How to Buy a New Office Telephone System: Data Networks & Integration

Creating an Integrated Voice Ready Data Network

This is the sixth installment of our series, “How to Buy a New OfficeTelephone System.”

By now, you’ve learned that the modern telephone system has converged into the data network.  In this blog in our series, we’re going to discuss what goes in to building a “voice ready” data network.  We will also cover how your new phone system can integrate with your business applications such as CRM and databases.

Data Networks

All modern telephone systems use Voice over IP to some degree. If you choose SIP trunking for a connection to the outside world, you’ll have a 100% VoiP solution.  If you elect (or are forced) to keep analog lines or PRI circuits, that part of your system will not be VoiP, but your phones and system will be operating using VoiP on your data network.  

A complete network is actually comprised of two networks, a local area network (LAN) and the Internet connection (wide area network or WAN).  From the desktop to the Internet your network will need to support voice.  While voice is just another form of data traffic, it does require special treatment.  First, voice cannot suffer any delays in transmission or phone call quality will be poor.  Second, the network must allow voice traffic to pass without restriction or you’ll not be able to make or receive phone calls.   We’ll now look into the components of the data networks and what is required for them to support voice:

  • Routers – Typically the carrier installs and maintains your Internet router these days.  Usually it passes voice without an issue but with some carrier (and circuit types) there needs to be some minor configuration changes made by the carrier to successfully support voice. However, if you have existing router and it is of an older design, it may not support voice and will need to be upgraded or replaced.
  • Firewalls – Firewalls can be a real challenge in implementing the modern telephone system.  A firewall’s purpose is to keep all data outside of your network except the data that you wish to have pass.  So, firewalls need to be configured to allow this new VoiP traffic.   If you have a firewall that blocks voice traffic, it’s pretty easy to identify – You can’t make phone calls or are experiencing one-way voice transmission.  Again, older firewalls, like older routers, are sometimes not capable of supporting voice.
  • Ethernet Switches – It’s very rare for an Ethernet switch to have problems supporting voice.  However, VoiP telephones require external power.   That power can be delivered by a local power supply or it can be delivered via an Ethernet connection.  To deliver it through your data connection, you need to replace your existing Ethernet switch(es) with Power over Ethernet (POE) switches. 

CRM & Other Applications

Most current phone systems are capable of integrating with your business data applications.  This will allow users to use the business application contact list and dial from their computer screen. On incoming calls, the phone will ring and the customer record will pop up on the user’s computer. These features are a great example of the power of an integrated voice and data solution.

This capability was available in the past, but was very expensive and required custom programming or expensive software licenses. Today, the technology has gotten much better and its now far easier and less expensive to integrate voice into your business applications.

In conclusion, your data network may require some changes or adjustments to support the new world of voice and data combined together. On the positive side of the equation, you’ll get rid of your old voice network and everything will work together. No more separate islands for voice and data.

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