VoIP has the potential to transform any enterprise. It is inexpensive and offers advanced functionality. And yet, quite a few businesses hesitate to upgrade and take the next step. If you’re not familiar with VoIP, it’s easy to get confused about implementation.
With this 10 step guide, you can set up your own system effectively. The most important thing to number is that you cannot rush into upgrading your phone systems. It requires careful consideration, preparation, and planning.
You need a project plan to properly set up a VoIP phone system. Every business is unique and has different requirements. This means what is right for someone else’s business may not be suitable for yours.
A plan should establish a clear timeline, adequate budgets, and responsibilities. The project plan for a large enterprise may involve several teams working in scope. For a small business, the project plan may not be bigger than a few pages long!
Any project plan should include the following:
What scope means is that the project needs clear limits regarding what is included and what isn’t. A business may restrict the project by simply upgrading the existing phone lines. Another company may be interested in a comprehensive overhaul.
Set down dates for the completion of specific tasks or phases within the project. This helps you course correct earlier rather than later, while it is still possible to rectify mistakes and delays.
Very few projects reach completion without running into any problem whatsoever. That means you need to anticipate obstacles and roadblocks. It’s better to be prepared than scrambling to solve the problem after it has happened.
It’s easy to get lost in the myriad of features available in VoIP. But as with anything else, you have to pay for what you want. So even if you want every single feature out there, it may not be feasible to get within your budget.
The best approach is to make two lists. The first list should contain features that are absolutely essential for your business. The second list should be features that are nice to have. It’s great if your service provider offers it but not catastrophic if they don’t. Your goal should be to find a provider that can offer all the features on your first list within your budget.
Some of the things that should be on your first list include IVR, visual voicemail, conference calling, ring groups, virtual numbers, and number porting. These are standard features that any business can use, regardless of its size or the industry. Many of these features help a business to compete effectively and present a professional image to customers.
Practically everyone knows that you need an Internet connection for VoIP. But there are other factors that play a role as well. For instance, do you have enough bandwidth for additional voice traffic on your network? Is your Internet speed fast enough for voice calls? Is your network equipment (routers, switches, modems, etc.) up to date or desperately in need of replacing?
To find out if your network is ready for VoIP, you need a proper assessment. The assessment should focus on aspects like capacity, speed, and equipment readiness. Some businesses find that they need a second Internet connection or faster speeds. Older equipment may also be unable to handle the requirements for VoIP. They need to be updated or replaced.
It is very rare for a business network to be VoIP-ready without any preparation.
QoS is one of the most important tools you have to control call quality. With proper QoS, voice traffic will be given priority on the network. It reduces the chance of calls being dropped. It improves reliability and audio quality as well. You can also segregate voice traffic to a separate LAN for better performance and easier troubleshooting.
Jitter, latency, and packet loss are interrelated. Latency is the time it takes for a data packet to travel from one endpoint to another. Measuring latency is a good way to evaluate network performance. If latency is too high, there will be a delay between a user speaking and the other person hearing the words. This can make conversations almost impossible.
Jitter is the difference in the time delay between packets. If you have jitter, it means some packets are arriving later than others. It can lead to disjointed words or inexplicable delays. A good way to contain jitter is to use a buffer.
Packet loss simply means that a few packets do not reach the destination at all. Since VoIP involves real-time conversations, even a 1% packet loss can be great audio quality. Minimizing these issues will significantly improve your call quality and network performance.
The quickest, best, and easiest way to use VoIP is to purchase the service from a VoIP phone service provider. But how do you find the best match for your business? Consider the following points before deciding on a service provider.
Always consider the track record of the service provider. Successful vendors will have a long list of satisfied and happy customers. Given that there are providers who focus on specific industries or types of businesses, you’re sure to find one that caters to your demographic.
This is an often overlooked aspect of service providers. Remember that no matter the quality of service, something will go wrong sooner or later. It is how the vendor responds to a problem that matters. Good customer support comes at a price but it is almost always worth it.
Naturally, features and price are also important considerations. As previously mentioned, you need a service provider that gives you essential features within your budget.
What exactly is a service level agreement? It is a comprehensive document that outlines the provider’s responsibilities in the following areas:
What is the service uptime? Many reputable vendors offer 99.99% uptime as part of their SLA. But if your business depends on your phone systems, you might even want 99.999% or more.
How reliability is the service? How often does the provider undertake maintenance? Do you receive regular updates regarding upgrades?
Up to what level does the provider guarantee service quality? What measures do they implement to ensure quality is maintained?
The SLA is important since it holds the service provider accountable for any issues. Most vendors will also outline compensation for breaching the SLA terms. For instance, a vendor may say that they will refund a portion of your bill corresponding to downtime in a year.
Why would you install a secondary Internet connection? Even though it is an expensive proposition, it can act as a backup if needed. What happens if your Internet is down? Then none of your phones will work.
Make sure your second connection is from a different ISP. It should also use a different channel if possible. For instance, if your main Internet connection is to fiber, the backup can be through cable. This minimizes the odds that both lines will go down at once, crippling your phones.
Just as with any Internet-facing service, your phones need adequate protection. If you’re using hosted services, then your provider should take care of most security measures. But you should still know what your vendor is doing. Common security issues include unauthorized users hijacking calls, listening in on conversations or using your phone system to make excessive long-distance calls.
Remember that hackers can get into the system from your end as well. All it takes is one user’s stolen credentials to compromise an entire network. Training and awareness go a long way to mitigate this particular security risk.
Make sure to select a vendor that can port your existing numbers. After all, you don’t want to disrupt your customers! Most providers do not charge any fees to port numbers unless there are unique circumstances. Typically this process does not take more than a few days but again, there may be delays depending on your particular implementation.
Once you have set up your system, you’re almost ready to go. But first, test it! Make sure that calls connect as they should. Users should have no issues connecting to internal or external numbers. Check that all features (call hold, call transfer, etc) are working as they should be. You should also test call quality and speed. Use this phase to solve problems before they can snowball into bigger issues.
This is not an infallible plan for a problem-free project. It’s almost a guarantee that a few issues will pop up. But having a plan will help you avoid large roadblocks and minimize mistakes.
At the end of the day, VoIP phone systems don’t take a lot of time to set up. So don’t hesitate and switch to a VoIP service today!
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