5 Signposts On The Road To VoIP

October, 2012

Taking the plunge from TDM to IP can be a daunting prospect. Here are 5 often overlooked signposts to save a lot of headache and back-tracking further along.

Much has been written in recent years on the subject of VoIP deployment in contact centers. Even so, taking the plunge from TDM to IP, or setting up an IP based contact center from scratch, can be a daunting prospect. There is a wealth of technological detail and a stack of practical detail to digest and factor in. Rushing through without due attention to detail can cause major problems down the road. A case in point: VoIP gateways have the highest return-to-vendor rate of any type of VoIP equipment. Why? Not because they don’t work, but because the necessary homework has not been done.

One major stumbling block is the area of how the internal (IP) world of the contact center relates to the external (PSTN) world.

There are 2 possible approaches to making the connection:

  • use IP gateways – necessary to convert IP to TDM for transmission over PSTN
  • use a SIP trunk provider who will take care of connecting to the PSTN

The technical detail of IP gateways and SIP trunk requirements is available elsewhere on the web (although we can help if that’s what you need). What’s not so available is some advice on the real-world dangers and pitfalls of deployment. These are not mentioned in the glossy brochures. Here are 5 often overlooked signposts to save a lot of headache and back-tracking further along.

  1. Network access – Can I make cheap calls to mobiles?
    All gateways and SIP trunks can push voice and SMS traffic out to mobiles, but some may do it via the PSTN (which is expensive) rather than direct to the SS7 network (which is cheaper). If your business model includes making calls to mobiles, make sure you can access the SS7 network direct, or face a hefty phone bill.
  2. Interop certification – Do you guys play nice?
    Between contact center software and a gateway or carrier network, there is an abundance of codec and other required interoperabilities that, if not set up and tested properly, can cause call degradation or failure. Thorough end to end testing must be carried out in advance to ensure these don’t throw you off course.
  3. Support policies – I need help. Who do I call?
    So you have questions, or you want to make a change and you need to speak to someone who can help. Who is responsible for first-line support – the software vendor or the gateway vendor/ SIP trunk provider? Are there specific areas of responsibility? Does responsibility shift at different times of day? Do you need to go through one vendor to speak to the other? Does each vendor have local on-the-ground tech support? All this must be agreed in advance, so that when the crunch comes, help can be delivered quickly and smoothly.
  4. Free trials – Prove that it works!
    Many vendors (including Sytel) offer licenses at no cost for a ‘proof-of-concept’ trial. Do both vendors offer a free trial period? For the same length of time?
  5. References – I like to read reviews before I buy. Who can I talk to?
    As with buying any consumer product, user reviews speak volumes. Vendors should be able to set you up to visit/ speak to existing customers that use your proposed combination.

We at Sytel have plenty of experience of VoIP deployment in its many forms, and are well aware of the dangers along the road to catch the unwary traveller. If you have any questions about the technical requirements of deploying VoIP, or the compelling business case for doing so, talk to us. We can help.

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