When you decide to switch your business over to VoiP, there’s a lot of planning to do. In our last blog, we looked at some general tips for making the switch to VoiP and the importance of budgeting several months to get the job done. This time, we’ll take a closer look at getting the right hardware and passing the PAS test to make sure your system works correctly.
Figuring Out Your Network Infrastructure
A crucial step in getting everything together is determining your network infrastructure and the hardware needed to create it. You’ll most importantly want to determine whether your infrastructure can handle new tech that will allow you to bolster voice quality from your current capacity. As an example, traffic shaping and virtual LAN systems can use relatively low bandwidth while making sure vocal quality is a priority.
Power and Switching
Power and switching makes up the PAS test, which is crucial to pass before fully instigating VoiP across the board. It’s important to make sure all existing desktop phones are capable of both power and switching or you’ll have to upgrade.
Phones also need to be powered via Ethernet connection and have LAN switch ports built into the sides. With a working LAN port, phones can work both as an IP phone and a PC phone. You’ll also need to look at the bandwidth supported by the phone. If you’re running a large company and need lots of bandwidth to make this switch, check the phones to make sure they’re capable.
Another option when considering hardware is to set up softphones. Perhaps not for every employee, but for those who work remotely, travel frequently, or are just a little more tech-savvy than most. A softphone doesn’t require you to buy an IP phone or any external hardware. It’s simply a program on your computer with a phone-like appearance. You can attach a headset to a desktop or laptop and use it normally. With a softphone setup, you’re not as limited. Likely many companies in the future will be ditching phone hardware entirely for a fully digital approach like this.
Switching over to a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system can save your company lots of money in the long run, but it’s not something you want to implement without some careful planning. If you’re wondering how long it takes, you should plan for several months.
Tips for Switching to VoIP
- Have a Time Buffer: Plan for it taking longer than you expect to be ready. Even if your business itself is ready, your internet provider may not be and could take a while securing the extra bandwidth.
- Build a VoIP Team: You need to have everyone trained before the system is implemented to prevent mass chaos. Have your team leaders in on planning meetings so they can effectively explain the process to the people they supervise when the time comes.
- Have the Right Equipment: The phones you have right now may not be compatible with operating over the internet via VoIP connection. Hopefully you have a dedicated IT person or department to help or you might consider hiring a consultant. You don’t want to switch over and not be able to make calls.
- Bandwidth: At this time, you’re going to have to take a careful look at your bandwidth. Making digital calls will take up extra space and may make the rest of your internet activities considerably slower. Perform a careful audit and consider upgrading your service.
- Emergency Services: With a VoIP system, it’s not going to know who to call in the event of an emergency. You may end up dialing 911 halfway across the country. Keep this mind or have at least one phone still tied to an analog line.
- Training: Most of your employees will not be familiar with this type of technology and might be reluctant to change their old ways. Prepare training guides or presentations with pictures and simple steps. You should also prepare an FAQ to reduce the number of calls going to your IT department. Keep in mind you may also have remote employees who need to setup this technology themselves.
If you’re planning on switching to VoiP for your business, you’re going to need to take a close look at how much bandwidth you currently use. In many cases, you may even need to upgrade your current internet plan, which may mean switching to T1 or T3. Even if you never implement VoiP, you may still need this type of service if you have a large company.
What is T1/T3?
T1 and T3 lines are each types of high-speed internet. T1 is a type of fiber optic cable or a copper line while T3 is a high-speed phone line. They’re like the DSL or cable internet you currently have at your home or office, but much, much faster. The average internet user doesn’t need as much speed as a T line provides and would find it economically infeasible. But for your business, it’s another story. They are both available pretty much anywhere except in severely remote areas.
The major difference between T1 and T3 for your purposes is that T3 is about 30 times faster than T1. You’ll have to determine how much speed you need in order to decide which makes the most sense.
Benefits of Switching to a T Line
If you own a business that requires lots of internet use, then you’ll see the benefits of adding a T line right off the bat. While the cost is higher, productivity will likely go up when employees are able to quickly navigate the internet. Depending on your company’s online presence, the increased productivity may offset the initial expense of increasing your bandwidth.
Switching to a T1/T3 line is going to be very useful if you plan on making the change to VoiP. With either connection, you’re going to be able to use normal internet functions and talk on the phone at the same time, without reducing connection speeds.
Companies who are heavily involved in internet use and development will certainly benefit from T1/T3 and probably already switched long before you knew what a T line was. With these high speeds, you can host several web sites from your office with a T3 line and download software and files at incredible speeds.
Anytime you’re dealing with a business’ computers, one question that always seems to come up has to deal with bandwith amounts. If you’re looking at using VoiP, you’ll have to ask yourself, “Do I have enough bandwith?” The amount of bandwith that you have available to use is essential to using VoiP, as it is fundamental to the technology and is also a major factor in determining the quality of the call.
What Exactly is Bandwith?
Before you find out whether you have enough bandwith, you should understand what bandwith is. It’s defined as a range of frequencies through which data is transmitted. The larger the bandwith, the more data can be broadcasted, and the faster the speed at which that can occur. There are two types of bandwith: upload and download. The upload is how much you send to the Internet, while download is how much you can receive from the Internet.
Typically, most Internet users associate bandwith with speed, which is measured in kilobytes per second (kbps) or megabytes per second (mbps). One mbps is equal to one thousand kbps.
What is the Normal Bandwith Requirement for VoiP?
If you’re looking for high-quality Voice Over IP, then it’s recommended you have a bandwith amount of at least 90 kbps. If you can, try to avoid dial-up connections at all cost. While a bandwith of 56 kbps will work, the quality will probably be low. Your traditional kbps numbers are 90, 60, and 30, with each delivering a different quality of voice. Your needs will be determined by the quality needed for your use and how many employees will be using the internet at any one time.
To test how much bandwith you actually have available to you, you can use online speed tests. Another option you have that may be better specifically for VoiP is a VoiP bandwith calculator.
The other factor to consider is cost. Bandwith is normally the most expensive requirement when it comes to using the Internet as a communication tool. Broadband, which is becoming more common, is getting cheaper and cheaper and is starting to offer speeds that are sufficient for Voice Over IP.