5 Considerations when upgrading to an IP phone system
Peter Oosthuizen, Head of Partner Service
12 October 2021

With traditional ISDN based digital telephony now a legacy product and due to be taken out of service in the year 2025 there has never been a better time to upgrade your phone system to Voice over IP. Not only will a VoIP phone system provide you with more flexibility regarding telephone usage, but it is also more cost effective and offers more resilient options for the business. It is estimated that by 2019 over 80% of ISDN digital telephone lines will be moved to VoIP (normally based on SIP, Session Initiation Protocol). So how do you upgrade to VoIP? What are the costs? What are the risks? We have put together 5 key considerations when upgrading to a VoIP phone system.

What connectivity do you currently have in place and is it suitable to run voice?

One of the most important elements of a VoIP solution is the IP internet circuit. To ensure business grade call quality the internet circuit requires a certain level of guaranteed performance. Normal DSL broadband circuits do not provide guaranteed performance and as such are not suitable for voice. Only DSL circuits that have performance SLAs designed specifically for voice are suitable, and even then they can not also be used for carrying normal data traffic for which you need a  separate data internet circuit. Ethernet circuits on the other hand can provide suitable performance SLAs and if correctly configured for QoS (Quality of Service) they can prioritise voice traffic ahead of normal data making them suitable for use with both voice and data simultaneously.

At Spitfire we will always consider the IP connection when providing a voice solution. We strongly recommend running voice over Fibre Ethernet, Fibre Broadband or an SDSL M connection with guarantees on the quality of voice. As mentioned, most DSL connections do not have any guarantees when it comes to call quality, so when there’s a surge in network traffic, voice packets can drop or arrive all at once and it may become impossible to understand the person on the other end of the line making this a solution to avoid.

What features do you require for your phone system and will your requirements change in the future?

VOIP offers a far more versatile and adaptable way of working compared to traditional telephone solutions which will allow you to create a more functional, efficient and ultimately more profitable working culture. It will also give you more flexibility with telephone numbers whether you are moving office, or opening a second office, or have multiple offices to share the load of incoming or outgoing calls. This number flexibility is also valuable when designing your disaster recovery plans.

At Spitfire we will always do our upmost to gain a full understanding of your business, what you do, how you operate, the number of sites and coverage across the UK etc to allow us to better tailor a VoIP solution to your business. There are many different possibilities with VoIP from how the system is deployed to how calls are routed for different times of the day to your ability to record, monitor, report calls and telephone activity etc so we like to make sure you are utilising all aspects of the options available to best suit your business.

How long does it take to install a new phone system and when do you want the new system in by?

There are many different elements to installing a phone system. There is the hardware to prepare, the configuration of the phone system, the integration with the LAN network, the numbers to port etc so it can take longer than you might think, with the time taken to install the IP circuit normally the longest factor. If you’re moving office (link to blog) we strongly recommend you start planning as soon as you know your move date to give time to install and test the system before it goes live. If your business cannot run without the ability to make calls then this needs to be high priority when moving. If you are upgrading an existing phone system then consider why you are upgrading. Is it reduced cost, improved productivity, flexible working, or maybe all three. Clearly the quicker the system is in place the quicker you will start benefiting in these areas.

At Spitfire our account managers and project managers are trained to ensure your business gets the phone system it needs. But you also need the system to be ready in time. This can be impacted by a number of reasons but our project managers are in place to help manage each install with a comprehensive install plan ensuring the phone system is live in time.

How will you implement a new phone system with minimal disruption to your business?

Making a change to your phone system can disrupt a business not only by changing out handsets and installing new hardware but also through a change in business culture. New features you want employees to use, working from a softphone rather than a desk phone, working from mobiles, etc. It is important to consider when you plan to implement a new system and if you have suitable training planned on the system. If you are a cyclical business then it is recommended to replace your phone system in the off season or for other businesses to install in their quieter months. You should also have a plan in place to ensure you continue to receive calls throughout an install period through a temporary call diversion for example.

At Spitfire we will always discuss and implement a plan during the upgrade of a phone system to include call diversions for business continuity and adequate training for the staff on the new phone system functionality as well as any other concerns the business may have during this phase of the install. A well planned install process can considerably reduce the disruption caused to a business when upgrading your phone system.

What is your disaster recovery plan?

When upgrading to a VoIP phone system it is very easy to get carried away with focusing on the new features and functionality of the system and neglect the disaster recovery plan. What will you do if your phone lines go down or you have a power cut? What if the system goes down? Where will the calls be routed? What impact will this have on your business?

All Spitfire’s VoIP Phone solutions have built in disaster recovery options but more than this we make sure this element is discussed with the business to ensure the disaster recovery plan is designed around the business and not just a standard backup plan. Whether this is diverting calls to a single mobile, or to multiple mobiles, or maybe to a second office, or even just to a message and a voicemail we will agree a plan that fits your business so it is ready in place in case the plan is ever called upon.