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Managed VoIP -- 10 tips for a smooth migration

Migrating to managed VoIP doesn't have to be a headache. Here, Verizon Business offers 10 top tips to ensure you get what you need.

VoIP migration can take a lot out of a company. It takes massive amounts of time and piles of money.

From the largest enterprises to the smallest SMBs, managed VoIP has become a reality. Many companies just don't have the time to do it themselves. They need to hire a service provider to oversee the transition to VoIP and ensure high reliability and performance. But even with managed VoIP, there are things companies need to know before selecting their partners and deciding who will manage their mission-critical voice applications.

According to Laurie Shook, Verizon Business' director of managed IP telephony, said companies need to start focusing on the quality of a voice deployment and who best suits its needs, instead of trying to do it themselves.

"Companies need to realize there is too much at risk to try to do it yourself," she said. "Businesses aren't used to thinking of their telephone systems as an IT system."

Companies labor under two major misconceptions when considering a provider for managed VoIP service, Shook said. They often underestimate the degree of readiness in the existing WAN to accommodate VoIP, and they underestimate the complexity of managing VoIP when it's on the same backbone as data.

Some vendors run a VoIP readiness assessment based on a pass-fail analysis, while others offer a more comprehensive analysis and make recommendations. Research has shown that roughly 85% of customers looking for a managed VoIP service require some sort of WAN upgrade to accommodate IP telephony, Shook said.

"There's no more problems with IP [systems] over TDM [systems]," she said, "but when you do have a problem [with IP], it's a lot harder to figure out where that problem is."

There are 10 things a company should look out for when considering a migration to managed VoIP, according to Shook. And though these steps can help a smooth migration, she said, they are certainly not a cure-all.

According to Shook, Verizon Business suggests that companies should:

  • Evaluate service provider and system integrator capabilities in terms of breadth of services and flexibility of offerings.
  • Ensure that the vendor is financially stable and committed to the business over the long haul.
  • Determine whether resources are available when and where they are required.
  • Look for a service provider that will build upon the existing investment in hardware and software.
  • Identify the scope and scale of service provider responsibility.
  • Tour the company's network management facility and meet the people who will monitor the network.
  • Ask about employee and site certifications.
  • Select a service provider with built-in system redundancy.
  • Obtain fully documented service resolution procedures.
  • Consider vendors that are committed to continued investment in network operations and systems integration.

Companies really need to put managed providers under fire before signing on the dotted line, Shook said. It essentially comes down to "who you are able to have a trusting relationship with," she said. "Can the vendor meet your needs?"

For more information
Check out Zeus Kerravala's column on managed VoIP

Learn the risks of using a hosted VoIP solution
In some cases, vendors offer help with implementation but not future management, Shook said. Companies also have to consider whether they want a centralized solution that will be managed separately and must also figure out how much of their existing infrastructure they want to reuse.

Most importantly, however, companies need to pay attention to the SLAs offered by service providers, she said. The wording of the SLA can determine whether refunds are related to repair time or response time, and some service providers aren't clear which they offer until the issue arises.

According to Jim DeMerlis, vice president of managed services for Verizon Business, these 10 tips are not necessarily set in stone; rather, they are guidelines to ensure a smooth migration with as few surprises as possible.

"These suggestions are not a silver bullet for success," DeMerlis said. "Organizations must devote the time and resources necessary to develop a comprehensive IPT migration strategy. Incorporating these tips into the due diligence process will help ensure a smooth transition."

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