Networking optimize

10 ways to make your VoIP rollout easier

VoIP can potentially save your company money and provide your users with convenience features. But making the switch can be a little scary. Deb Shinder offers some recommendations that can help smooth the transition.

You know Voice over IP (VoIP) can potentially save your company money, especially if your employees make many domestic long distance calls and/or international calls. It can also provide your users with convenience features, such as delivery of voice-mail messages their e-mail boxes. But making the switch can be a little scary. You depend on your telephone service and may not be able to do business without it, so it's important to get it right.

You can smooth the way to make the transition easier by following some or all of the following recommendations.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Assign responsibility

The first step in planning for a VoIP deployment is to determine who will be responsible for each aspect. In some companies, the telephone system is managed by different personnel than the IT infrastructure. When you move to VoIP, the telephone system becomes part of the IT infrastructure. However, IT personnel may be unfamiliar with the special requirements of telephony applications. It is important to ensure that you have people on staff (either by hiring new employees or training existing ones) who understand the intricacies of VoIP.

#2: Plan a multiple-stage rollout

To avoid the risks involved in switching all your phones over to VoIP at the same time, you can first set up a pilot project for one department or group of users. This allows you to identify any unexpected problems while the impact is on a small scale, and you can find solutions before rolling out to the entire company.

#3: Plan your security strategy

Because VoIP calls are transmitted over the public Internet, the voice packets are subject to some of the same security threats as your data traffic. Unauthorized capture of packets to eavesdrop on conversations, man-in-the-middle and other call tampering, viruses, and IP-based Denial of Service (DoS) attacks that can bring down your VoIP network are all possibilities you need to guard against.

Firewalls, encryption, and virus protection are just as important to protecting your VoIP transmissions as they are to protecting your data. Security should be built into your VoIP deployment from the beginning, not addressed as an afterthought.

This whitepaper outlines a proactive approach to VoIP security.

#4: Consider quality of service

Voice transmissions are less forgiving than other, non-realtime IP transmissions, such as e-mail. Latency, jitter, packet loss, and slow network performance can cause calls to be cut off or voice quality to degrade. Users are used to the high quality of the traditional telephone network (PSTN) and will expect the same from their VoIP service. Newer codecs can provide better tolerance to packet loss, but it's important to ensure that your network has sufficient bandwidth and throughput speeds to handle VoIP properly. Remember that encryption and other security measures can slow network performance.

#5: Evaluate and (if necessary) upgrade the network

Many business networks "just grew that way" and have a conglomeration of components hooked together that may or may not support a realtime application such as VoIP. You should do a complete assessment of the network to ensure that all the cabling, switches, and other network components are of sufficient grade and speed. Infrastructure changes, such as creating separate VLANs for voice and data, need to be taken care of early.

#6: Consider future needs

Plan ahead, both in terms of capacity growth and additional applications you may want to add in the future (such as video conferencing capabilities). If you are upgrading the network now to support an existing number of voice users, it may be more cost effective to go ahead and upgrade the infrastructure to a level that will allow you to address those future needs without tearing it all down and doing it over again.

#7: Have a backup plan (for Internet connectivity)

Unlike PSTN lines, your VoIP service is dependent on your Internet connection. No Internet connectivity means no telephone service. Redundant connections (which can also be aggregated to provide more bandwidth) will prevent loss of your phone service if one ISP should experience downtime.

#8: Have another backup plan (for electrical power)

Residential telephones continue to operate during a power failure because they operate on the electricity provided by the phone line. PBX systems generally require backup power systems, and your VoIP equipment will likewise need uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and/or backup generators to power the VoIP server, switches, etc., in the event of a power outage.

Another option is Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches, which can be used to power the IP phones. PoE allows access to both power and IP packet transmission over the same cable. You can find more information about PoE here.

#9: Consider cooling needs

Rolling out hundreds or thousands of IP phones powered by PoE could put a heat overload on your wiring closets. Any time you greatly increase the number of electronic components, you have to deal with the generation of more heat, and PoE draws a lot of extra electricity. This may require the installation of extra cooling equipment. It also pays, when selecting equipment, to factor in the energy efficiency ratings of switches and other PoE gear. For more information, see Power and Cooling Considerations for Power-over-Ethernet.

#10: Consider legal, compliance, and safety issues

Remember that if you're in a regulated industry (healthcare, finance, etc.), your VoIP network is subject to the same government compliance requirements as your data network, so it's important to institute measures showing you are protecting the privacy of client data.

Another issue is emergency services (E911). The portability of VoIP equipment complicates the ability for emergency operators to identity the physical location of VoIP callers. The FCC requires that interconnected VoIP providers supply  9-1-1 services to their customers, and providers are required to obtain your physical location so it can be associated with your number(s). If you change locations and take your VoIP equipment with you, make sure you update the physical location information. Of course, if power or the Internet connection is down, your VoIP service won't work, so you should ensure that you have backup emergency phone service (landline or cellular/wireless) on site.


Debra Littlejohn Shinder is a technology consultant, trainer and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. These include Scene of the Cybercrime: Computer Forensics Handbook, published by Syngress, and Computer Networking Essentials, published by Cisco Press. She is co-author, with her husband, Dr. Thomas Shinder, of Troubleshooting Windows 2000 TCP/IP, the best-selling Configuring ISA Server 2000, and ISA Server and Beyond.

About

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...

11 comments
Oz_Media
Oz_Media

At least when using a hybid system, you still have POTS lines as a backup, POTS lines are very reliable and stable for the most part, a LOT more so than a dedicated IP PBX. NEC actually rolled out the most reliable and durable Hubrid system a few years back, to rival teh BCm from Nortel, which at that time had piles of software issues and terrible licencing plan. Whil esome of teh switch builder, Cisco, 3-Com and others are now making SOMEHWAT decent systems, nobody has stood the test of time against teh major players yet. Nortel, NEC, Avaya etc. The main shortfall of switch based systems is a crappy feature set that sometimes works and other times just falls short of offering useful POTS features that users rely on. It is getting better but just two years ago i was still ripping out Cisco and 3-Com systems to be replaced with real phone systems. A hybrid is an excellent solution because it allows you to mix POTS and IP phones on the same switch, allowing for gradual integration while still retaining those ever important POTS lines for emergencies, which usually double up as a fax line when graduating it into a full IP system.

ben_pisoro
ben_pisoro

VoIP is bit new to me but I am trying to get into it. More helpful information I am getting through TechRepublic. Thank you so much for the free information which are so greatful in helping in my job as an IT officer with the Police Dept. TechRepublics' help really brings me further in knowing something that I thought would cost me alot. Thankyou all the Hardworking Team members of TechRepublic. BenPisoro Police ICT Port Moresby PNG

micah
micah

As I was reading the ten items on the list I just kept thinking "find a service provider you trust". Taking on all ten of these items is no easy task if you haven't done it dozens or 100s of times. Sounds easy enough - hopefully soon the company that provides your other IT services, IT security, data storage, etc. - hence, someone you trust - will find a model for offering these services where they can be profitable. As it stands now the traditional PBX companies have no incentive to become monthly SaaS providers - they just want to keep selling hardware and support contracts.

noelh
noelh

Your tips are great but I don't agree with this statement. "You know Voice over IP (VoIP) can potentially save your company money, especially if your employees make many domestic long distance calls and/or international calls". You should only adopt VoIP because of the increased functionality, not to lower costs. We have been selling hosted VoIP for years and most times the quality issues result in the client coming back to TDM for business because the VoIP services still have growing pains i.e. dropped calls, poor call quality. For business use nothing beats a good old fashioned LD T-1, PRI, line or trunk and with rates at or below the cost of SIP trunking or hosted VoIP TDM still presents a better value in a lot of cases. Now if you have QoS on the LAN, are on the same backbone as the softswitch, use POE and have a provider that has good quality wholesale connections to the PSTN then it may be worth it, but not for lowering costs, only for enhanced features of phone service.

jmaloff
jmaloff

Despite its characterization in the media, VoIP is a much more complicated subject than is often apparent. Consumer services like those provided by Vonage, free services such as Skype, hosted IP PBX services, premises-based IP PBX systems, or SIP trunking services intended to displace leased lines used for bulk long distance telephone calls can all be called VoIP. It is critical that enterprises understand their requirements first, identify service or equipment providers that meet those needs, and then plan accordingly. Having a clearly articulated network security policy and plan - including one that addresses VoIP implications - is also critical. An informed enterprise will need to understand that there are a wide variety of VoIP services available and invest the time to understand how their requirements can best be addressed. Joel Maloff, Vice President of Marketing, BandTel

smclean9
smclean9

I think evaluating your network should come first or, at the latest, second after you have assigned responsibilities. Changes to your infrastructure have to come very early in order to provide the QoS needed for VoIP.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Hosted services are best used for residential use, you can't expect a business ot rely on a hosted service, it just doesn't cut it. I spent a good 5 years removing hosted service boxes and wannabe's (like Ciso and 3-Com) for real VoIP PBX's. For a business, VoIP is usually nto a good solution, but for those that WILL benefit from it, it is worth investing the $70K+ to do it right. For companies who's phone bills are under 10K a month, there's not much point, but when you are looking at 40-40K in LD each month, a properly designed and installed VoIP PBX (especially a hybrid POTs and VoIP system) usually offers a strong business case.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I have ripped out more hosted IP services that I can remember, they always go teh cheap route at first, find out that it is garbage and then have to dig deep to put in a proper IP based PBX. Yuo can tell them all you waqnt when they are initially making a decision and nobody listens to anything but the cheqapest price. It soon rings true that the system is OK for a home that is calling relatives across the country but as a business service it falls short. Of course, by that time, removing the old and reinstalling a real system is a lot more expensive. I learned one key thing in 20 years of telecom, you CANNOT save money and get a system that performs as well as the major business telephone builders. The guys that have been making KSU's for decades know what to do when it comes to business phone systems. Cisco not a hope, they are a switch builder and there is a LOT more to business telecom than simply switiching at the server. VoIP is NOT a good business case for most companies, but those that will benefit from it are better off spending the dough to get it right the first time.

hostedVoIPfan
hostedVoIPfan

QOS is getting increasingly important. Our Director of Sales is adamant about this. It is something that is really a distinguishing factor in the hosted VoIP world. Our product is a

robo_dev
robo_dev

A phone is a vital piece of safety equipment, and keeping it powered-up is vital. Having POE backed up by a properly-sized UPS could save somebody's life. Relying on a $2 wall-wart to power each phone could lead to serious consequences in the case of a medical emergency or other incident where a storm or accident has knocked out the main power to the building. Most VOIP systems are replacing conventional PBX systems which, of course, provide power over the wire. To even consider not using POE is taking a giant step backwards in terms of reliability and technology.

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

datacenteruniversity.com (apc sponsored) offers free dc courses that include some on wiring closet device planning power and cooling for network, & voice devices with poe. may not be free much longer. the ACM (acm.org) has free courses with membership, 5 or 6 on voip planning and implementation. others include the whole CCNT cert (convergent network techs).