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10 Steps to Implementing an Enterprise VoIP System
October 21st, 2015

10 Steps to Implementing an Enterprise VoIP System

Bill Gaskill

The benefits of VoIP phone service make it an almost mandatory technology for your business to have to remain competitive. Sooner or later, your management will want to make the switch, so be proactiv...

The benefits of VoIP phone service make it an almost mandatory technology for your business to have to remain competitive. Sooner or later, your management will want to make the switch, so be proactive and have an implementation plan ready. Because VoIP uses data networks and computers, implementation can cause angst for company managers and staff who may not have a technical background and are unsure  where to begin.

Don’t worry. Transitioning to VoIP doesn’t have to be stressful. By asking yourself a few questions and following these 10 steps, you can have a seamless rollout and start enjoying the benefits of your new enterprise VoIP communications system.

Step 1: Plan ahead

Once the decision has been made to move to an enterprise VoIP communication system, develop a plan. Perform a network audit and needs assessment. Once you have the results, sit down with the IT director and appropriate stakeholders and review the plan. Let them ask the hard questions and offer criticisms, and adjust your plan according to their input.

Step 2: One network or two?

It may make sense to keep your voice and data networks separate. By keeping them separate, you have added another layer of security to the system. This may make it more difficult to use and could blunt some of VoIP’s advantages, or it could make it less likely that your employees will take advantage of all the functionalities. If you do merge VoIP with your existing data network, make sure you and your IT manager perform a thorough bandwidth analysis. Don’t forget to leave room for future expansion as your company grows. One final task: Make sure your existing firewalls will not interfere with the VoIP data/voice streams.

Step 3: The technical nuts and bolts

Check and make sure you have the right cabling. If you need to upgrade, consider installing at least CAT5e. CAT6 may make more sense taking into account future networking needs. Consider things such as cable length. For VoIP, the maximum Ethernet cable length is 100 meters. Make sure you do not daisy chain switches. Run new Ethernet. Daisy chaining may be easier, but you will likely suffer slowdowns, poor voice quality, and other quirky reactions.

Step 4: Remove all network hubs

Do not use hubs for a VoIP network, use switches. It would appear to make sense to use a hub since a hub allows different devices to connect to the same internal network. However, hubs route traffic differently. If you use a hub for VoIP, phone registration and other phone problems will result.

Step 5: Anti-virus software, firewalls, and filters

Ensure that you run anti-virus software on all your servers and client PCs. If you were sloppy about anti-viral software before, do not be lazy about it now. Remember that VoIP runs over data networks. Hackers could access your data network through the VoIP system and wreak havoc. Review possible encryption technology. Some WAN routers have built-in protection for VoIP traffic.

Consider using SRTP (Secure, Real-Time Transport Protocol). This technology encrypts all voice data streams. Some firewalls may not be configured or made for VoIP use, especially the cheaper, off-the-shelf, products. Have your IT manager review the firewalls in use and determine if you have to modify, replace or switch them off. Finally, consider a Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) for your internal communications. This can help minimize the chances of anyone penetrating your VoIP system.

Step 6: Don’y forget about physical security

Physical security can be just as important as anti-viral protection. Most companies do not worry about phone placement. You should worry about keeping your phone instruments secure just as you keep your PCs and other networked devices safe from tampering.

Review your access control policies and physical security procedures. Letting the public or unescorted guests have access to a VoIP phone, in certain sensitive areas, opens your system up to compromise. The same physical security concerns expand to mobile and off-premises devices connected to your VoIP network. If you plan on using mobile phones with your company VoIP, make sure appropriate security measures on the smartphone are in place in case of theft.

Step 7: Implement the switch to VoIP in phases

People do not like change. Some of your employees may have been using landline, PBX systems all their lives. Do not cut off your landline phones immediately. Roll out the VoIP system in phases.

Step 8:  Update your end-user equipment and software

Set some money aside for new equipment. Buy phone instruments, headsets and other equipment made for VoIP use. These will help maintain quality when utilizing VoIP voice and services. You can get Wi-Fi phones, softphones and digital phones for VoIP use. Make sure you update all your devices for VoIP use. If handhelds and mobile phones are part of your plan, install the most recent operating systems and updates.

Step 9: Draft a VoIP policy

Take the time to craft a simple but comprehensive usage plan. VoIP phones have extensive capabilities. You may want, for example, to prohibit PC or laptop-enabled VoIP calls from your network. Include in your policy restrictions on downloading this sort of software. If you expand VoIP usage to outside the office, consider setting up Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for secure transmissions. This will help ensure the data sent to and from the office remains safe.

Step 10: Educate Your Employees

Step 10 is the most important part of the process. You need employee and stakeholder buy-in to make the transition a success. If you do not educate them about the new functionalities and features of using VoIP, your employees will view VoIP as just another phone. Ensure that you include a security briefing. Many have only a vague idea of how VoIP works. He or she may not realize how VoIP connects with your IT system. Educate them on the vulnerabilities as well as the benefits.

Success!

VoIP presents excellent opportunities for businesses to explore new ways to streamline their operations and service their client base. If you follow these ten simple steps when implementing VoIP, it will lessen worker and management concerns and interruptions in your operations. Follow these steps and even the most technologically-challenged employee or manager will soon wonder how they ever did business without using VoIP. 


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