Office phone systems requirements for Calgary businesses vary a great deal. Some companies are just getting started and plan to grow as business develops. Other companies have larger plans and are financed by larger corporations.
Some companies are in brand new buildings with state of the art backbone fiber optic cabling and cat5e cabling for data and phone connectivity. While other companies are leasing older style buildings with built in infrastructure that is difficult to change or add to.
All of these variables contribute to a complex and detailed set of requirements that many business owners will find intimidating to say the least.
In this post we will discuss a few of these concepts to help readers begin to understand some of the issues and be prepared to discuss these issues with an office phone systems consultant for Calgary businesses.
Depending on your companies situation, requirements, plans and knowledge readers will need to apply these concepts to your particular situation.
New or Refurbished Telephone Systems
Everyone is trying to obtain the best value for their money and sometimes really good deals can be obtained by taking advantage of a refurbished telephone system. These systems are often equipment that had been shipped in some cases and installed in others that have been recovered, refurbished and checked out. Business people can purchase a full system or components to replace components that have failed on their own phone system. Unfortunately while they may be inexpensive, they may not come with any kind of warranty and they may not last that long. Most telephone system integrators and consulting companies will provide a limited warranty and only best effort support for refurbished systems. While you may save a great deal of money, there is always the risk that your inexpensive phone system may not last. This is clearly a business risk that only the business owner can evaluate.
New office phone systems for Calgary businesses on the other hand are supported by both the manufacturer as well as the phone systems integrator for a specified time. Maintaining regular software and firmware updates will ensure that your phone system will remain functioning and supportable by the manufacturer.
Cable Runs and Cross Connect Panels
Every device must be connected by a cable regardless of whether you are using traditional TDM systems or the new VOIP systems. Cable runs must be planned, in some cases conduit must be placed or utilized to provide physical protection for the cable and also to meet building code requirements. Traditional tip and ring wiring requires a cross connect at a central location on every floor to connect floor distribution pairs to feeder cables that run between floors and the main entrance cable from the street. Jumpers are run between termination points to connect feeder pairs to distribution pairs at each point.
New systems using integrated cabling for voice and data follow the same physical layout, however the connection points are either Ethernet hubs or routers that terminate these data cables. In small buildings there will be one central cross connection point while in larger buildings there may be a series of cross connection points within the building. Conduit is required between most points as mentioned above to meet building construction standards.
Older Buildings Present Challenges
An older building presents some real challenges when it comes to installing new systems requiring new cable runs. Typically existing conduit is full or very congested making it sometimes necessary to pull out the existing cable from the conduit and replace it with new modern cabling meeting the connectivity requirements of the system. In some situations the cable runs will be underneath the floor in floor ducts, while in others all conduit will be above the ceiling with drops at each desk location or work station.
An empty office floor while requiring all new cables, is relatively easy to work with and the work can be completed during the day. Offices that are occupied present a logistical challenge. Most work will need to be scheduled after employees have gone home and all work must be completed for a given section by the next morning so that there is little or no disruption to employee productivity.
Older buildings may also require new conduit to be placed and new cable to be pulled into the conduit just to meet the increasing demand of denser employee configurations, additional services and more communications equipment. Before making any final decisions on what office phone system changes will be made, your telephony consultant must take all of this into account before making a final recommendation.
Many business owners would like to convert an old building from traditional TDM phone service into new integrated VOIP systems. Before making this decision, particularly for an older building, the following should be considered:
- Cost of replacing existing telephone sets with new IP sets
- New cable runs and conduit requirements
- Operational impacts during conversion as well as potential savings once converted
- Cut over from existing phone system to a new office system
- Integration with any external systems such as Voice mail, call detail recording and billing
- Environmental issues such as existing equipment disposal, equipment control rooms, power connections etc
This is not an all inclusive list and your telephone consultant can assist you to evaluate all of the issues that apply to your business needs. The final answer really depends on the overall cost and the potential ROI for the new configuration.
Building renovations are a perfect time to make all of the upgrades we discussed in the preceding paragraphs. Depending on whether the renovations are cosmetic or structural, this can be a perfect time to upgrade your cabling to allow migration to the latest IP connectivity for voice and data communications.
Again it is important to spend some time with your telephony consultant to define the companies needs at this time as well as in the future so that the appropriate conduit, cabling, telephone sets and phone system can be installed along with all of your data requirements.
In some situations, particularly in larger companies there are separate phone departments and IT departments. Integration of their needs must be helped along since traditionally like the networks they simply did not talk to each other. Once you make the decision to move to a VOIP system, the departments also need to be integrated and both need to learn new skills. Unfortunately there may be opportunities to reduce the number of staff that are needed as well once the integration is completed.
Integration of Voice and Data
What does it mean to integrate voice and data? Well if done right there is only one cable to each work station that carries both data and voice. The phone is an IP phone or really a small computer delivering phone features and the computer connects via Ethernet cable to the phone which acts as a hub. Voice traffic is converted to IP traffic and routed to a VOIP PBX which provides the Voice features that the business has purchased. Data traffic is routed along the same cables, but instead of to the PBX, data traffic will be routed to an internal server or through a network gateway to some external internet site.
While IT trained people are not trained in telephone features, they do provide and maintain all of the backbone connectivity replacing any employees who formally provided maintenance on the traditional phone systems. Every business owner will have to make their own evaluation as to the impacts of this integration.
Project Management of Your Phone System Installation
All installations must be coordinated to meet schedules and cost parameters as defined by the business owner. Even relatively small systems can go horribly wrong if someone is not managing the delivery, the installation, the cut over from old to new and then the removal of the old system. Larger systems are just more complex and must be managed even more tightly if time tables are to be met and cost overruns avoided.
Your office phone systems consultant for Calgary businesses should also be able to demonstrate how they will manage the installation for you no matter how small or big. They should be able to provide a detailed work plan and schedule that includes adequate testing before going live. Large system installations must also have contingency plans that are focused on maintaining your business continuity if a cut over from an existing phone system to a new business phone system is delayed for some reason. This includes adequate integration testing with any external systems that must work with a new system such as voice mail and accounting systems if needed.
Hire the Right Team
Hiring the right team to deliver, install, test and cut over your phone system for your business is extremely important. Most business owners will spend almost as much time on selecting the phone integration team as they do on selecting the correct system for their business.