Industry estimates indicate that up to 85% of company LANs are not ready for VoIP deployment. Even if you do not have a problem with the ebb and flow of data through your LAN, you do not know the true impact of VoIP on your network until it is deployed.
Network design and analysis is critical for a successful VoIP deployment. You need to pre-qualify a LAN to ensure it is running efficiently now and how it will react once VoIP is deployed.
Networks grow organically, rather than through a pre-designed structure. Every addition made to a LAN, whether it is a new router, printer, or small adjunct subnet, will have an impact on the LAN’s overall effectiveness.
One of the key selling points of VoIP during its early years was its ability to reduce the amount of cabling needed. The mindset was that by running Ethernet to every computer, you could connect into the same feed for your VoIP phone. But if you take this approach, you inject all the traffic from your PC onto the cabling that runs your VoIP. So, every e-mail that you send or receive, every file that you download, and every PowerPoint presentation that you move across the LAN consumes vital bandwidth that you also need to transmit a quality VoIP call.
This does not mean that you have to run an entirely new set of cables to every desk in your customer’s office. Integrating VoIP on an existing data LAN can be accomplished while running over the same cabling, but the solutions of today require some advanced planning.
The need to plan and manage the impact of VoIP deployment on an existing LAN has become a process called ‘VoIP Lifecycle Management’ (VLM). As soon as VoIP is active on the LAN, it had a large, negative impact in ways that were not expected. Even after users think they have the VoIP part of their LAN under control, their businesses grew or evolved. They deployed more VoIP phones and sent more data through the LAN. The hardware grew old and overworked, and it began to fail.
The constant evolution of data and voice consumption on any LAN means you can never stop maintaining and managing it. You have to manage your applications and devices before it breaks. Those who ignore this need to plan, analyze and test are still dealing with major problems on their VoIP networks today.
There are three stages of VoIP Lifecycle Management:
Stage 1 — Analysis: The first step in any solid VoIP deployment. It involves analyzing your existing network to confirm it can handle the increased workload of a VoIP deployment.
Stage 2 — Installation/verification: This stage covers the process of activating VoIP on the network, validating all the hardware, and testing all aspects and features employed on VoIP.
Stage 3 — Ongoing monitoring: This phase of Lifecycle Management never ends. Every month, quarter, half-year, you need to re-evaluate your network to identify trends and prevent problems before they impact service. Companies do not stay the same; they are either expanding or contracting. Regardless of which way the business is moving, it will have different data and voice requirements six months from now compared to today.
Industry estimates identify a 50-percent chance of failing to successfully transition to VoIP if you ignore the stages of VoIP Lifecycle Management.
Since it is rare if any company has definitive data on bandwidth consumption, peak usage, collisions, errors, and hardware degradation on data LANs, pre-planning for VoIP deployment is all the more essential. You can much more easily do the analysis now while everyone in the office is calm, instead of trying to fix problems months from now when everyone’s nerves are frayed and they just want their calls to complete cleanly.