STEP 3: DO A TECHNICAL INVENTORY
Once you’ve addressed who your users are, and identified some key features that will help your business run smoothly, it’s time to take stock of what you have. Give your current system an earnest, thorough once-over.
Get to know your infrastructure by performing a technical inventory of all the moving parts in your communications system. You’ll want to make note of every piece of hardware and software your business owns (and more importantly, uses). As you start your inventory, it helps to remind yourself of some of your general goals for your new phone system. Why do you want to purchase a new phone system in the first place? Some of the most common reasons include: poor voice quality, outages or dropped calls, the need for better call routing, a reduction in contract or maintenance costs and wanting additional features.
Many of these reasons will be linked with what technical equipment you have and use, and how well what you have will work with newer technologies.
A basic technical inventory should cover five main areas:
1. SERVER INVENTORY Take stock of your servers, making note of hardware limitations like CPU type and speed, RAM, RAID configuration, etc., as well as software versions and licensing.
2. PERSONAL COMPUTING COMPONENTS How many users do you have? What software and hardware are being used at each workstation? Depending on the size of your business, it may be beneficial to establish a weekly inventory percentage (e.g. 10% of your network) to stay on top of what your users are actually using. If your business is less complex, do a complete workstation inventory.
3. NETWORK INVENTORY You’ll want to include switches, routers, and internet connection hardware.
4. NETWORK DRAWING Using your network inventory, sketch out physically where all of your components are located. Highlight redundant systems or components, or bottlenecks.
5. SERVICE PROVIDERS Some of your business activities may be hosted by external service providers. Having a concise list of who your vendors are, what services they provide, along with contact information for each vendor in the event of emergency will help your business be prepared for anything while also creating an opportunity for integrations (where possible).
The type of network infrastructure you already have can impact the communications options available to you. Traditional phone systems rely on voice networks, while VoIP services require voice to run on the same network as your data services. If you’ve already got a traditional infrastructure in place, it may be more cost-effective to use it. If you have a good data network in place, however, you might be better set up for a VoIP phone system. Under-performing networks can significantly affect the performance of other critical applications. Conduct a complete analysis of the data network and record measurements such as bandwidth and quality of service.
INTEGRATIONS AND INTEROPERABILITY
Take stock of your business-critical applications. Is there a way for a new phone system to streamline your employee’s workflow through an integration with a key application? Make a note of where your communications are or are not connecting with each other, and consider the business cost associated with these connections. In terms of interoperability, it’s important to consider your physical components as well. If you are currently running an on-premises solution, and are considering upgrading a portion of your network, or of moving to a hybrid could solution, you may need to consider whether your on-premises components will work well with the newer technology.
In addition to usability, review your current system for relevancy. How old it is? Has it been discontinued, making replacing parts and service challenging? Are maintenance costs becoming too much? Take a look at where you stand and where you want to go.