Forever is a long time. And presumably, you’d like your VoIP implementation to be completed sometime before then. Last year, I wrote a post about the features you need to plan out before you build a new phone system, so you don’t find out it doesn’t meet your needs once it’s up and running. In this post, I’ll look at ways you can keep the implementation from encountering roadblocks that cause delays and drain your budget.
There are a whole lot of components to your network. Any one of them could cause a problem for your VoIP system that takes months to track down, especially if more than one are conspiring failure against you.
Assess your cabling.
For starters, make sure the cabling in your office is up to the job. If you get servers set up only to discover you need to rewire your office, everything gets put on hold and you’re storing equipment you can’t even use yet. If possible, run optical cable from your local loop to your rack, and then CAT5e or CAT6 the rest of the way.
Inspect your network.
Take a look at the components of your network (network interface cards, switches, routers,…). If you see manufacture dates that predate the Obama administration, it might be time to elect new ones. LAN switches should be Power Over Ethernet (PoE) capable, to get any new VoIP phones working. But be sure you’re only running PoE to compatible hardware, or you might fry your gear. To be safe you could consider running a parallel switch: PoE and !PoE for computers.
Chances are your connection is VoIP-ready if you’re working with anything better than a dial-up modem, but consult with your provider and integrator to be sure. If you find out mid change over that you need to update your connection, that’s one more roadblock to an on-time VoIP implementation.
You may run into Network Address Translation (NAT) issues if your network is sending internal IP addresses instead of your public IP with transmissions. If that’s the case you might end up with persistent problems like no audio on calls, dropped calls, and the inability to send or receive calls. I’ve spoken with integrators who have searched for months to nail down NATing issues. It’s not fun. Or at all productive. And it is most definitely expensive.
As with any IT implementation, best practice is to backup your system during deployment. It means a little extra hardware on desks and in racks while you ease over, but running a parallel phone system while you work out the kinks in your new platform will make sure you’re not dead in the water if anything doesn’t go as planned.
Hire a professional.
Even if your IT manager is a networking god, chances are he/she hasn’t set up nearly as many VoIP systems as networking equipment. Getting it right takes quite a bit of know-how. Which requires training and study. Which takes time. Which delays your new phone system and all the nice benefits it brings. Not to mention taking your staff away from their day-to-day.
Migrating your phones to VoIP is a sure fire way to cut costs and boost functionality. But if project execution drags on, the damage to productivity can be disastrous and costly. By assigning a champion to manage the process each step of the way, you will keep any of the potential issues listed above from causing crippling project creep.
By planning ahead, you can know your needs and understand what you’re working with, to hit your deadlines and spend targets. Examine your infrastructure to gauge your preparedness for the switch, and be sure to survey your users to ensure changes will be meaningful.