Take It or Leave It: Moving Your Business VoIP System

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1 White Paper or : Moving Your Business VoIP System Contents Executive Summary....2 Five Considerations for Moving Your Business VoIP Phone System....2 Consideration #1 circumstances around your move....2 Consideration #2 type of environment...3 Consideration #3 your phone system....5 Consideration #4 changing communications needs....6 Consideration # 5 what VoIP vendors can offer....7 Conclusion....8 About Ziff Davis B2B Ziff Davis B2B is a leading provider of research to technology buyers and high-quality leads to IT vendors. As part of the Ziff Davis family, Ziff Davis B2B has access to over 50 million in-market technology buyers every month and supports the company s core mission of enabling technology buyers to make more informed business decisions. Contact Ziff Davis B2B 100 California Street, 4th Fl., San Francisco, CA Tel: Fax: Copyright 2012 Ziff Davis B2B. All rights reserved.

2 Executive Summary Any time a business decides to move, a multitude of decisions have to be made. Some moves are small and happen in a matter of days, while others are complex and require major planning over a much longer timeframe. Regardless, telephony is mission critical, and plans for your VoIP system need to be thought through. VoIP may not require the hardware and physical footprint of legacy systems, but it does involve more consideration than moving portable devices such as notebooks, printers or fax machines. As such, a business move will trigger a basic decision point around whether to take the VoIP system along or leave it behind and start anew. You can certainly make a snap decision, especially if under severe time pressures, but your business will almost certainly be better off by considering telephony in the broader context of the move. Defining that context can be highly subjective, and this guide has been prepared to help you focus on a manageable set of factors. Based our ongoing research, we have identified five considerations that all businesses should address before making a take it or leave it decision. VoIP provides many benefits to businesses, but that value can take many forms, and this Ziff Davis guide will serve you well in determining which form is best when making your move. Five Considerations for Moving Your Business VoIP System Decisions around moving your phone system do not occur in a vacuum, and other factors will come into play, perhaps more than you might expect. IP-based phone systems are relatively easy to move, so if this is your first relocation since migrating from legacy telephony, some of these considerations will be new. Furthermore, the capitalized nature of legacy telephony plays a central role in planning a move, but much less so with VoIP. Aside from the fact that IP phone systems may not be capitalized, their lifecycles are much shorter than legacy maybe 3-5 years meaning you should view them more like PCs in that they are simply cheaper to replace than upgrade. Building on that, this section analyzes five distinct considerations that should drive your decision, and for each, the case will be made to either take the system with you or leave it behind. Consideration #1 circumstances around your move Let s start with the bigger picture and your moving situation. Is this a planned or a forced move? Are your plans well-organized or hasty? How disruptive or complex do you expect this to be? Do you as the person looking after telecom and your network have a key role in the ziffdavis.com 2 of 9

3 decision to move, or are you following what s been mapped out by others? These are just a few questions that would characterize a move scenario and have implications for your phone system. What follows are factors around these circumstances that should determine whether you take your phone system along, or leave it behind. In general, the more organized the move, the better off you ll be taking the system along presuming it s got good life ahead and is essentially meeting your needs. Even the best planned moves, however, are disruptive, and porting over your tried-and-true VoIP system may be the best path, especially for maintaining business continuity. Another take it scenario would be one where your move is part of a merger or acquisition, and your operation is being re-located to join another operational site. In cases where your VoIP system is better than what is already there, you re likely better off bringing that in to be the new core telephony platform. One of VoIP s strengths is scalability, and if your system is deemed sufficient to support everyone in the new environment, ramping it up is a simple matter of adding handsets and possibly upgrading your broadband or SIP trunks. There are two scenarios based on your moving circumstances that would dictate this option. The first would be if your situation was overly complex, chaotic and disruptive. When moves happen on short notice or are poorly planned, things like telecom or your network could become an afterthought, especially if you re the last to know. Regarding the phone system, this could entail challenges locating and getting an accurate inventory of all the related elements desk phones (both on-premise/off-premise), conference phones, switches, routers, wires/power cords, cabling, spare parts, manuals, maintenance contracts, etc. Not only do you have to organize all this, but then it must be put back in working order in an environment that is likely very new for you. If you anticipate nothing but problems and a few days of downtime, the loss of business continuity may make the decision for you. The second scenario is the M&A situation cited earlier, but in reverse. If you re being moved to and possibly folded into a larger, more sophisticated environment, your VoIP system may be a step below what s already there. If the existing system there is more advanced and/or newer, that will likely be the way to go, especially if the vendors are different. Unless there s a long honeymoon period for this transition, it s usually not worth the time and effort to integrate two VoIP platforms, especially with older systems and from vendors who are no longer in the market. Consideration #2 type of environment This consideration has to do with both scale and operational setup. Are you upsizing or downsizing? Is the business single or multi-site now, and what are you moving to? Is your entire ziffdavis.com 3 of 9

4 operation moving, or will the current office continue running after the move? Same for where you re going is it a Greenfield move, either to a brand-new site or taking over an older, vacant space? Is this a wholesale move where the entire business is going elsewhere as is, or will you now be sharing space with other internal operations? What about geography are you moving a long distance domestically, or even internationally? For this consideration, if the move is highly similar to your current environment, taking your phone system probably makes the most sense. This is especially true if going from a single-site operation to another single-site. The same applies if you re scaling down, as the only change will be to use fewer IP phones, and the surplus could be kept for future growth or even sold off. Whether getting bigger or smaller, a Greenfield scenario also bodes well here, as you ll have a clean slate for setting the system up. This is usually more conducive than going into an older site that may be cluttered with leftover wiring and may have less accessibility for power outlets, which many IP phones run on. The key issues here are moves into a shared environment as well as expansions that involve adding multiple locations. Multi-site businesses often consolidate separate offices to save money and facilitate more teamwork. If this describes your situation, leaving the system behind will make sense if the existing system where you re going is better and/or newer. Furthermore, if only part of your operation is moving, it s likely best leaving the phone system for those staying behind. At that point, it will be up to them to decide whether to take it or leave it. Expansion scenarios pose a stronger case for leaving the phones behind for two different reasons. Aside from growth being a good problem to have, the more locations you have to support, the more complex your telephony requirements become. This is equally true whether moving existing multiple sites to larger multiple locations as it is for scaling up and adding new branch sites along with moving your own site to a new spot. The first reason for leaving your VoIP system behind is practical. Every branch office or new site needs to get connected to your LAN. Each site will require IP phones, some hardware at the network edge such as a media gateway and possibly a session border controller and digital trunks for connectivity. The good news with IP telephony is that each location does not require its own phone system, so the cost is less prohibitive than with legacy PBX systems. Your costs can be further reduced by using SIP trunks instead of digital trunks, with the reasons being too numerous to address here. While all of these requirements are manageable and will support the case for taking your VoIP system along, the trend today for multi-site is hosted VoIP. These options have matured and ziffdavis.com 4 of 9

5 become affordable enough to support even large-scale, highly-decentralized businesses. Not only can a cloud provider get you up and running faster than porting over your current VoIP system, but they will also make your job easier by taking away the worry of managing uptime across multiple locations. The second reason for leaving it behind in this scenario is strategic. Chances are your VoIP system is used just for telephony, and this may well be all you had in mind for this move. With a cloud-based VoIP solution, you can easily add other capabilities that take you into the realm of Unified Communications. The more decentralized your business becomes, the greater the need for integrated applications that facilitate real-time collaboration, such as video, presence, file sharing, conferencing, etc. You don t have to move to UC right away, but the cutover now to hosted is an ideal time to lay the foundation to properly support a growing, multi-site operation. Consideration #3 your phone system Aside from these external factors, you must take stock of your VoIP system as well as the network that supports it. For the system in use today, you need to assess its value not just for current needs but also how well it s serving you compared to what came before. This may be your first VoIP system, in which case the benchmark is legacy service. For others, this could be your second or even third VoIP system, and that actually brings up an entirely different set of comparative issues. There are many reasons for moving from one VoIP system to another, and with a move coming up, this might be a good time to rethink that pattern. Looking ahead, you must also consider how well your VoIP system is equipped to handle the future, both in terms of supporting a new environment as well as evolving communications needs once the move is complete. Finally, the state of your network needs to be considered. If it s at capacity now and the business is in growth mode, you ve got to be sure VoIP can be properly supported once the move occurs, whatever form your VoIP service takes. The simple answer is how well your VoIP system is working. While IP phone systems are not built to last like legacy, they should serve SMBs nicely for 3-5 years and perhaps longer. If it s still early days and the phone system can support your expected needs, on this basis you should take it. This holds even if your network is at limit, since that can be upgraded as part of the move. ziffdavis.com 5 of 9

6 As IP communications evolve, you need to keep in mind that VoIP s value comes more from the applications the software, features, add-ons, etc. than the physical phones. This is very different from the legacy world where the phone system was a capitalized asset, designed to last at least 10 years, and usually much longer. In this regard, if the phones are working well, you should take them with you. The underlying service is network-based and will perform the same wherever you are. Compared to legacy, IP phones are not that costly, so once your phones have run their course after the move, upgrading to newer endpoints should not be a major issue. Many of the above scenarios can be flipped in favor of leaving the phones behind, and this really depends on your finances as well as desire to stay cutting edge. If that desire is strong, a move will almost always trigger a hardware refresh, especially for services like VoIP which are constantly changing. Since IP phones are not capitalized, there s no need to stick with them until fully amortized, and the price curve is downward, so the financial risk is minimal. Another scenario would be driven by a major network upgrade that comes with the move. In that case, the business will be able to support richer communications, and if deemed appropriate this would trigger a move to UC or a more enhanced VoIP service. This typically means adding video and browser access to the desk phone, which older IP phones cannot support. Multimedia IP phones come in a wide variety of price points, so going this route may not be as costly as you might think, and could well be a key factor for justifying the network upgrade as part of the move. Consideration #4 changing communications needs This factor is more strategic and will likely be tied to your reasons for moving. If the company is downsizing, your communications needs are not likely changing much, and if anything probably getting simpler. In this scenario, you re either in cost-cutting mode or just trying to conserve what you have with reduced overhead. Either way, you will invariably be looking to keep your phones and only make changes where absolutely necessary. The economy may still be weak, but is heading in the right direction, so let s focus instead on more positive situations where you re moving to support growth. When businesses are finally back in growth mode, this is an ideal time to invest in both staff and technology. The two go hand in hand, and when these businesses move, the former is the driver. Not only do you need more space for added headcount, but you re probably ready for an upgraded environment to make your growing base of employees more productive. Not only do employees need to be more productive among themselves, but also in their dealings with customers. To nurture this growth and protect new business, communications technologies have a key role to play. Given how rapidly the communications landscape is ziffdavis.com 6 of 9

7 changing, successful growing businesses understand the need to keep pace, and that means plain vanilla VoIP will not be sufficient. With that preamble, the rationale here would be if you feel your VoIP system is serving the business well and has enough flexibility to continue doing so for the next couple of years. You can t really predict the future, but many businesses especially those in mature or regulated industries with stable demand and viable business models can manage perfectly well with today s tools, and don t view communications technology as a differentiator or source of competitive advantage. In these cases, VoIP is just telephony nothing more or less and a service to be consumed for the lowest cost possible. While the above scenario certainly exists, most businesses have a different reality where change is constant everywhere value propositions, innovation, product lifecycles, employee retention, customer expectations, regulations, new competitors, industry consolidation, etc. In today s global economy, competition is relentless and the speed of doing business keeps increasing. More than ever, people need to be accessible and responsive, not just internally but with customers, suppliers, partners, etc. To the extent these pressures are behind your reasons to move, the more strategic your communications capabilities become. These factors may very well be dictating increased usage of mobility, social media, video, etc. not just as standalone applications, but tied together by an integrated platform. VoIP is usually a common thread across these modes, and in that context, your IP phone system will come up short. If so, you re better off starting fresh and building a communications infrastructure from the bottom up that allows you to be better aligned with the changing needs of the business and your customers. Consideration # 5 what VoIP vendors can offer Finally, before taking matters into your own hands, don t overlook the vendor community. There s business in play around any moving situation and your current VoIP vendor has the most at stake. As such, you need to carefully consider the relationship and your desire to keep doing business with them, and keep in mind they ll be doing exactly the same thing. The decision here will likely be based on several factors, such as your history with the vendor, how well they re supporting you now, their ability to support you after the move, how their product roadmap aligns with your emerging needs, their innovation track record, financial viability, etc. Beyond this, of course, you should be open to what other vendors can offer. They may be hungrier for your business than your incumbent, more innovative, more flexible or simply more capable. This will certainly come into play if you re moving to a larger scale operation that has ziffdavis.com 7 of 9

8 more complexity and where you ve possibly outgrown what your current vendor can provide. This will likely be determined by how badly your current VoIP vendor wants your business. Once they know you re moving, they may suddenly become more engaged than normal, and that could be a good thing. You may hear about capabilities they never discussed before, or they may start pushing some creative options your way to make the porting over seamless and perhaps extend new financing terms to lock you in longer-term. They may even include attractive deals to migrate to the next generation system by staying with them. Of course, the more you make them feel your business is in play, the faster these options will come. If they do not and if you really do want to continue with them for whatever reason you should be thinking along these lines and not be shy to ask. After all, you are the customer. This is where things heat up with competitive options. To the extent you want to make your moving plans known, you will be kept busy with plenty of suitors. Making a move allows for a clean slate, and there s rarely a better time to shop the market for both the most cost effective and leading edge solutions. As per the earlier considerations, if you re open to exploring the full spectrum of communications technologies instead of just your phone system, you will hear from vendors and service providers that were probably never on your radar. With these possibilities to consider, you ll need to invest more time evaluating them, but this also means you can make decisions that will have a greater positive impact on the business. The further down the path of being leading edge you want to go, the more likely you ll be leaving your phone system behind. Don t be surprised if you move from being premise-based and adopt a cloud-based solution. You may even dispense with desk phones entirely and rely on soft phones, Web-based VoIP and mobility for telephony. Once you decide to consider options beyond your current VoIP vendor, the conversations become very different, but they also put you in a position to transform your business. Conclusion When these five factors are considered, our intention is to provide a deeper grounding for how your decision around VoIP will impact the business. While VoIP provides distinct value on its own merits, there is a richer potential that can be realized when a business moves. Given the flexibility of the underlying technology, this means that the more significant your move, the greater those possibilities become. Moving the business across the street to a similar setting will not invoke much change, but there is a multitude of scenarios where a move necessitates major upheaval. This may not always be welcome, but if the status quo does not move the business forward, you risk future growth by staying put. ziffdavis.com 8 of 9

9 Given the importance of communications, you need to think the same way about your VoIP system. You don t need to move to make changes to VoIP, but invariably when a business does move, there are implications for telephony. Whether you view this as a necessary burden or an opportunity to adopt leading edge technology, you need to look beyond the simple utility of your VoIP system. We believe this guide provides that perspective to make the right decision and ensure your business gets full value from VoIP once the move has been made. ziffdavis.com 9 of 9

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