There’s a lot of compelling reasons you can probably already think of to move to a hosted or SIP-based UCaaS solution. Some of the benefits include:
However, there’s a million reasons why it can and likely will go wrong, unless you do some due diligence up-front, on-going and after the fact.
With the right approach, you can solve a myriad of company issues with a rock solid hosted or SIP-based solution that will pay dividends to your company for years to come.
The flipside is, if the VoIP solution isn’t deployed with success, then you are going to have one monumental clean-up to address because your voice communications — both inter-company and externally with customers and vendors — can be devastated and cost you in many areas of the business, including revenue.
We have spent the last 6 years or more evaluating VoIP providers — both public and private companies — and it’s our consolidated company knowledge that you will find in this article on how to successfully deploy SIP/UCaaS solutions and avoid some of the more common (and some not so common) pitfalls.
In this article we will discuss the following questions:
If we are going to keep a legacy phone system in place but leverage the ability for VoIP, then we would typically bring in a device that converts the VoIP to a legacy type telephony interface. In this case, it could be analog connections (think plain old telephone service, or POTS) or the more common time division multiplexing (TDM) of 24 channels into a T1 using an Integrated Systems Digital Network (ISDN) Primary Rate Interface (PRI), which provides for out-of-band signaling. Essentially, this just means the channel that carries the voice information doesn’t simultaneously carry the call control information (signaling, passing telephone numbers, etc).
The device that actually makes this conversion from VoIP to legacy TDM PRI (and/or analog) is known as an Integrated Access Device (IAD). The IAD’s primary mission is to terminate a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunk and turn it into a traditional telephony signal.
(Note: How, exactly, that SIP trunk gets all the way from its source to its destination is something we’ll cover later on, but for now remember that a SIP trunk is the first of the two buckets. You will see as we go through with these that some of the buckets have babies!)
The other big bucket is that we have determined that our phone system has reached its end of life and it’s time to do a “rip and replace” of the phone system. But the fact of the matter is the phone system that you rip out might just be replaced with one of those big, fluffy white clouds. And more times than not, when it gets to the 8th layer of the OSI model (this is the CFO’s layer — i.e., dollars), this is the solution that makes the most sense.
This solution is more commonly known as “hosted VoIP.” All this means is we have decided to leave the phones on the desk, but move the phone system that controls these phones out into a data center where a third-party is responsible for complete installation and maintenance of the phone system.
Now that we have identified the 2 big buckets of VOIP and the common terms that are associated with them, it’s time to talk about “SIP trunking.” SIP trunking brings VoIP to a phone system on premise or incorporates hosted VOIP to place the phone system in a third-party’s data center (generally referred to as “the cloud”).
When laying the groundwork, it’s essential to know what you have. You can’t really determine which way is best for you until you complete a great deal of discovery. Discovery will involve evaluating many different components. Some items will be very technical and easily measurable, whereas others will be more touchy feely and go as far as business culture at the top of the food chain.
Hang with us as we explore the different areas that need to be looked at so all this information can be digested by your team of experts and decision makers.
First let’s review your current legacy telephony environment — or simply put, the phone system.
Our advice? Treat it like a car. What’s the year, make and model? Is it leaking oil (i.e. do you have any known maintenance issues)? Can you get everybody in it (i.e. does it meet the needs for all of your existing users)? Can your family grow and still get in (i.e. what are the current features and capabilities, and how easily can capacity be increased)?
Here’s a big one:
Do you have current insurance, and are replacements parts available in case of a crash?
At some point, manufacturers will cease support for their products from both a maintenance contract and spare parts perspective. If the insurance company cancels your policy and the manufacturer ceases production of spare parts, you still have options such as third-party maintenance agreements, buying new old stock, refurbished stock, and creating your own refurbished stock.
Just remember that while you can keep fixing the flat by putting a patch on it, you aren’t going to get any new parts from the software department. In other words, you will be locked into whatever version of software that you have with the features that are associated with it. We know several companies that have found something they like that has been out of production for years, but they make arrangements to have a pile of parts and folks that can install them within hours of failure.
Hopefully, by now you have some idea of the current state of your existing phone system. The above questions should help you drill down and get all the answers you need. If it doesn’t, get in touch with EnableIP and we’ll go analyze everything for you with the fine tooth comb.
Now, where things get harder (or at least for some) is evaluating the company culture and how the phone system ties into the day-to-day operations of the company. When you think of this culture, think of these questions:
Now that we’ve discussed some of the legacy configurations out there, lets flip the scenario around with a couple of examples.
Billy Bob is a go fast jet setter, and he needs to be able to take calls at his desk and then seamlessly transition (notice that we didn’t say “forward”) the call to his cell phone as he runs out the door for his next meeting.
Betty Sue has been a little under the weather lately and really needs to get back to work, but she is physically incapable of making it back into the office. With her company laptop, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection and a softphone, she operates almost as efficiently from her home satellite office as she does from her regular business office.
In order to really get a feel for the company’s telephony culture, you need to be able to dig in and find out how folks are getting things done day-to-day and what the accepted norm is. And while you’re at it, put a toe in the water and figure out what the level of resistance is to change.
First, go straight to every C-Level receptionist and administrative assistant. More times than not, these individuals will have the loudest voice when it comes to making any changes to how the phones work.
It doesn’t do any good to replace a broken down, beat up phone system if the folks who most use it aren’t willing to learn how to use a new system — or if they are convinced they already have the best system.
Another question we commonly receive is:
I have looked at my telephony infrastructure and have seen how the phones are being used. I know what the level of acceptance to change is. So which way should I go?
There is no singular right answer here, as every situation is different. Believe it or not, it can all change by a single person leaving your organization. If you don’t have buy-in from the top down, then somebody has you running in circles. Trust us, we’ve been there and done that, and it’s the quickest way to wear out your tennis shoes.
That said, here are three simple examples that will help give you some guidance by showing you how we can solve the problem and make everyone happy.
Your phone system is old and outdated, but the business is really entrenched in how that old phone system supports the day-to-day operations. Decision makers aren’t really looking to upset the apple cart or they are naturally risk averse individuals.
To migrate over to the VoIP world, you are going to have to leave that existing old phone system and bring in an IAD (integrated access device). In the end, this will result in the cost savings of VoIP and interface it directly into the old phone system the same way Ma Bell would. This high level will take the old system and let it leverage new technology.
Again, your phone system is old and outdated, but this time management actually wants a new phone system on their premise and to leverage the cost savings of VoIP.
In this scenario, we will install one of the fancy new Wizbang go fast phone systems with all the features and functions that management desires. But with the new system, we won’t need an IAD to terminate those SIP trunks and then convert it over to a TDM PRI. Instead, we can just plug a good old Ethernet cable into the phone system that has IP connectivity (all IP connections are not created equal) to a service provider. Then, we can build that SIP trunk from your phone system to your service provider.
One again, your phone system is old and outdated. However, this time management wants a new phone system and they don’t want to own it. As a matter of fact, they don’t even want to house it at the business location.
For this VoIP solution, we will likely go with hosted VOIP, meaning that the phone system is going to reside in a data center with IP connectivity. We’ll have to divide the buckets here, either by providing a dedicated physical phone system in the data center or implementing some flavor of a logical phone system. This is just one high availability physical phone system that is logically divided for different customers.
With both a dedicated physical or shared logical, you are still going to be at the mercy of the service provider as to what features and functions you get. However, on a dedicated physical you are more apt to get it tailored to your individual needs versus having to make your business run on the standard published features of a shared logical.
From a hosted VoIP service provider’s perspective, they have to be way more cautious about making customer-level specific changes on a shared logical just because of the possibility of adverse impacts to other customers on that platform.
As you can see, doing your research on the features and functionality you need today, and how stagnant your telephony environment is, will help you determine whether you are fit for a dedicated or shared infrastructure — not to mention the 8th layer of the OSI model for the CFO.
If your company is a single site organization, this question really doesn’t come into play. However, if you are a multi-site organization with multiple phone systems, then yes — you can have your cake and eat it, too.
We can mix any of the above configurations to provide a single telephony environment that will eliminate long distance calls between your sites, as well as add 3 or 4-digit dialing and free conference calling between locations (plus a whole slew of other features and services, depending upon the service provider we place you with based on your needs).
Some sites will retain the legacy phone system and use an IAD for VoIP, some sites will have SIP-capable phone systems connected directly with SIP trunks, and other locations will be at the point where the phone system is no longer supportable so we can pull it out and put in hosted VOIP.
All of these systems can talk together as one heterogeneous system via a single VoIP/SIP provider — with just a little help from your friends here at EnableIP!
The transition process will require that you start out with a complete assessment of your telephony environment. The guidelines listed below should get you headed down the right path and serve as a great baseline to get your assessment underway. If you need help, EnableIP can put feet on the street anywhere in the United States, Mexico, and Canada (other countries are on a case-by case basis) to assist you.
First, take an inventory of your existing telephony environment. Multi-site companies must do this for each location. Inventory the following items:
Once you have all this data it will then be time to sit down and look and see what flavor (or flavors, if you are a multi-site organization and have varying levels of hardware currently deployed) of VoIP is best for you. Remember to make sure you have that all-important user feedback from the key folks mentioned earlier.
If it looks like you will be wanting to use any hosted VoIP solution, you will need to complete a LAN assessment. All flavors of VoIP require special action to be taken to your WAN to ensure call quality. We can’t stress this one enough. There are many ways to do this wrong, and only a few ways to do it right.
Have questions? Get answers from the experts at EnableIP today.
EnableIP is a telecom solutions provider founded by Wired Networks’ founder Jeremy Kerth and head engineer Steve Roos after they realized there was a deep market need for helping mid-size businesses establish better uptime rates for their Wide Area Networks (WANs). Armed with the best-in-class carriers and partners, Jeremy and Steve set out with a bold plan: Guarantee better uptime rates than the industry standard of only 99.5%.
Their bold plan became a reality. EnableIP’s solutions guarantee clients 99.99% (even 99.999%) network uptime. But we don’t stop there. Many telecom providers promise high availability network solutions but fail to deliver because they’re in the business of providing services, not solutions.
That’s the EnableIP difference: We deliver highly available networks by providing a complete system (called “Cloud Assurance”) that ensures 99.99% or above uptime.
We deliver this bold promise by: