Significant changes are happening when it comes to business management of voice communications. While new technologies are providing superior alternatives to the traditional systems, Telstra is about to tear up its copper network, meaning all businesses will ultimately need to switch to the fibre network to enable their voice calls.
Traditionally, voice calls have been made using a telephone switch or Private Branch Exchange (PBX), consisting of a handset and Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).
Throughout this period of change, organisations have typically been opting to either upgrade their existing legacy PBX system by installing an on-site IP voice gateway to provide the previously unavailable Voice over IP (VoIP) capabilities, or looking at entirely hosted VoIP and Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) solutions.
While we would always recommend engaging an expert consultant to assess your needs and tailor a solution specifically for you, we have come up with three key considerations to help kick-start the process.
1. Which set-up will you use for your business VoIP solution?
Hosted VoIP Cloud-based Solution
Option one is a hosted VoIP cloud-based solution, using your data network to manage voice calls, while also offering a multitude of useful add-on functions previously unavailable through the PSTN.
Reduced call expenses and the administrative simplicity resulting from the merging of your voice and data networks will save you money, as will the reduced need to purchase and maintain expensive hardware, your only on-site requirements being your handsets and a high speed internet connection.
A hosted VoIP solution has the potential to incorporate many UC&C features including instant messaging, presence, video conferencing, desktop sharing and access to your office desk phone via your mobile device. The results can include staff productivity gains, improved customer service and flexibility around mobile working.
And because all hardware is stored off-site and owned by the provider rather than the business, users will benefit from regular upgrades as technologies evolve and improve.
Ongoing maintenance, meanwhile, is managed by an external provider dedicated to continually monitor and identify issues, before resolving them quickly and effectively, meaning minimal network downtime.
Upgrade Your Existing Analogue PBX
Alternatively, it is possible to upgrade your existing analogue PBX system by installing an IP voice gateway to provide the VoIP capabilities it was previously unable to offer.
There are, however, initial and ongoing maintenance costs associated with this kind of on-site solution. For organisations with an in-house IT manager and those happy to wait for longer periods before incorporating the latest expensive upgrades into their technology, this could provide an appropriate option, particularly for those keen to retain absolute control over the monitoring and maintenance of their network.
2. Can your network handle the additional load?
Adding voice traffic to the usual data requirements of your IP network can result in a significant extra load. Therefore, you need to be sure your existing network can handle the resultant extra traffic without compromising the quality of service, or resulting in dropped calls or audible delays during conversations.
Having your IT integrator or network provider conduct a complete IP network capacity assessment at the start of the project will determine whether or not your system is equipped to handle the expected future peak levels of traffic. This intelligence will help you budget for and action any necessary network enhancements.
If tests determine you do need more bandwidth to ensure quality of service around VoIP, you can consider setting up a virtual LAN (VLAN) specifically to handle the voice traffic on your network.
3. How will you install the system?
A seamless transition requires thorough and thoughtful investigation and analysis from the very outset. Good planning is crucial to ensuring minimal disruption and maximum business continuity, so take the time necessary to assess any relevant resources and expertise you have in-house, before identifying what external expertise you may be required to bring in.
IT integrator – For the sourcing, installation and configuration of all elements of your new system, choose an integrator with the ability to deliver the best components and consultative expertise. A good integrator will offer expert guidance and insights throughout the process.
Internet Service Provider (ISP) – You need to be confident the IP solution you’ll be relying on will be implemented according to your distinct requirements, meaning you need to pick a network service provider guaranteed to meet your expectations.
Be mindful that, when converging technologies, voice can often be the first element that is compromised. To maintain quality of service, however, voice traffic must be given a higher priority on the network than the data traffic it has traditionally managed. This can be achieved by allocating different levels of bandwidth to different functions i.e. internet, faxes, phone lines, and access to your cloud-hosted business applications. Your provider will be able to work with you on determining these parameters.
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