BT Group has announced its intention to completely shut down their ISDN network and transition to VOIP technology by 2025. Small and medium-sized companies especially dread steps toward a new direction, after all no one likes changing a trusted system. An attitude of “wait and see” won't help a company — on the contrary: The switch will come either way. Thus, companies are advised to learn about the requirements and new possibilities of telephony via the internet as soon as possible. Doing so will avoid time pressure and enable them to test new systems before their use becomes mandatory. There is nothing to be afraid of anyway. ISDN services have been in decline for several years, and the transition to VOIP is rapidly increasing in volume with over two million successfully linked business customers in the UK already. According to BT, the technical error rate after the changeover is below the standard for ISDN. Thus bringing a higher degree of stability.
1. Planning your budget
At the beginning of the planning phase, the required budget should be determined. It is recommended to view the migration as a green light for a new area in business communication. The innovative technology will open previously unimagined communication channels, both internally and in the dealings with customers and suppliers. These possibilities can only be taken advantage of if the telephone system and the connection points to the provider have been modernised or set-up appropriately. Thus, companies should examine their existing telecommunication components critically and take into account a possible increased demand for extending the structure. This especially applies to older telephone systems from the time of the introduction of ISDN over 20 years ago, as these will often be worn-out and outdated.
A realistic evaluation is therefore highly recommended. Investing in new technologies that enable the company to make use of the new communication channels should be viewed as the order of the day, and a budget should be established appropriately.
2. Performing the inventory
First of all, the company has to determine if its telephone system is running digitally on ISDN basis or still via the analogue mode. The next step is a careful and up-to-date inventory of all communication devices. Which telephones are used and how many devices are connected to the telephone system in total? It is recommended to divide the devices into generally used desk telephones, conference telephones, telephones of the management and telephones of the reception desk. Wireless phones have to be included in the inventory as well. Fax machines, as well as credit card terminals or emergency call systems, have to be listed separately, as these require individual solutions, either via adapters or appropriate IP systems in the cloud. The important thing is that the company is aware of the existing cable structure and the bandwidth of the data transmission. The company's network cables should be of high quality to ensure crystal-clear conversations, such as the IP technology can offer from the distribution point. Equally important is the fact that transmission rates per phone call can reach a minimum of 80 Kb/s. Otherwise, disruptions and lag could occur during phone calls, should someone else in the company download significant amounts of data from the internet, during the time of the call.
3. New possibilities of All-IP
The All-IP solution offers new opportunities for companies. Now, remote branches or employees' home offices can be integrated into the company telecommunication network with ease. Users will already be familiar with many of the new technology's benefits from their smartphones. The All-IP connection will extend these to the company to comply with unified communications. Besides voice mail, the IP connection will now also enable instant messaging. Video calls and conferences can be integrated into the communication routine of the company, and all of this is available to the employees simultaneously. Email notifications can be sent out for new entries, and centralised telephone directories and call lists can be kept in an organised way. Modern voice response systems (IVR) offer entirely new possibilities for controlling incoming customer calls, which improves service and strengthens customer binding. And finally, employees' smartphones can be integrated into the internal telephone system as well. The solutions of beroNet, which were developed in cooperation with partners, enable companies to use the entire range of services from the All-IP connection and significantly improve its mobility, productivity, and efficiency.
4. Choose solutions
Based on the documented systems, devices and procedures as well as the determined budget, different solutions are available. Should the company wish to continue operating analogue devices or an ISDN telephone system, the gateway will offer the right interface between old and new. A gateway acts as the mediator between the incoming IP signal for telephone and internet and the ISDN telephone system. The gateway also offers connections for different communication services: SMS can be sent out via Outlook and calls can be converted into voice mails and then forwarded via email. Also, beroNet offers the possibility to create and use VoIP gateway apps that can be used to extend the VoIP communication. The company can decide between an in-house IP telephone system or a VoIP telephone system in the cloud which offers all the functionalities of a full-fledged system. The final decision is about whether all the components should be bought from a single source or whether modular solutions from different manufacturers will be chosen, which can often be cheaper. It is also recommended letting the employees' input flow into decisions about future extensions and acquisitions.
5. Obtain quotes
Depending on the established budget, as well as the company's know-how, it should be determined whether the switch will be done in-house or by commissioning external service providers. The importance of external support should not be underestimated. Should the company opt for the external approach, then it is recommended to obtain offers from different providers and to specify exactly which requirements the company has, especially regarding the processes and communication strategies associated with the switch. It is imperative that the selected provider offers ongoing customer support, as any disruptions require immediate assistance to minimise downtime and prevent damages.
6. Perform a test run
The sooner a company tackles the switch towards All-IP, the more time will be available for testing the functionality and compatibility with existing telephone systems up front. To perform a soft migration, it is recommended to only verify the integration of VoIP communication in individual departments at first and then, if successful, to extend the network to the remaining departments step by step. Gateways can be used to facilitate this fragmentation and avoid shutting down the communication network of the entire company in case of switching faults. Should any malfunctions occur, then the company can still be reached via the ISDN connection. Using this approach will enable the company to collect valuable experiences about the new technology so that the final All-IP change can then take place without incident.
7. Employee training
All-IP will elevate communication flows in the company to an entirely new, innovative level. In the beginning, this requires learning many new functionalities and modified processes. The seamless integration of different services offers a broad range of previously unknown possibilities for the employees. For instance optimising working processes, processing customer requests more easily and organising the internal communication more efficiently. It is therefore essential that selected employees are trained in these new procedures at the start of the test phase so that they can then organise comprehensive training with the entire workforce later on. It is recommended to create clear information material for the new system and the various new functionalities. Then, process steps for the employees to hand it out during the training. In this way, every employee can quickly look up any processes he or she might be unsure about during the transition phase.
From the start, all planning steps regarding the switch of the company communication to All-IP should be recorded in a process book. This also involves determining time frames for necessary consultation phases and technical realisation phases. Depending on the company's resources, generous time reserves should be incorporated. Experience shows that the planning process always brings up new solutions and requirements whose practicality should be established before the final realisation. A provider should be selected as soon as possible to set up a date for the final switch. Lead times of several weeks are the norm and should be factored into the planning. Furthermore, by the time the last switch takes place, the entire system structure including the required number blocks and possible number porting should be organised. Using the experiences from the test phase and careful preparation of the hardware, there should be nothing standing in the way of a seamless switch from ISDN to All-IP.