Given its wide selection of professional telecommunications features, digital data handling and integration with multimedia and online information types, flexibility and cost-effectiveness, it’s little wonder that increasing numbers of businesses are switching from traditional premises-based telephony to Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP.
It’s a whole different technology from the on-site PBX and public switched telephone network (PSTN), and making the move requires some attitude adjustment and careful planning. This guide will help you smooth the transition.
Establish Your Goals
Changing your business phone system is a step that needs to be taken in line with your overall business objectives, so you’ll need to make an assessment of how you expect your new VoIP system to impact on and improve your existing and future operations. This evaluation needs to be made across the board, so you should invite input from all departments and levels of your organization: Human Resources, IT, marketing, finance, etc.
Set a Budget
Take a look at your books, financial projections, and bottom line, and determine how much you’re prepared to commit to the transition – and the kind of value you expect to receive from your money.
Set a Time-frame
First decide whether you’re prepared to make an all-in-one transition to VoIP (which might be the case for single owner and smaller-scale enterprises), or a phased move, in stages. If it’s the latter case, you’ll need a timetable for each phase, and be prepared to adjust the time-frame in response to conditions on the ground or external factors.
Get Your People On Board
Acceptance and understanding of the new system will be crucial to its successful deployment, so people at all levels of your organization will have to be on board. Some of the groundwork for this will have been done at the planning assessment stage, with the call for input from various divisions, and the formation of a team consisting of representatives from across the enterprise.
Part of their responsibility should be to act as a channel for communicating knowledge about the new system and the effects of the migration to their own departments, and on to the organization as a whole. This process should also take in feedback and suggestions.
Choose A Provider You Can Work With
A smooth transition will be more likely your VoIP provider is one whose service offerings and working practices are in line with your own operations. If your existing telecoms carrier now offers VoIP services (and you’re happy with the way they’ve dealt with you in the past), this could be your starting point. But be prepared to shop around and do some due diligence to identify providers who may be a better fit.
The provider you choose should be able to give consultation and guidance before installation, a stress-free and efficient set-up, and always available technical support once things get running. This, in addition to all the features and capacity you actually need (without hidden charges or superfluous tools), some room to grow (easy, with online provisioning), and assurances about network availability, security, and data integrity.
Consider Your Existing Infrastructure
Some of your legacy hardware may still be usable — a condition which might sway you toward a phased transition. And options like Analogue Telephone Adapter or ATA peripherals may make it possible to give VoIP functionality to existing phones. Note that this could be a first step, as ATA technology on legacy phones won’t give you the full benefits of today’s business VoIP.
For a true migration, you’ll need to make an IT assessment of your existing network infrastructure — particularly your connectivity and the bandwidth which will have to be shared with the new installation. Remember that you’ll now be moving voice, video, and digital data across the one network, so you may need to add bandwidth, upgrade switches, or add gateways. A fully hosted and managed VoIP solution in the cloud may be the answer, if your on-premises infrastructure is likely to prove inadequate.
Consider Continuity and Quality of Service
Improvements in broadband provision and the evolution of higher bandwidth mobile technologies like 4G and 5G have made voice transmission over digital channels much smoother than in the early days of VoIP, so call quality is less of a concern these days.
More critical are network availability and business continuity — without which your services won’t be accessible, your customers and users may be disappointed, and your business and reputation will suffer. So your choice of VoIP provider needs to take in their provisions for assuring business continuity and Disaster Recovery.
Do a Test Run
In all cases, a test migration (perhaps for a single branch office or department) will demonstrate how well or otherwise the new system works, and enable you to fine-tune configurations and features for the next stage.