IP, VoIP, PBX, pure IP, hybrid IP PBX, softphones — You’ve heard it all. The hype of IP telephony that overtook the past decade shows no signs of abating, and continues to grow at record speed thanks to emerging developments like Microsoft Lync and mobile IP. But the transition to an IP PBX phone system is no small thing and, if not executed properly, can offset the advantages proffered by this technology. So, before you jump on the IP bandwagon, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself to help determine whether IP telephony is the right solution for your business.
Do you really need it?
As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If your business is already running at maximum efficiency, or if you don’t have the resources to sustain increased productivity or demand, there may not be any reason to make the switch to an IP PBX phone system. The extensive suite of bells and whistles that IP phones provide comes at a steep cost and, if underutilized, can result in a lot of wasted money.
Can you afford it?
In life, you’ve got to give to get. And it’s no different when it comes to IP phones. If you want to reap the benefits of increased productivity and decreased costs, it’s gonna cost you. Although the price of IP phones has dropped significantly, a single unit can still run upward of $700, depending on the sophistication and range of offered features. That’s a pretty hefty price tag for any company, but especially one with a large staff. Can you afford to make the switch without breaking the budget? And if so, are the cost benefits substantial enough to warrant such a big investment? Of course, there are plenty of lower-end desktop IP phones that cost less than $200 per unit, but less bucks also means less bling, so it may be worth your while to invest in a higher-end phone that will have a longer shelf-life. The goal is to find a model that fulfills your particular requirements so that you can get the best bang for your buck.
What’s the best migration strategy?
Depending on your company’s needs, budget and resources, you can choose from a number of migration options, including a pure IP system, hybrid IP PBX, onsite, or hosted IP service. You’ll need to determine what makes the most sense – and what’s most cost effective – for your business given your budget, needs, support staff, and existing telephony infrastructure.
How will this affect your internal data network?
A switch to IP telephony means increased productivity and improved communications, which translates into a lot more traffic for your office LAN. Before overhauling your phone system, it’s important to evaluate your existing network to determine whether it can handle this increase in activity without sacrificing the quality of voice calls or causing other complications in the network. This may necessitate performance testing as well as equipment upgrades, so it’s important to ensure that you anticipate and prepare for these additional costs.
Is your staff ready?
Just because you’re ready to take the IP plunge, doesn’t mean your staff is. Implementing a new telephony system – especially one as feature-rich as an IP PBX system – can require a lot of training and support, and may cause temporary slowdowns in productivity or customer response. Be prepared to meet any potential resistance during the transition and make sure there’s room in your budget for these extra costs.
There’s no question that there is a lot to be gained from switching to an IP PBX phone system, but it has to be done right. The secret to success is to take your time, assess your needs, objectives and resources, and choose the best system – for your business.
Tara Baboushkin is a writer, copy editor and researcher specializing in online marketing campaigns, critiques and opinion pieces. Email Tara at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @TaraBaboushkin.Tags: Mobility,Technology