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Guide to Finding a New Phone System, Step 2

A step-by-step approach to finding the best solutions for your business

Step 2: Choose an Infrastructure: Landlines or VoIP?

Traditional phone systems use landlines and trunks,and transmit voice using analog or digital devices.Each employee has his or her own phone extension and voice mailbox as well as such features as conferencing and caller ID. Traditional systems are highly reliable and can continue working even during power outages and other network interruptions. And if you already have the infrastructure in place, it may be cost-effective and advantageous for you to utilize it.


Traditional phone systems are best for businesses that make mostly local calls and can be costly for those that do a lot of long distance and international calling. If you don’t already have a legacy system in place, the investment in a new one can be significant and is largely up front. You’ll also need to plan well for future growth as adding lines to a traditional system is difficult. And you’ll need to have proper IT staff in place to maintain two networks—one for voice and another for data. User changes, however, can be cumbersome as a technician has to reconfigure and physically move a phone from one workspace to another.

VoIP, on the other hand, uses a dedicated or shared Internet connection to one or more locations using special IP phones. These systems reduce telecommunications costs by delivering calls over the Internet, requiring that you only pay for extensions actually being used, reducing staff, and eliminating costly voice lines and local and long distance contracts. You can buy a basic VoIP system and add extensions and features as your business grows. Operating costs are further lowered by eliminating multiple vendors and communications providers, and refocusing IT staff from hardware-based systems to other areas of the business.

VoIP systems don’t require the large capital expense that traditional phone systems do because they use existing computer networks. The applications and management of VoIP systems reside with the service provider. Instead of spending money on a costly capital expenditure, VoIP gives you a predictable monthly operating expense.

Updates to VoIP systems are managed through an online admin portal. Instead of sending a technician to physically move a phone line, the user simply moves his or her phone to a new jack or the phone is reprogrammed through the portal with a new extension. Voice is treated as an application running on the network, meaning that only one data network has to be maintained.

VoIP also allows for more flexibility than traditional systems. Businesses with multiple offices can be connected with remote employees anywhere. Phones can be easily relocated without complex hardware installations should a business location be inaccessible due to natural disaster, extended power outages and Internet failures.With VoIP, you can still make calls from your network as long as you have access to an Internet connection.Calls can also be routed to mobile devices or remote computers, and you can still receive and respond to voicemail messages.

If you’re thinking that VoIP is the obvious choice (and it very well may be), not so fast. There are some things to consider first. Because VoIP uses an Internet connection,it requires optimal network performance to ensure acceptable voice quality and reliability for users. While wireless phone users have accepted substandard call quality, most desktop phone users will not. And doing business can be seriously affected if you have poor call quality, no dial tone or connection problems. Most network infrastructures are optimized for data, not for converged data and voice traffic. VoIP should always take priority over data, so look for a system that monitors and prioritizes voice over data traffic. But you’ll also need to evaluate your network performance as a whole to handle both, particularly if your business depends on applications and quality user experiences.

The question that Gartner analyst Jeff Snyder urges purchasers to ask themselves is whether or not your network can support VoIP fully or partially. He estimates that about 85 percent of networks are not ready for VoIP. Gartner further reports that 75 percent of businesses that do not perform an analysis of their IP network infrastructure will not achieve a successful VoIP implementation.

Assessing the current state of your network, evaluating its ability to support VoIP and identifying what is hindering performance is key to making the right choice. Underperforming networks can significantly affect the performance of other critical applications. Conduct a complete analysis of the data network and record measurements such as bandwidth and quality of service.

You must also consider the growth of your business. A subscription service could become too expensive overtime if not planned for versus an on-premises system that had room for growth.

Wishing you could take the best of both worlds? You can! Hybrid systems combine the benefits of traditional and VoIP systems. They allow you to use traditional phone lines for local calls and VoIP for long distance and international calls, plus other features. A solutions engineer can help you design and implement a hybrid system to work for your business’ needs.

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