VoIP Phone System Guide to Network Integration
Continuing on in our VoIP phone system guide, this article focuses on VoIP Network Integration. In other words, we are getting to grips with the question of how to integrate your IP PBX (VoIP phone system) into your existing infrastructure. Compared to a legacy PBX in which the telephones are connected via a separate network, IP based systems offer a number of advantages. For example, you need only maintain one network and a host of additional functions are available such as desktop and mobile UC applications plus the option to connect to CRM / Ticket systems or phone books is always available. Beyond this, with an IP PBX (or VoIP phone system software) voice calls are no longer transmitted over traditional telephone lines, such as the ISDN or POTS, but rather sent in encrypted packet form over the Internet.
A typical VoIP software based phone system is a hugely comprehensive product that includes a multitude of features. These range from Auto Attendant automatic answering functions and advanced call and contact centre tools such as Skills Based Routing through to the features required to video telephony and conferencing. So create a list of all the features that are essential for you, your employees and your customers and you will be some way to deciding which solution is right for you. You will also likely notice that there are a number of integration options which are based of different frameworks which we will cover in more detail. Moreover, we will separately cover which important functions are must haves and should be offered by a VoIP telephone system.
How to choose the right VoIP software solution?
A professional telephone system will support your business in portraying a high value professional image to your customers. The phone system configuration and applications available will have a decisive influence on how professionally you manage your call volumes, making choosing the right business communications platform essential to ensure the optimal performance and benefits are gained. This is as true for larger organisations as it is for small business and start-ups. Perhaps it is even more essential in the highly competitive SOHO / SMB segments where business need to stand out from the crowd in order to succeed.
How many employees should use the solution?
Not every solution presented below is ideally suited to every business. For example, choosing a cloud solution has many advantages such as lower cost to entry for startups and SMBs. However, a production house may require on-site hardware for health and safety reasons. In the past, people only views cloud solutions as only being suitable for businesses up to ca. 25 employees.
However, this is arguement really only ever considered user licensing and the Total Cost of Ownership based on the number of users and ignored all the other benefits that cloud phones systems have to offer. Therefore, larger companies should ignore the cloud. There are considerably more benefits to Cloud solutions than simply lowering upfront costs.
If your business has reached a certain size, the technology itself almost plays a secondary role. What comes to the fore with our customers is the need to centralise and standardise the communications platform. It is, however, often the case with large enterprise that the company has a central HQ that is fully independent of the smaller business locations.
As a result, the branch locations will generally have an in-house IT team who manage an on-premise phone system – whether virtual or hardware based. As a result, for large enterprise customers it is important to find a solution that enables them to integrate a centralised communication solution.
Option A: Integrating into an Existing Company Network
In particular, it is relatively straightforward to integrate a new phone system directly into small and medium sized networks as such integrations only require relatively minor modifications to the existing IT landscape. If you have a pre-existing DHCP server, this can be used for and by the telephone system. Alternatively, pascom on-premise VoIP solutions come with an inbuilt DHCP server that can be utilized by the complete network or configured to be used only by the phone system and desktop phones.
Most modern IP desktop phones are equipped with an internal switch (gigabit has become the standard). This can be used to connect the phone directly to a workstation PC or to integrate further endpoints to the network. This can save excess cabling and is particularly useful when there is an insufficient number of LAN ports available on the network.
Option B: Separate Telephony and Company Networks
For maximum flexibility and operational security, the telephone system should be deployed and run inside a telephony network separated from the company network. Such network architectures offer a multitude of benefits including:
- Problems with bandwidth assignment (Quality of Service) and conflicts with existing network services can be avoided. A notable example is avoiding your telephony traffic becoming affected by high volume usage on the company network.
- Access to the telephony network can be controlled via a Firewall.
- Some VoIP phone systems, such as pascom’s, deliver a DHCP server interface for the telephony network, meaning no additional DHCP service modifications are required on the company network.
It is not necessary to physically separate the two networks. Modern switches are designed to allow you to setup so-called VLANs (Virtual Local Area Network). For example, when using a 48 port switch it is possible to connect all phones on ports 1-24 and on ports 25-48 all PC workstations.
Option C: Integration and Migration of an Existing Telephone System
Top of the range IP phone systems like pascom’s can be connected to an existing ISDN telephone system with relative ease. This allows for a step-by-step move away, or soft-migration, from the ISDN system to the new modern IP solution IP should for example an immediate switch out of endpoints not be possible or extremely impractical.
Such integrations should only be undertaken after careful consideration, particularly as a soft migration involves two phone system solutions to be maintained simultaneously which requires additional resources in terms of manpower and man-hours.
Option D: Switch to a Hosted Cloud Phone System
Switching to a cloud phone system is now the most popular option so it is no wonder that adoption of cloud technology has really taken off in the last few years. Within the world of telecommunications, Cloud phone systems (cloud PBX) are now the preferred choice for many businesses and with good reason.
Hosted cloud PBX solutions deliver a number of advantages over the on-premise variations, in fact there are very few scenarios in which an on-premise solution is actually more suitable. The question remains however, what should the required network infrastructure look like?
In terms of networking, the cabling required for a cloud solution is similar to that required by an on-premise VoIP phone system, but considerably less than for a legacy solution. You will require a router with Internet access and depending on the size of your company, a number of switches to connect workstations and any desktop phones that you may require. Through using softphones, it is possible to further reduce the amount of cabling required.
The main difference lies in that once the initial set up and software installation has been completed. From this point on, you should be able to significanlty reduce your administrative overheads as you will no longer need to maintain your business phone system as this is done by your provider. Nor will you need to maintain any cumbersome hardware or VPN infrastructures that your previous telephony solution required.
How you choose to construct your network is entirely up to you. A competent VoIP phone system provider will also have a good knowledge concerning network infrastructures and will be able to advise you on the setup.
In principle, you can cancel your existing conventional landline connection or migrate the account to a SIP provider. With a VoIP software based telephonysolution, you will be able to almost immediately start making IP calls over the Internet to the PSTN, from you mobile or via video Internet telephony. However, it is recommended to check beforehand if any other endpoints or terminals in your fleet of devices require access to the conventional landline.
A business phone system is more than just a server and a few desktop phones. Thanks to the interconnecting PCs, work locations, desktop phones and mobile devices, a first-class business VoIP phone system will offer you a high degree of comfort. You will require IP compatible phones. IP telephones communicate using the same network technology as PCs – namely IP or Internet Protocol. Options such as the CTI interface for connecting phones and PCs will only function with IP phones and therefore ensure the out dated ISDN endpoints become obsolete.
As mentioned above, it is possible to migrate or port your existing phone numbers from the ISDN to a VoIP provider, quite often free of charge. However, you should inform your current provider in advance and set the porting process in motion.
For more information regarding pascom VoIP solutions and the move to ALL IP, contact us and our team will be happy to advise on the best solution for your business.