5 Best Practices When Implementing a New IP Phone System
Compared to traditional phone systems, IP phone systems, or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone systems have a number of benefits that can give you a competitive edge and change how you do business. The “IP” in IP phone system refers to VoIP where your phone calls are routed over the internet or a local network (LAN).
It’s great for reducing costs and offering more features such as direct numbers via the internet, redundancy to traditional telephone lines, mobility for your staff and connectivity between sites.
“When an IP telephone system is the solution, it usually revolves around remote workers, multi-site connectivity, disaster recovery and overall flexibility requirements within the business,” says Troy McIsaac, sales manager at Total Communications.
With a VoIP phone system, users plug in IP phones to the nearest LAN ports and the phone automatically recognizes the system, always keeping its number and behaving the same way no matter where’s it’s plugged in. But McIsaac warns that there is absolutely a right and wrong way to implement IP phones into the fabric of your business.
“IP is finicky technology. It’s not bad technology; it’s great technology with a lot of flexibility. But we see a lot of customers who don’t necessarily know the complexity of it, especially when you are tying it into your corporate network.”
Keep these five best practices for IP phone systems in mind to get the best possible performance out of your phones, now and in the future:
1. Know the relevant risks with IP
IP phone systems function with an internet connection so there always risks involved. One big risk McIsaac points to is knowledge and the lack of standard on deployment which only comes with experience.
The other ‘risk’ is the unknown, such as non-dedicated bandwidth which is out of your control where you can only hope for the best. McIsaac says you can be victim to “the cloud” in a solution where you have an office in Calgary and an office in Edmonton and the solution involves centralized answering in a single site and you could use the internet at either site for the connectivity.
2. Make your telecom solutions a business matter, not an IT matter
McIsaac often sees businesses leaving the decisions around IP phones and telecommunications to IT as a technology solution and cautions against that practice.
“The solution utilizes Network technology within it, but the solution itself is solving business direction and solving business problems. Which should be decided within the upper management as the knowledge of those issues, the direction of the company and the things that keep the Management team up at night can only be found in direct conversation with that team, or on the owner level. IT plays an important part of the equation to evaluate things from integration, reliability, ease of use, support and to work with the solution provider on deployment,” he says.
“When the IT group is given the directive to make the decision fully and the solution provider doesn’t have the opportunity to discuss the business with the Management team, the focus can sometimes be more on the technology side of things instead of a business solution.”
3. Work with providers who have standards
“We replace other VoIP systems sometimes when the equipment itself isn’t the issue, but the company that deployed it didn’t execute to a standard to ensure success, and treats it as just another thing on the network,” says McIsaac.
To avoid Band-Aid solutions and replacing your IP system constantly, know the company providing the solution is willing to walk away from the solution if the standards required to make it successful aren’t going to be in place
4. Keep IP systems updated and make security updates priority
Establish strict and safe login procedures among your employees. Everyone in your company’s IP phone network should have a unique username and password while user profiles allow you to monitor and control calls based on location, time and device. Also keep your IP system updated and as new security patches and features are introduced.
“Make sure your IT folks and telecom solution providers are working as team and are on the same page,” he says. “If you share a network with voice, video, data, you need to have it setup correctly and fully understand the issues with working on a complex network like this.”
For instance, updating firmware on a switch to keep it current is a regular occurrence in business and rightfully so, but when it is done you lose connection for a minute, connect and again and no issues usually occur. McIsaac says that when both video and voice are on the same network, it may cut off the CEO in the middle of an important call or a sales rep during a web presentation. To minimize problems, make sure everyone involved is on the same page.
5. Be upfront with your provider about business goals for future
IP based systems are great for expansion and flexibility, but the key is to share as much as you can with your solution designer and provider and they will incorporate that into your solution.
“Make sure you have something that can grow to where you think you might go,” says McIsaac. “Share as much as you can. Our goal at the end of the day is to know more about the business than most of the employees know. We are about solving your problems now but also what problems are you going to have in three years, five years? Where do you plan on being?”
A good company that is looking to be your partner well into the future will design the solution to meet your needs today and give you a platform to grow and expand on in the future.