8 best practices for migrating to VoIP service

Define your goals and budget to determine the foundation of your VoIP strategy. Start slow, perfecting one line first and then rolling it out to others.

by Dennis Pierce

Switching from traditional voice services to voice-over-IP service can be challenging—but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s an eight-step process that can help K-12 leaders help to provide a smooth transition.

1. Consider your goals and your budget

Successfully migrating to VoIP begins with understanding what you’re hoping to achieve: Are you looking to cut costs? Improve voice service? Replace outdated equipment? Future-proof your communications infrastructure? Make staff more productive?

You’ll also need to consider how much money you can afford to spend up front and how much you’re able to budget per month. Taken together, your goals and your budget will help determine the foundation for your VoIP strategy.

2. Develop a strategy that works for your schools

Do you want to move to SIP trunking, Hosted VoIP service, or some combination of these? Will you convert to VoIP at all school sites simultaneously, or will you choose a phased approach to rolling out the service over time? If you take the latter approach, which sites will get VoIP service first, and why? How long of an implementation cycle are you looking at?

3. Choose a provider

When choosing a service provider, you should opt for a stable, experienced company that offers best-of-breed solutions. Make sure your provider clearly understands your needs and can fully deliver on them. Ideally, your service provider will have extensive experience in the education market.

Converting to VoIP service can be a significant undertaking, so you’ll want a trusted provider who is a full partner in the project—not just a vendor selling a product.

4. Assess your network capacity and needs

If you’re transmitting voice, video, and data over a single network infrastructure, your network will have to be robust enough to handle this additional load.

Based on this analysis, you’ll know where you might need to add more bandwidth, upgrade your switches, refresh outdated equipment, or add gateway and analog conversion devices to support VoIP service.

5. Work with your provider to design a solution

While this might be the first time you’ve been involved in a VoIP migration, it won’t be the first time for your service provider. Take advantage of your provider’s expertise, and ask for ideas that have worked in other schools.

6. Pay attention to quality of service.

One of the key challenges you’ll need to address is quality of service (QoS). In order to see that there is no latency or jitter that affects the quality of your voice communications, make sure your service provider offers QoS tools to optimize voice performance. For instance, AT&T IP Flexible Reach service allows customers to prioritize voice packets over their data network to provide a high QoS.

7. Prepare for installation

Make a list of all lines and numbers to be converted to VoIP service, so they’re not lost or forgotten during migration. Also, make sure you understand the training that will be required of your staff, and plan accordingly. Work with your service provider to develop a migration plan that helps your service continue uninterrupted during normal school hours.

8. Test, test, test

It’s a good idea to convert a single line first; this will give you a chance to test the new service. Once you perfect the necessary equipment configurations, you can roll out the service across other lines or buildings.