoS to voice and video traffic under heavy data loads. Elimination of audio delay during conversation (referred to as jitter) and dropped calls is critical. You want your VoIP calls to sound crystal clear and be reliable.

Summary of Recommendations

VoIP has been around for about 15 years, so there are many resellers and managed service providers with years of proven knowledge and experience that specialize in designing and installing high-quality VoIP and UC systems. They simply implement a checklist for readiness and configure the system quote to the user with the intent of it working the first time and thereafter. Remember, you can eliminate or minimize many of the considerations outlined in this article if you select a hosted VoIP or UC system instead of an on-premises one.Social networks, cloud, online gaming, banking and content have all been distributed from Ireland out to the major markets for a number of years now.

All the main criteria needed for a successful deployment are here: energy, fibre and security. Placing Ireland low in international bandwidth stakes is simply nonsense, in light of the abundance of Tier 1 Carriers in Ireland and dark fibre to all major markets available on demand. Ireland’s security is naturally very high, being an island, and we have a relatively low crime rate internationally. I would concede that Ireland could benefit from high speed fibre access to the greater APAC theatre of operations– but that will come in time with demand from that geography to locate cloud infrastructure in Ireland.

Also, the folks over at the The Helpful Engineer have reported that Ireland has the least need of cooling or air conditioning in the whole world, with only 19 degree days required, compared with 40 in Iceland and 43 in Norway.

Source: VoIP News (16th July 2014)