In recent years, business adoption of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems spiked due to their many benefits. For a monthly subscription fee, businesses get a full-featured phone system that can be used to make and receive calls via the internet. This enables employees to work from anywhere while staying connected with a distributed team, giving your business a competitive edge in a digital economy.
However, because of the global COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent shift to remote work, VoIP is no longer a nice-to-have investment but a vital part of ensuring business continuity and success during unprecedented times.
That said, implementing VoIP is a fairly nuanced process, especially for less tech-oriented businesses in Kansas and Oklahoma. You need to consider infrastructure requirements, features, call quality, and security, all of which can be difficult to grasp, especially without the right technology advisors on board.
To help you ensure a smooth transition, we’ve broken down VoIP implementation into seven simple steps.
1. Establish an implementation plan
The first thing you need to do is to develop an implementation plan to your company’s requirements. Some companies’ idea of VoIP implementation may simply involve upgrading software features to enhance work from home communications, while others may require a more comprehensive revamp of the company’s phone systems.
Whatever the case may be, your plan should clearly outline the project timeline, the tasks required for the implementation, and the necessary budgets. Make sure to set dates and milestones for each task in the project, such as network optimization, software installations, and user training. This helps you coordinate with providers and your internal teams and keep track of everyone’s progress.
If phones are mission-critical to your operations, you’ll also need to plan for the downtime caused by switching to a VoIP phone system. Of course, technical issues may occur during the implementation, so it’s a good idea to have backup phone lines available.
2. Decide on the features you need
When choosing a VoIP service, it’s easy to get swept up by the slew of features on offer, but you must stay within your budget. The best approach to choosing the right VoIP features for your business is to understand the needs of the people using them. If you have a large customer service team, for instance, they may need auto-attendant features to streamline incoming call transfers and extensions.
Other features to look for include call forwarding and holding, audio and video conference calling, do not disturb, and voicemail. These are must-have standard features that help your business effectively manage business calls and maintain a professional image.
3. Assess and enhance your network infrastructure
Optimizing your networks is crucial since VoIP calls are heavily dependent on your internet connection. For one call session, you generally need a minimum bandwidth of 512 Kbps (upload/download), but don’t think that’s all you need. Keep in mind that other processes, calls, and downloads can be running in the background during a call. Plus, if you want crisp, clear call quality and video conferencing features, it’s recommended to get internet bandwidths of up to 100 Mbps. Talk to your internet service provider to see which plan and internet speeds are best for your business and budget.
Another way to improve quality of service is to use network management tools. These allow you to monitor bandwidth usage across the company and prioritize voice traffic over other internet-reliant processes like file downloads and video streaming. You can also segregate VoIP calls to a separate local area network to ensure unhindered performance.
In addition to bandwidth, you should review your network equipment. Routers, switches, and modems must be up to date to prevent any bottlenecks in the middle of a call. It may even be worth subscribing to a different internet service provider to create a secondary internet connection separate from your primary network. This can serve as a backup line in case the main network goes down.
4. Evaluate VoIP providers
Finding a top-notch VoIP provider is key to a seamless implementation, and this requires you to look for specific qualities. First of all, your VoIP provider must offer all the features you require at a reasonable price point.
Secondly, an ideal VoIP provider will have an extensive record of satisfied clients who also work in your industry. This not only demonstrates that they have a well-established reputation, but it also shows that they have the experience and knowledge to effectively serve your company.
Finally, your VoIP provider must also be willing to offer customized service level agreements (SLAs). These are written contracts that outline the provider’s responsibilities and what you can expect from their services. Vital conditions to negotiate in your SLA include 99.99% service uptime, routine maintenance and proactive upgrades, security monitoring, and 24/7 customer support.
Related reading: Find out what qualities to look for in a service provider
5. Port phone numbers
While it’s possible to get a new number as you set up VoIP, it can be a hassle to notify everyone about the number change. Plus, you’ll also have to update your company phone numbers on business cards, email footers, websites, and other marketing materials so that clients know how to contact you.
A much easier alternative is to port your landline numbers to VoIP. To do this, you need to fill out number porting and submit a letter of authorization, which enables VoIP service providers to contact your existing phone carrier on your behalf. You also have to provide proof that the number you intend to port is indeed yours. This can be in the form of a previous invoice listing your company phone number, name, and address.
Many reputable VoIP providers will walk you through these processes, but be sure to check whether this will incur additional charges. In most cases, VoIP providers will do this for free unless you’re porting hundreds of phone numbers or if their service model bills you monthly for ported numbers.
6. Defend against cyberthreats
Any form of technology that connects to the internet is a potential target for cybercriminals. VoIP systems, in particular, are vulnerable to call hijacking and eavesdropping attacks where hackers exploit unsecured Wi-Fi connections to either take over a call or listen in on private conversations.
That’s why every part of your VoIP environment, including networks, devices, software, and user accounts, should be fully protected with multiple layers of security. Generally, you must have robust firewalls, advanced threat prevention systems, anti-malware software, call encryption, and multifactor authentication for user accounts.
Cybercriminals may also conduct scams by changing their caller ID to someone employees may know to dupe them into giving away sensitive information. So in addition to technical security measures, security awareness training can go a long way to mitigate phone-related scams.
7. Test your VoIP system
Before going live with the new phone system, run a series of tests to see whether calls connect as intended. Employees should have no problems connecting to internal company extension lines and ringing external phone numbers. Ask early adopters to review features like call forwarding and auto-attendants to evaluate how intuitive and effective they are for the business.
You should also monitor call quality for any signs of lag or choppy reception, and address them before they turn into massive problems that hinder your company’s ability to communicate and collaborate.
VoIP issues will almost always crop up during the implementation process, so turning to a reliable managed IT services provider to fix them proactively is a must. Summit Advisors is one such provider that guarantees a quick and efficient VoIP deployment. Call us to switch to a modern phone system today.