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Seven Steps to a Pain-Free Migration to VoIP

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Workers want to be able to collaborate and communicate wherever, whenever and however it is convenient, and unified communications (UC) systems can give them that freedom. With a UC system that knits together VoIP telephony, instant messaging, mobility, presence, and collaboration capabilities into a seamless business environment, organizations can boost employee productivity and lower costs. But a UC deployment, like all IT projects, must be carefully planned and executed.

Make sure your move to an IP phone system is a success by following these seven best practices for migration.

1.       Conduct a network assessment. Do a thorough network assessment of your network to determine whether you need to do any network upgrades or add capacity to the wide-area network. Your network may run data just fine, but problems may arise when you run IP voice. VoIP is highly sensitive to network latency and jitter, which can result in poor sound quality or dropped calls for your workers. In addition, your network switches need to support Power over Ethernet (PoE) to connect and power the IP phones, so if you have older switches in your wiring closets you may need to upgrade. You may need to set up virtual LANs (VLANs) to carry voice traffic separately from data traffic on the local network as well as add quality of service capabilities to your WAN connections to your different locations to ensure call quality. Learn more about getting your network ready for IP telephony.

2.     Consider the state of your wireless LAN. Many workers want to be able to use their smartphones and tablets for voice and video calls while in the office. But these applications are highly demanding on your Wi-Fi network, especially if the network was designed for guest or casual usage. If you are using old wireless LAN technologies you will need to upgrade to the higher performance 802.11n network. You may also need to add both capacity and coverage to support voice and video.

3.     Conduct a pilot test of the new IP phone system. Set up a trial or proof-of-concept test of your UC system before the full implementation. A pilot gives your IT staff a chance to become familiar with what they will need to deliver a good user experience and a reliable, secure UC service. It will uncover any last-minute issues before implementation and get your staff comfortable with the technology. And it will give your business confidence that the solution that you chose works as advertised. Create a plan to test calling—local, long distance, international, and toll-free numbers—to make sure that calls are set up quickly and the sound quality is as expected. You should also test capabilities such as conferencing, instant messaging, and mobility. If setting up a pilot test is not feasible, then at the very minimum you should see a demo of the system at your systems integrator’s office.

4.     Plan your migration. Determine how you will roll out the new phone system. “When people replace a legacy phone system, they often think that they need to do a flash cut, where they migrate all at once at night or over a weekend,” says Wayne Cochrane, manager of sales engineering at ShoreTel. “With IP phone systems, you can take a phased approach.” An IP phone system can be rolled out in phases to different locations or departments, so that the legacy phone system operates in parallel, until the migration is complete. A phased migration gives you a longer runway to identify and resolve problems and to migrate on your own terms.

5.     Address disaster recovery requirements in the planning stage. With UC, both voice and data traffic run over the same network, so a network outage can disrupt all communications. It’s important that the IP phone system that you select be highly reliable and delivers 99.999% reliability. For example, ShoreTel’s on-premise IP business phone system has a distributed, single-image architecture for voice calling, messaging, auto-attendant and other applications will allow each of your sites to function independently if a WAN link does fail. Many organizations also try to have WAN connections from different telecom service providers as well.

6.     Train users and administrators before the migration. If you’re moving from a legacy phone system to a UC system, your workforce will have new ways to communicate. “When a customer switches from a legacy phone system, they’re often concerned that the IP phone system won’t work exactly the same way,” says Cochrane. “The reality is that the way your business communicates is based on the technology you have in place. For example, with ShoreTel, the phone doesn’t need a do-not-disturb button because you can set up your call-handling modes so you can be reached exactly the way you want.” Keep in mind that an IP phone system that is simple to use and manage, like ShoreTel’s on-premise and cloud solutions, shortens the learning curve and fosters rapid adoption. Be sure to provide training and quick-start guides to help users and administrators adapt quickly and get the most out of the new business phone system.

7.     Consider the security of your UC system. Unlike a legacy phone system, an IP phone system shares the network with data and other applications, which means that you must take additional steps for security. You need to guard the UC system against malware and other attacks that could bring your organization’s communications to a halt. Having a firewall is essential. If you are using SIP trunks, you should have a session border controller as well. If your industry is highly regulated, you may want to consider encryption for selected employees’ communications, such as the finance department or the CEO.

Plan and Implement Your UC System

ShoreTel goes farther than other VoIP and UC vendors by providing a comprehensive network assessment, which helps customers plan, design and implement a successful IP telephony solution. Learn more about ShoreTel Network Services for network design validation, VoIP readiness assessment, wireless LAN VoIP readiness assessment, network delivery, and network diagnostics.