Steps for Planning the Move to Hosted VoIP
Migrating to Hosted VoIP can be easy for some and overwhelming for others. There are many factors that go into purchasing any new phone system, so it is important to create a process in order to make an informed purchase. Before just delving in blindly, make a plan. Items to factor into your plan include:
- Identify the decision making process. Usually, a company will only purchase a new phone system every 7-10 years, the internal approval process for purchases may not be clear. Therefore, you could end up investing a lot of time working with multiple vendors only to discover that the President of the company already had a vendor in mind. That’s why it is critical to understand how your company handles your purchasing recommendation. If you do not have this internal conversation before starting to speak with vendors, you may end up wasting your valuable time and experience a lot of frustration.
- Determine how many phones you will need. Before speaking with any vendors, you should gather a count on the number of phones that you would like to include on a new VoIP system. When you start speaking with vendors, you should ask for a rough proposal based on this rough phone count.
- Ensure a data jack everywhere you would like a VoIP phone. With VoIP it is important to have a RJ35 or data jack everywhere you would like a VoIP phone, including the lobby, kitchen and other common areas. Since VoIP is a data product it cannot use traditional telephone cabling. The good news is that almost all VoIP phones have a built in switch which allows a user to plug their VoIP phone into the wall and the computer into the back of the phone. Which means only one data jack is needed for both the user’s phone and computer.
- Determine how many locations will be getting a new system. For some organizations, it makes sense to roll out a new system to all locations at the same time. For others, it makes more sense to implement the new system one location at a time. This decision is made based on a variety of factors such as budgets and training consideration for users. It is important to consider both options and decide which makes the most sense for your organization.
- Details of existing vendor contracts. Timing is usually critical to the decision to switch to VoIP, so it is also important to research when the decision can be made without incurring penalties from previous vendors. Many times people are under maintenance agreements with existing vendors. That’s why it is vital for you to do your due diligence and review the contracts you have with your existing vendors.
- Cost Information and Budgets. You should gather information to compile a cost justification for moving to VoIP. Some of the items to include are: the number of phone bills you have; the existing costs each month; monthly or seasonal bill increases; hidden costs like upgrades, maintenance and PBX repairs. The better you can inform yourself and the decision maker about your current system, the easier your choice will be in purchasing a new one. Once you have gathered your contracts and invoices, you must identify the budget. You will need to consider both capital (hardware) and operational costs. Aside from phones, you must consider other hardware needs such as switches. You should also factor in operational costs such as upgrades, repairs and changes to the system, as well as your building lease(s) and how long you will stay at your current location(s).
- Include All Costs. Don’t forget that it is not just the hardware you are purchasing. Be sure to find out about the local and long distance charges, taxes and fees. Also, be sure to include the costs for T1, DSL lines, cable, etc. Once this is all laid you, you can then make a clear, informed choice about which system is best for you.
Features. It is important to determine which features are most critical to your organization by developing a needs and benefits analysis document that allows you to compare and contrast phone systems to the needs of your organization. First, you should identify the features your employees are currently using, then what features are missing that your company needs. As you start to speak with vendors, you will learn about the benefits that a feature rich VoIP phone system offers.
The Transition. In addition to features and functionality, it is important to gather information from the vendors you speak with regarding such issues as training, roll out, and how your company will adapt to a new system. It will be important to assure that your users will receive proper training; otherwise they may not use the more sophisticated options the system offers. If users are not informed about and comfortable with using the features, not only are those options going to waste, but so is the company’s money. Be sure to properly analyze the user capabilities to assure they could expect to receive the level of training that they need on a new system.
Think About the Future. Remember, a phone system purchase is a purchase intended to last for many years. That’s why it is important to investigate the topic of technology obsolescence and scalability. You need to find out how easy or difficult it will be to make moves, adds and changes in the future. It is also wise to find out if there are charges for making system updates and for maintenance.
Purchasing a new phone system can be a daunting task because there are many elements to consider and weigh in making the decision of what system and what provider to select. It is a very important purchase to your organization, so there is much pressure on the people tasked with recommending a system and vendor. That’s why it is imperative to educate yourself and anyone involved in the decision. If you enter the process without knowing much about Hosted VoIP, the process itself and conversations with vendors will help expand your knowledge of VoIP.