VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone systems vary greatly in their features, capabilities, size, form factor, service connectivity, cabling, phone sets, etc. The technology has evolved greatly over the past decade, yet the fundamentals of IP PBX systems — such as how they operate and what they require to perform reliably — have not changed.
Below we have offer the 10 steps for correctly rolling out an enterprise VoIP phone system:
- Decide if your voice network and data network should be converged onto one network or if it would be better to keep them separate.
- If you will be joining voice and data onto one network, perform a detailed network analysis. Will it be able to have adequate bandwidth, can it provide for a guaranteed quality of service (QoS), is your firewall VoIP-friendly, etc? An analysis by a qualified, outside firm often is a worthy investment.
- Ensure that your network is cabled properly for the phone sets (CAT 5e is the minimum today and CAT 6 is quickly becoming the de facto cabling standard with video communications a growing requirement). Test your cable structure. Are any cables pinched or noisy? Be sure that none of your cables exceeds 100 meters (328 feet) in length.
- Never daisy chain switches (switch to switch). Piggybacking switches will cause major slowdowns of network traffic, affect QoS and can cause unpredictable results.
- Remove all network hubs. Your network should be 100% switches, no hubs allowed.
- Use single Layer 2 minimum, Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches.
- Use enterprise-level anti-virus software on all servers and client PCs.
- Ensure that you are running a business-class, server-based spam filter appliance or a hosted spam filtering solution. Hosted anti-spam systems have the advantage of filtering the spam before it enters your network.
- Monitor which users are abusing your network bandwidth, e.g. are users running applications for downloading music or streaming video or audio all day?
- Require dedicated bandwidth for your SIP trunks. Some providers also allocate additional bandwidth dynamically when required, giving priority to voice traffic.
Most improperly designed and/or installed VoIP solutions will encounter one if not most of these issues along the way. The saying is true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Curing a bad network after a VoIP solution is often very difficult, very frustrating for all parties and always VERY expensive. Do your homework. It will be well worth it in the long run.