How To Build The Ultimate VoIP System

VoIP can save your company time, money, and headaches. But it's not as easy to build an enterprise VoIP system as you think. Here are tips for building the best

April 3, 2006

4 Min Read
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VoIP can save your company time, money, and headaches. But it's not as easy to build an enterprise VoIP system as you think. Here are tips for building the best VoIP system possible.

1. Assess corporate needsThe first step is to determine what the company wants out of the VoIP system, says Yaron Raps, services over IP solutions partner for the consulting firm Business Edge Solutions of Brunswick, N.J. A company with several offices spread over one or more geographic regions will have quite different needs than the firm with five employees at a single location. If the firm has complex needs, it will likely need to consult with industry heavyweights like Avaya and Nortel. If, on the other hand, the firm is small, with simple needs, it may be able to download everything it needs off the Internet.

2. Assess individual needsVoIP includes features like call forwarding and ACD-type functionality without additional fees, or at much lower cost than getting these features on a traditional telecommunications system. But these features won't do any good if users of traditional voice mail and other features don't use them with the new system. That can happen because the features may operate slightly differently than with a traditional system. So train employees and managers how to use the new features.

3. Make arrangements with service providersThe service provider may just provide service or may provide differing levels of support, depending on your needs. The more technologically savvy a firm is, the less it may have need for support inside the company itself, though it will still need support for any issues between the provider and connections to and from the company location(s).

4. Read the fine printThere may be surcharges for excessive use or for some features. Many contracts stipulate one fee for "average business use" and a higher fee for additional use. Make sure you know what you're buying.5. Ensure quality in all choicesWaiting a few additional seconds for downloads of e-mails or files is usually acceptable, while dropped calls or portions of calls (from lost packets) isn't. If you don't look carefully consider this in setting up the VoIP system, you could be opening up a can of worms, according to Raps. If voice quality is poor or connections are tenuous, any savings in monthly charges for the VoIP system will be wasted, Raps says.

Chuck Rutledge, vice president of marketing for Quintum Technologies, an Eatontown, N.J., a maker of VoIP hardware and solutions, adds the following advice:

6. Determine PBX needs at different officesGoing to VoIP is often done in stages. Companies don't have to convert everything at once. Indeed, Bank of America is in the process of converting 10,0000 endpoints to VoIP, but will still have a significant portion of its telecommunications running on a traditional system, even when the conversion is completed. If traditional PBX systems are still meeting your needs, you may be able to gain some additional efficiency by linking them together via VOIP without replacing the PBXs themselves. If, on the other hand, the traditional PBXs need to be upgraded anyway, an IP PBX will provide enhanced efficiency and simplified management.

7. Look at switches with gateway capabilitiesThese will provide redundant capabilities that will keep telecommunications running even if IP goes down. Few businesses can operate without telecommunications capabilities, Rutledge says. So companies have to have a way to keep telecommunications live even if the VoIP system goes down temporarily.

8. Monitor the quality of the VoIP system.Real times alerts can let you know if call quality drops below acceptable levels. The monitoring can also help identify the source(s) of any problems, which can help mitigate resolution time.

John Babcock, senior vice president and general manager for IT portfolio management company Relational Technology Solutions, of Chicago, Ill., recommends:9. Make sure telephony and data needs are met

Typically a person or team with telephony or data experience are in charge of a VoIP project. Each tends to know its side of the technology, but not the other. The needs of both need to be met with VoIP. So Babcock recommends cross training to ensure that telecommunication and data needs are met.

10. Ensure your network can handle VoIPIf bandwidth is near maximum usage, there may not be enough "room" to add VoIP. Some parts of the internal network may also need to be upgraded.

11. Determine long-term plansIf you may be adding video over IP in the next few years, make sure that any VoIP equipment you purchase will handle that as well, otherwise you could be facing an expensive upgrade much sooner than expected.

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