Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is one of the fastest-growing technologies around. But while the benefits to your business of VoIP are numerous, it can be an incredibly daunting task for any business to replace their entire communications system. Improper installation of the system could have serious effects on an unprepared workforce.
So, we’ve created this 10-step checklist just for you, to enable you to integrate this popular and reliable system into your workforce.
1. Plan everything - including the problems
Your first priority must be to set up a precise project plan that your team can follow closely. Set out a clear and concise schedule and assign different jobs to the relevant parts of your team. You will keep coming back to this plan throughout the process to stay on schedule and make sure your target is being achieved, so be as thorough as possible.
This is also an ideal time to identify the problems you might face down the line. It’s better to anticipate what might go wrong ahead of time than it is to wander into obstacles with little preparation. The ‘How Might We?’ method is great to use in group meetings, as it introduces your team to the problems you might face during the installation process and reframes them as opportunities to overcome adversity.
2. Identify your company’s needs
You must understand what VoIP is, what it’s going to be able to bring to your company, and how it can improve upon your current systems. Don’t base your plan on another company’s experiences as it could cause you to miss something vital in the planning process - something that’s unique to your company and your needs.
It’s easy to get lost in the sheer volume of features a VoIP phone system can offer. So, the most important thing to have in mind is what is essential to the company. Is it conference calling, ring groups, mobile device integration, or all of these? Additional features can be added later, depending on what your budget will allow, but the fundamental thing to remember is that the company must be able to run all voice communications on this system. Give priority to the basics.
3. Test your network
Your VoIP system runs solely off of an internet connection, so an important step in its installation is making sure your internet connection and bandwidth are up to the task. Make sure all of your network equipment is up to date and that your bandwidth has the capacity for the system to function well.
As you test your network, you might find that you need to reconfigure or evaluate your company’s technological infrastructure. If your equipment isn’t able to support such a system, you may need to buy new hardware to work around the problem. You may also want to look into acquiring a secondary internet connection solely dedicated to the VoIP system, which can bring with it various different benefits (of which we will go into more detail) but can prove costly. For all these reasons, the importance of this stage of the process should not be underestimated.
4. Evaluate Quality of Service
Even mid-tier VoIP solutions typically hold better connections and call quality than most traditional landline telephone providers. But VoIP isn’t without its faults. Most problems that arise usually come from the underlying network, which is configured by your IT staff and ISP. Here are three easy ways to ensure quality in your VoIP systems:
- Deal with Jitter - A category 6 ethernet cable running at 250MHz - faster than its predecessor at 100MHz - can be a simple solution to delay and jitter. A Jitter Buffer, which collects data packets and releases them evenly, is also a good idea.
- Get a VoIP Optimizing router - Installing a separate router dedicated to the VoIP system helps prioritize voice data and allows less opportunity for delays. The Draytek Vigor 2925n, for example, puts VoIP data packets at the utmost priority over others.
- Monitor Your Network Traffic - Identify and tag VoIP data using network tools that can be readily built into routers. This will make it easier for you to protect and prioritize it.
5. Evaluate potential providers
With various providers offering different services, it’s important to pick the right one to suit your company. Certain providers are more accustomed to dealing with large enterprises, and others specialize in helping small businesses to set up VoIP telecommunications systems.
Whatever your need is, there will be a package out there that’s right for you and your business. Shop around and contact service providers directly to see what packages they can tailor to you and your company.
6. Go through the Service Level Agreement (SLA)
This step ensures that you’re treated fairly by your provider and is essential before any installation. It lays out the features and services you’ve paid for and includes information that holds your provider accountable for any issues that might arise.
An SLA ensures you have expert support to help you rectify any concerns or issues you might have. This can include problems with availability and reliability, so it’s essential to the success of the VoIP system that these requirements are clearly laid out.
7. Install a secondary internet connection
We’ve already discussed a couple of the advantages that can come from acquiring a secondary internet connection, but the value of this really can’t be understated. Voice calls are still one of the most important tools in the business world, and it’s important to ensure that you’re able to make and receive communications no matter what the circumstances.
For example, if your main internet connection runs into issues, a VoIP system would leave you with very few options for making internal or external calls. But with a secondary internet connection, ideally, on a different ISP, you'd still be able to make essential communications while the main internet connection is down.
8. Ensure maximum security
As is the rule with any connected system, security must be a priority. There are various risks that can come with a VoIP system, such as external users, hijacking calls, eavesdropping, and denial-of-service attacks that can cripple your systems. While a daunting concept, there are ways to protect yourself and your workers:
- Personal Security: Strong passwords and strict security procedures are essential ways for employees to ensure company security. There are various different password managers available to assist you. Lastpass, for example, includes two-factor authentication and automatic password capture.
- Reconfiguring Firewalls: Reconfiguring your standard firewall software to work alongside your VoIP system will enable it to keep unwanted users out of your network.
- Administrative Control: Ensuring that your system is centrally managed, you are able to control domain restrictions and implement multi-factor authentication.
- Anti-Virus: Software such as Norton and BitDefender regularly scan your systems for malware and viruses that may have forced their way into your network.
9. Prepare your team
It’s important to make the transfer over to your VoIP system as smooth as possible for your employees, as adopting a new communications system can be unsettling for some users. This can be achieved by porting essential user information, such as phone numbers, to not only help your employees get used to the system faster but also minimize problems while installing the new hardware.
You can also ensure a smooth transition period by giving your team relevant training to be able to use VoIP. Various well-known companies offer professional VoIP training to get your team used to the new system - and in most cases, it can be carried out on-site.
10. Check and test
The final step is one of the most vital in the process. You must ensure the system works smoothly before allowing your company to rely upon it. Make sure that connections and additional features are of good quality and reliable and resolve any problems that arise while testing, so they don't become serious issues once the system is in place. An excellent way to do this would be load testing, which will help you flag up any operating issues that might arise once the system is serving the entire company.
It is certainly easy to get lost in the hype around VoIP, and even easier to slip up in the installation process. Use this checklist to make your transition to VoIP as easy on yourself and your team as possible. It’ll be worth it for the fully-functioning and much-improved communications system you and your business will enjoy.