Not since the advent of the PC has there been a technology more tailor-made for the small business than VoIP – especially since you’d be awfully hard pressed to find a network out there that isn’t IP based anymore. And as I discussed in my last blog, the benefits are many and diverse; from reducing long distance costs to improved customer service, from better internal communications to enhanced employee productivity… the benefits are everywhere and not to be ignored.
The VoIP phone solutions available for small businesses were once reserved for the enterprise but as everything else in technology, VoIP has found its way to the SMB space as a great alternative to traditional PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) systems. One of the beauties of a VoIP telephony solution is its scalability and flexibility meaning whatever system you choose now can grow along with your business making for ease of adding users, features and sophistication.
Basically, if you have an IP network (and you do) and high-speed Internet (probably that too), it is easy and reasonably inexpensive to implement a VoIP system. Here’s how to do it in 3 easy steps.
Step #1 – Performing a needs analysis
With VoIP, it isn’t necessarily about all or none; you do have choices. Although most IP phone users do go “full on” with their solution, a hybrid model shouldn’t be completely discounted. For example, you can install a voice gateway that converts your traditional analog PBX (Private Branch Exchange) into a digital signal that then allows you to make internet calls. But whichever way you go, a critical step is in clearly understanding what services you are getting out of your existing PBX to ensure you can easily map those features over to the new system. In other words, what do you have setup now that you simply cannot live without should you decide to transition to a VoIP system.
Once that has been determined, you have a lot more decisions to make along the way: number and type of handsets, automated attendants, application integration (such as click-to-dial), integrated voice mail, branch offices and / or remote users. The only downside to the number of enhancement choices with a IP phone solution is – well, the sheer number of enhancement choices!
Step #2: Is your network ready?
Although basically all networks communicate using the de facto standard of IP, adding voice to an infrastructure that has been designed for data flow does take some architecting. You need to ensure it can handle the additional traffic smoothly. It must be able to deliver high quality voice with no delay or “jitter”, no dropped calls, and you certainly expect it to sound as clear (or clearer) than your exiting PSTN.
So – how do we ensure that voice data gets the attention it deserves (and absolutely MUST have)? Through QoS or Quality of Service tagging. QoS tagging is a process whereby voice related information is prioritized on a network such that phone calls are the first and foremost bits and bytes of information to be transmitted and everything else is a distant second. A small blip or waiting period for data when opening a Word document or Excel spreadsheet is completely unnoticeable whereas a blip in voice transmission means either a dropped call or missing words and phrases. Poor phone communication is about as frustrating as it gets and QoS makes sure that voice data is the most important data to travel along the network lines. Stringent network testing (and perhaps upgrading of switching hardware) is an absolute prerequisite in spec’ing out and designing a VoIP telephony solution. This is the very last place to cut corners.
Step #3: Implementation
Definitely the area with the highest degree of difficulty. Deploying an IP phone system is no mean feat. It does affect your entire network and its underlying infrastructure which is why Step #2 is so important. Leaving that to chance will pretty much scuttle any chances of success. You also need to be sure you have the right partners and products in place to ensure you have the capacity and performance required to have not only adequate voice quality and stability, but to really take advantage of all the features that VoIp has to over analog PBX solutions.
Cisco and Syncronet have partnered to give you some of the best small business VoIP phone solutions available. Great quality, flexibility and scalability, and diversity of applications for every industry make it an easy choice for your business – today and tomorrow. Get the right solution working for you today!
Has your company embraced VoIP? We’d love to hear about it so leave your comments!