How to Prepare for the Switch to VoIP
Making VoIP your primary mode of enterprise communication and collaboration can do wonders for your business when it comes to overall cost, third-party integrations, call quality, and data mining. However, switching from a traditional PTSN infrastructure to a VoIP system isn’t a task to be taken lightly; it should always follow some groundwork and preliminary steps in order to prepare for the necessary prerequisites. This is highly important because businesses that rush into the switch without adequate research and preparation often end up dealing with disruptions and downtimes.
Even though VoIP is a step towards wireless telecommunication, you might have to do some restructuring around the office to accommodate new VoIP equipment, especially if you are choosing an on-premise solution. In addition, you might have to evaluate whether you need a new internet connection (or whether you can share the bandwidth of the already existent one), depending on the expected number of calling users. All in all, in order to make the transition seamless and cost-effective, you need to follow a certain set of steps, which we will be share below.
How do you intend to make your calls?
There are a few ways you can make calls via a VoIP connection. You can purchase actual IP phones that your employees can use to make and receive calls from their desks, or you can simply use softphone applications that run on your computer to make calls that don’t require even touching a real phone. Moreover, some VoIP providers also allow you to make calls from your mobile devices such as smartphones. Depending on your business needs and/or personal preferences, decide on the mode by which you intend to make and receive VoIP calls. This will help you choose the relevant vendor.
A reliable internet connection
VoIP is very feature-rich and efficient, but its true potential can only be realized with a reliable and fast internet connection. It goes without saying that you need to test your connection prior to letting all VoIP data run on it. A good first step is to verify that you are actually getting the upload and download speeds advertised by your service provider. After that, you can calculate the latency and jitter values to see whether they fall within the accepted ranges. There are plenty of VoIP readiness testing applications available online for free that let you can test your connection and figure out whether you are ready to make the switch or not.
In addition to all of the above, you can also implement a virtual local area network (VLAN) to separate the voice and data traffic on your network. By doing so, you will be able to segment your physical network into two virtual networks: one for data and one for voice. This is important because it will ensure that your call quality will never be affected because of increased data usage. Separating your traffic lets you, for example, place high-quality calls without any latencies or delays, even when huge files are downloaded on the network.
You might already have this in mind, but it’s still worth mentioning that you would need a lot of wires to get all of your devices connected to the internet. You’ll need RJ11 and ethernet cables. It’s recommended to purchase the highest-quality cables in bulk so that you have uniformity of equipment and you only have to deal with the one-time costs.
The most efficient way to supply power to your VoIP phones is by distributing it via power over ethernet (PoE) cables. These cables are hybrid entities that allow you to supply both network connectivity and electric power to your devices. This way, you won’t have to connect your VoIP devices, either to AC sources and ethernet cables; a single connection would do. However, if your ethernet switch doesn’t support PoE, you can purchase a PoE injector that allows you to provide a power source which can be used in tandem with non-PoE switches.
Test your routers
Your routers will be responsible for delivering the voice packets from the sender to the receiver in order for a call to take place. You need to ensure that they are capable of dealing with voice traffic in addition to the usual data traffic. This is especially important if you are going for a hosted-based VoIP solution, as most of your communication features will require cloud access.
Many companies get a subscription for a high-bandwidth internet connection but don’t invest in a high-quality dedicated router, which eventually leads to poor call quality and high latency. It’s a recommended choice to go for a router that has specifically been built to support VoIP services. For example, you can see whether your selected specimen has packets per second (PPS) capability. Using PPS, you can shape your traffic and apply any relevant policies to prioritize voice and video traffic.
This is particularly important because in a usual voice call, 1 megabit per second is being consumed, and in a usual video call, around 100 megabits are being consumed per second. In order to get an idea of the Mbps of traffic that your router should handle, multiply the above numbers (voice and video Mpbs) by the number of total users that you expect to be using the system simultaneously. A couple routers worth mentioning that can handle this type of bandwidth are DrayTech Vigor2925Vn plus and the Cisco Small Business RV320.
Prepare your workforce
Even though the switch to VoIP is an executive decision often made by the higher management, they still need to make sure that all employees are aware of and ready for the paradigm shift that’s about to hit them. To that end, you can start by introducing VoIP as a concept and then share some tutorials made available by the chosen service provider. Be aware that there may be a small learning curve as employees adjust to the new systems.
On-premise or cloud-based?
Another important question you need to answer is whether you need an on-premise solution or a cloud-based one. An on-premise solution will normally require you to purchase a lot more hardware than a cloud-based one. However, a cloud-based system might also lead to higher monthly costs than an on-premise one, in the long run. What you decide for your business should depend on your personal needs and preferences, but in general, people prefer purchasing a subscription for a cloud-based solution.
Choose the right service provider
There are a great number of VoIP service providers in the marketplace right now, but you need to be sure to find the right fit for your business. Different vendors offer a different set of features for their VoIP solutions, and the cost can vary depending on the feature-set you want to get. Budget is often a concern for higher management when considering implementing any new enterprise solution. This is especially true for small and medium-sized businesses. To that end, figure out exactly how much you are willing to spend on the solution before you take into account any other considerations.
Once you have decided on a budget, answer questions like:
- How many users will be making calls every day?
- How many calls can normally be made simultaneously?
- Do I need to get a solution that also has call analytics?
- Should I get a subscription that includes unlimited international calls?
- How easy is it to set up and install this vendor’s solution?
The answers to these questions can help steer you in the right direction. This can enable you to choose an option that works with your budget and VoIP business requirements. Recommended choices in this regard can be RingCentral and Grasshopper, two companies that have been providing top-quality solutions in the VoIP industry for many years.
Evaluate for VLAN and quality of service (QOS)
Nothing will make a manager angrier than an agent getting cut off in the middle of a call that could have possibly resulted in a sale. Plus, jitter or voice loss in between important calls can also often serve as deal-breakers. This is why it’s of paramount importance that you evaluate any VLANs you might have created. (If you are facing any of these aforementioned call quality issues and haven’t implemented a VLAN, now is the time to do so.) If you don’t think your VLAN is performing well even though your implementation seems appropriate, you can consult a networking specialist.
In addition to VLAN, you can also make use of quality of service or QOS capabilities. To that end, you will have to consider things like network latency, jitter, packet loss and intermittent occurrences of all these aspects. If you can’t figure out the reason for these problems occurring too often, consider hiring an expert. He or she can run tests on your network, find any causes of concern and apply any pertinent improvements to improve the overall system. Once your VoIP solution has been set up, you will quickly realize just how important the effectiveness and quality of your voice traffic is.
If you haven’t yet switched to VoIP, then doing so is definitely a pragmatic business decision. Keep in mind that the switch won’t happen overnight, but that it can be a smooth transition as long as you’ve done your research and set yourself up adequately. We hope this article was helpful in offering you some insight into some of the fundamental steps you should take and questions you should answer in order to assess the readiness of your business for the switch to VoIP.