Six steps to future-proof your telephone system

Today, organizations are tightening their belts while looking for ways to leverage their communications. Here are some guidelines to make the most of your telephones says Digium's Tristan Degenhardt.

Imagine if you had the chance to buy a car 10 years ago that included a DVD player, Sirius XM radio, OnStar, automatic parking capabilities and dozens of other advanced features. Chances are you would snap it up in a heartbeat and not think about purchasing a car for years.

In the corporate telephony world, there are choices you can make today that include features and functionality that most companies won’t see or use for years. These same systems are versatile enough to address new technologies that have yet to be developed.

This checklist of 6 ways to future-proof your organization’s phone system investment should help you make a smart decision for your organization today and as it grows.

1. Stay away from VoIP lipstick on a legacy PBX pig
Hardware-based Phone System vendors are losing market share and sales are slumping like never before. Software-based phone solutions are also feeling the pressures of the economy but fared far better than hardware-based solutions over the past quarter.

This trend will likely continue, so hardware-based PBX vendors believe the best way to compete is to start bolting on VoIP capability to their products. What this really does is extend the life of these products for a little while, but they don’t stand a chance against VoIP solutions built from the ground up. Get ahead of the game with a native VoIP system.

2. Consider open source
More and more organizations are running mission-critical parts of their business on open source. What was once thought to be the focus of a small group of uber-geeks has emerged as a viable enterprise option. The open source community boasts many developers, creating the next big breakthroughs. While large organizations may topple (read: Nortel), Open source can live on beyond the corporation. It also delivers cost-savings and avoids vendor lock-in.

3. Alleviate management headaches
Proprietary systems require fancy training and certification. As your organization grows, staff turns over or the company consolidates, you don’t want to be stuck in the constant cycle of costly and time-consuming retraining/certification or having to outsource with a pricey, certification brandishing consultant. Pick a system that offers a simple Web interface, similar to other hardware around the office such as routers, firewalls and other systems in your business.

4. Prepare for success
No one goes into business to fail, but many are not prepared for success. Scalability of your phone system is a critical consideration when making a purchase. You want to select a phone system that doesn’t penalize you for your success; this means one that doesn’t charge you and arm and a leg to add users, or is unable to expand to be as large as you require.

5. Don’t be the only one on the block without the cool technology
Analysts agree that companies are moving towards unified communications, where a single solution can provide access to things like conferencing, faxing, chat, etc. Advanced phone systems can even provide a Google map of the caller’s location, video calling, listen-in functionality (great for training and customer service quality assurance), and integration with your customer relationship management (CRM) and ERP systems, etc. Don’t be left out in the cold as new and powerful tools that can help your employees work more efficiently or communicate more effectively come online. Make sure the system you purchase can seamlessly integrate each of these technologies as well as those not even yet developed by using a widely used integration hooks, like XML.

6. It’s time to get out of here
Mobility is not only a hot buzz word in organizations throughout the world, it’s a reality that companies must face in order to remain competitive. In addition, as a company grows, it’s likely that they will want to open offices in geographically dispersed locations. Whether an employee moves across town or across the country, your organization opens an office in Binghamton or Bangladesh, or your suppliers or tech support are located in China, choose a phone system that doesn’t care where you are. Flexibility is key.

biography
Tristan Degenhardt is director of product marketing for Switchvox at Digium.

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