There's plenty of promise with voice over Internet protocol technology. In the long run, it can help companies save money, deploy productivity-boosting applications, and provide a path to the future. Yet the technology is both costly and complex. Unless you know what you're doing, you could stumble down that road. Here's a guide for avoiding the potholes.
Assign a project leader: Merging a voice and data network means combining IT and telecom managers within your organization. Unless you assign a leader, expect in-fighting as each side jockeys for control.
Assess your network: Figure out the age of your system and what needs to be replaced first. Build a telephony replacement timeline—it may dictate which parts of the network you decide to upgrade first.
Cast a wide net: Rather than go with the incumbent voice or data supplier, evaluate four to six different vendors. There are lots of ways to approach Internet phone systems.
Go slowly: Change over smaller sites first, rather than starting with corporate headquarters. The slower you take it, the better trained your IT department will be when you roll out the technology on a large scale.
Build white-glove service into your network: Make sure to configure network devices to prioritize voice traffic so that call quality won't be degraded. Analysts say this is the most important step in deploying VoIP.
Feel pressure to jump on the bandwagon: While analysts say that IP telephony is inevitable, there's no reason to feel rushed until there's a legitimate business case for your company, such as a phone system that has reached the end of its life or a plan to open a new office.
Expect an immediate return: Companies with more than 1,000 users can expect to spend $887 per user on capital equipment as well as planning, installation, and troubleshooting. Those upfront costs will likely eclipse operational and network savings in the short run. Some companies don't see a return on investment for several years.
Skimp on monitoring tools: These tools can cost large companies $100,000 or more, but they're important. Your regular Internet monitoring tools won't give you the information you need to keep up with real-time traffic.
Forget about security: Voice traffic that rides on a data network is vulnerable to the denial of service attacks, worms, and other security risks that plague the Internet. Ask your suppliers if their products provide encryption, protect call control, authenticate devices, and give road warriors secure connections.
Assume others know what they're doing: Some resellers are poorly trained in VoIP, although the situation is improving.