True Story from the Medallion Telecom Helpdesk Files
The other day, an employee of one of our clients (who will not be named to protect the innocent) was following the steps they believed should be taken to complete troubleshooting on the store’s malfunctioning POS system (Point-of-Sale). While speaking with their POS vendor, for whatever reason, their POS vendor thought it was an internet connectivity issue and directed the naïve employee to complete a hard factory reset of the internet modem, believing this would solve their POS issue. Now the POS vendor is NOT the internet service provider (we are). Needless to say this did not fix their POS system!
Down goes the internet, down goes the VoIP phones, down goes the entire network; down, down… in a perpetual epic failure— cue: (little Alice falling down the hole after the white rabbit)
We of course do not blame the poor employee of this client! They have no clue! But shift responsibility on the management team and the absence of processes that should’ve been in place to avoid these mishaps.
It’s also worth noting here, not to confuse a modem ‘reboot’ with a ‘reset’. You may occasionally need to ‘reboot’ your equipment by completing a ‘power cycle’. This is where you unplug the electrical power cord to the modem from the wall outlet and plug it back in. Sometimes performing this on your network equipment helps clear up issues and gets your equipment communicating again.
As a small business, if you don’t have a dedicated IT vendor who will handle these types of issues when they occur, and rely instead on your employees to contact the various vendors in completing the communications or networking troubleshooting, you will need to teach them the correct processes to follow. We suggest creating a flowsheet posted next to your network/phone backboard with detailed steps on the process for each possible scenario along with the vendor name and help desk number. Make sure to clearly label each piece of equipment with the name of the providing vendor, and the contact number for the help-desk so your employee can make the connection between what equipment belongs to which vendor as well! Lastly, your vendors should never instruct the employee to touch other equipment they don’t manage! Not their jurisdiction! Your employee should be aware of this too!
So please, please don’t ever press the little reset button on the modem.
Oh ya, and the kicker? It ended up being the POS vendor’s equipment that needed to be replaced!
If implemented correctly, VoIP can be great tool for your business. Now, stop and visualize- all of a sudden, your internet goes down and then your phones go down- a costly nightmare of lost revenue and angry clients who can’t get ahold of you happens! Whew! Glad it was only our imagination, but it does happen to many businesses across the country each and every day. Hopefully, after reading our post, and when you’re ready to jump in with both feet, it will be the best experience and the smoothest transition with new technology you can have!
So, you ask, how can I do it right? Avoid the blunders, pitfalls and unforeseen costs? Well, by avoiding the 5 Costly Mistakes Businesses make when switching to VoIP would be a great start! So here they are…
First Mistake; Your Network is not ready for a VoIP transition.
When was the last time you installed network cabling? Are you still running on old CAT3 or CAT5e? The first mistake would be your current data cabling is not adequate or not the correct type needed to streamline with a VoIP system. It would be best practice to install CAT6 cabling; which would make sure your network runs at a minimum 1 Gigabit speed.
Right along with your low voltage structured cabling would be your network equipment; specifically, your router and switches. Were they the cheapest ones when bought? Cost effective doesn’t mean productive. The equipment needs to be VoIP compatible.
Second Mistake: “Scotty, we need more speed!” or otherwise translated, “You do not have adequate bandwidth.”
Picking the right internet provider is vital to the operation of your VoIP service. You’re looking for speed and reliability! Think about your current internet provider at this moment, how is their uptime? Hopefully, you’re having good thoughts right-about-now and I’ve given you the “warm-fuzzies”. If that’s not the case, ask yourself, are you always on the phone calling into their support center and asking why your internet is not working? Remember! No internet, no VoIP phones! Yikes! That nightmare is reemerging.
So, do you have enough speed? Determine your network usage. Does your company work heavily in the cloud? A company with 5 computers and 5 VoIP phones, with minimal amount of streaming and cloud usage can possibly get away with 10-15 Mbps of download speed. While a company with 5 computers and 5 VoIP phones, heavily in the cloud, downloading and streaming, shouldn’t even consider anything less than 50Mbps , with 100Mbps ideally. Also you need to take into account other applications’ bandwidth requirements when combining with VoIP. Allowing employees to stream movies, music, and videos, etc., are bandwidth hogs, timewasters, and productivity inhibitors not recommended with VoIP unless you have the speed for it all.
Final recommendations: If at all possible, separate the VoIP network from the data network if you can. Make sure your ISP (Internet Service Provider) programs your modem for VoIP by turning off any firewall or SIP ALG on their end.
Third Mistake: Choosing a VoIP Provider based on price.
The old adage, “You get what you pay for” is no truer then when it comes to VoIP Providers. And contrary to popular belief, not all VoIP service is created equal. It’s not the same thing as hopping on Amazon and finding the lowest priced item and think you have quality VoIP service for less than the other seller’s prices. Just like cars come in affordable and luxury models, believe-it-or-not, so do VoIP Providers. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry thinks he can set up a VoIP service now, and you don’t want to be on Tom’s VoIP service.
When considering a VoIP Provider, price should not be the first factor in your decision making process. Instead, you need to ask, “Who has the backbone?” No, not the backbone that runs down your spine, but the backbone that your calls are running over. That VoIP phone on your desk is just another computer using the internet with its own IP address. Your calling traffic is routed over many different carriers traversing through the internet. Better VoIP providers use more reliable carriers, more stable call routing, more fraud security from hacking and DDoS attempts that will mitigate downtime and make sure your calls complete.
There’s nothing more frustrating to be in mid-conversation when suddenly your call drops! Ugh! Besides not being professional, having your clients and customers call you back and restart a conversation is annoying for them as well. Never mind being in the middle of a sales call! Kiss that sale adios!
Also, keep in mind, legitimate VoIP Providers will be *regulated and licensed by the Public Utilities Commission in their state. They may or may not be a phone company, but the better ones probably will be. And most definitely, all VoIP carriers will follow their state and city regulations while adhering to best business practices at all times.
Last, but not least to consider is, “Where in the world is the Support Center located?” It is oversees? Or US based? Ponder the additional quality of US based technical support in your cost decision. Same time zone, same language helps!
*In the state of California, a VoIP company must be registered with the California Public Utilities Commission
Fourth Mistake: Your I.T Professional doesn’t have adequate knowledge about VoIP and network infrastructure.
Your I.T. person may be a great close friend; someone you have used for several years now, but that doesn’t mean they have the knowledge to transition you onto VoIP. The old Proverb, “In the multitude of counselors there is safety” never rings truer and is a great piece of wisdom to follow. Just like you almost certainly would get a second opinion going into heart surgery, it’s undoubtedly a good idea to get a second opinion when changing the heart of your communications as well.
Have a knowledgeable I.T. person familiar with VoIP conduct a network survey and discuss their findings with you. The really great local VoIP Providers will offer a free onsite network assessment and provide extra guidance in discussing your network with you before you buy their service. Any outstanding VoIP Provider will want you to have a great experience when using their VoIP service with very minimal calling issues. Not only will you be extremely happy- but so will they!
Your phone service running smoothly reduces support calls and trouble tickets on their end. Let’s face it, those wonderful support people on the phone with you would prefer not to have angry clients calling in all the time! But just remember, your service does run over the internet. However perfect your VoIP Provider tries to be, they could never prevent any or all call issues- and this would be unreasonable to expect. If you need perfection, don’t choose VoIP.
Fifth Mistake: While technically not a mistake, choosing quality handsets (a.k.a. VoIP Phones) would be ideal.
Many VoIP Providers will offer some sort of free phone deal with their service, and this is usually tied into the price per user and for a certain term length; with the minimum being 12 months and the maximum 36 months. This helps them recoup the cost of providing you the free phone to begin with. The upside to letting your VoIP Provider provide you the phones is that they will just ship you the phones. These phones will be plug-n-play ready. No further programming will be required by you or your IT professional other than to plug them into your VoIP ready network. If you are so lucky as to be obtaining VoIP service from a local provider, they might offer you white glove service. This is where the VoIP Provider brings you the already programmed phones, sets them up at your business location, and provides some on-site basic user guidance on the features of their VoIP system. Make sure you read the fine print at the end of your contract. Some VoIP Providers will let you keep the phones once you fulfil the service term. Other VoIP Providers will want you to return the phones, as they were just leased to you while using their VoIP service.
Additionally, most, if not all VoIP Providers will allow you to use your own phones at a lower per user cost. The upside to this is you already own the phone, while the down side is an initial out of pocket expense that may run you a few hundred to several thousands of dollars. In conjunction with purchasing your own phones, you will also need to have your IT professional provision your phones to the VoIP Provider’s service.
Try to find a VoIP Provider who is willing to go the extra mile and help you provision and program your VoIP phones. The VoIP Provider can remotely log into your network and complete this step for you while you just lean back and relax. Ahh… OK, maybe not really relax, but you get the idea.
While not an exhaustive post on a transition to VoIP, we hope that we’ve given you some valuable information to think about. If there was anything we didn’t cover, or you had additional questions that were not answered within our guide, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re always more than happy to assist you!