Adopting Voice over IP (VOIP) is no longer a difficult decision. With quality and reliability assured if users have the right provider and network, the market has accepted it as a cost-effective, quality, application-rich phone system, writes George Golding, MD of Euphoria Telecom.
Recently, cloud PBX services have begun to offer all that without owning, running or even having a PBX on the premises. The question is, will the adoption of VOIP – cloud-delivered or on-site – be hard? The answer is no; VOIP is neither difficult to use nor to adopt. The following easy steps will guide users through the process.
Stage one – setting the scene
Does the business want to keep its old PBX? The first step in adopting VOIP is deciding what user want out of it. Do they want to keep “sweating” their existing analogue PBX, coupling it with VOIP to save on call costs, or do they want it as their sole voice solution, for extra savings and functions such as unified communications?
If the former, the provider will simply put in a gateway device on the premises, which will receive analogue phone lines on one end and turn them into VOIP channels going out on the Internet line, for an instant 30% saving on call costs. A small gateway turning a few high-intensity phone lines into IP channels can be cost-effective (the gateway will attract an upfront cost).
If they need to do an upgrade or replace the PBX, or they are adding branches, a move to VOIP makes perfect sense. Better yet, go for full cloud VOIP (where the PBX is hosted by the VOIP provider, meaning they can say goodbye to PBX cost and operations headaches, but still pay for handsets and a gateway if the old PBX is kept as backup). Either way, the VOIP provider can then move onto the next question.
Stage two – scoping
Who does the IT? Since VOIP falls under the IT umbrella, the VOIP provider should from here on in be talking to the IT manager or support company, to ensure trouble-free installation, running and support of the system, as well as beneficial costing. Their conversation will probably take a simple Q&A format.
* How many extensions (phone points) do users have or want? With the average company requiring perhaps 30 extensions, this will have a handset cost implication of around R20 000.
(Note that, unlike analogue handsets, VOIP handsets are future-proof, and offer integration with other forms of communication, collaboration and business processes. Based on the session initiation protocol, or SIP, standard, they can also serve as endpoints to other VOIP solutions.)
* How many branches? A single-premise company may want to keep its “old” analogue PBX if it is still under contract, or required as a fall-back option, if a secondary Internet line is not available. But if there’s more than one branch, it makes sense to go with VOIP for the whole installation, because inter-branch calls cost nothing over IP.
* How many simultaneous calls will users need to make per branch? One branch might be the support centre, in which case users must provide for as many simultaneous calls as there are people. But any “normal” branch won’t need more than 40% of its lines at once. This will have an implication for the size (“throughput”) of the Internet line to each branch, which in turn will influence the total connectivity costs.
* How many cordless handsets do users need at each branch? How many roaming staff do they have that may need communications on the go? Think high-value salesperson on the shop floor, busy matron or stocktaking worker.
* What type of Internet access do they have at each branch? (ADSL, 3G, Neotel or other wireless.) Besides the possible cost implication of access, experienced providers will use knowledge of the line to decide on the “architecture” of the VOIP solution. This could mean introducing mechanisms to improve quality, and so forth.
Stage three – proof of concept
Once the quote is accepted, some installations may warrant a proof of concept trial (installation).
Stage four – training and support
Training – training on the phone system’s features allows smooth adoption. VOIP systems should come with a manual.
* Support – should issues still arise, support should be in place to resolve any issues. However, both training and support is minimised by the plug-and-play simplicity of cloud VOIP systems.
Child’s play
The truth about VOIP systems is that they’re not different, in the main, from telephony as users know it. They will continue to take and make calls in exactly the same way, and adoption need not scare them. In addition, they will benefit from enormously beneficial extra features that improve workflow and communication.