By Jona Sanford, Inflow Communications Senior Voice Engineer
Deploying a Unified Communications system across multiple locations can be a lengthy and challenging process. However, with careful planning and system design you can leverage the UC system to enhance your business with a six key considerations during the planning and design phase. At Inflow, we’ve not only tackled this problem, but have become pretty successful in deploying this system. Throughout the process we’ve determined some key elements to consider during the planning and design phase.
- Geographic Locations
The first thing to consider is the geographic locations of each site. This will affect several aspects of your UC system design. Remote or rural locations may limit the network and trunking options available, and local weather patterns may influence your disaster planning. For example, locations in the Midwest may need to plan for thunderstorms and tornados, while locations in the Northeast may need to consider winter storms. Locations with different local calling areas can also provide cost savings through least cost routing.
- Wide Area Network
The next item to consider is your wide area network (WAN). This is one of the most crucial components to a successful Unified Communications deployment. There are several things to take into account when considering your WAN requirements. The first is the type of WAN you will need. At the base level, there are three main types of WAN options to choose from; dedicated circuits, MPLS, and VPN across public internet. Each option has its own pros and cons. MPLS is considered the industry standard for multisite UC systems, but it might not be needed for every deployment, and it’s more expensive than VPN. Other items to consider are QOS, bandwidth, secondary or failover routing, and security, to name a few. Designing a WAN solution to meet your UC and business needs can be tricky – we’re pretty experienced in it, even though we’re not a data network company. More importantly, we can work with your WAN provider and your IT staff to develop a solution tailored to your specific requirements.
- Local network
There are several things to consider regarding the local network (LAN) at each site. The first consideration for the site’s LAN is if you want to create a separate VLAN for voice traffic. Next, you should map out a unique IP address range for the IP phones and equipment at each site. This is especially important as it affects how the system handles 911 calls — I’ll give further details about 911 considerations below. Additionally, if you will be deploying IP phones, you will need to consider their power requirements. Typically, IP phones are powered with POE switches or using power injectors.
Deciding on a design for your inbound and outbound calling can be one of the more complex aspects of the overall design process. You must choose both the type of trunks to use as well as how those trunks will be distributed.
Trunk types include SIP, PRI, and analog lines. Each type of trunking has specific strengths and weakness that must be taken into account, and they might not be available at every location.
You also have several options to choose from when it comes to where to locate your trunking. The three main options are centralized trunking at one or two main locations, fully distributed trunking to every site, or a blended design that distributes trunks to several key locations. Things to consider include least cost routing, consolidation of resources, disaster recovery, local survivability, 911 capabilities, and alarm systems, among others.
- Site hardware and resources
Now we come to the sites themselves. You will need to decide what type of physical and/or virtual resources you will need at each site. Certain devices require local physical resources. Some examples are fax machines, credit card machines, overhead paging, and local TDM (analog or PRI) trunking. Based on these and other considerations, you may need physical hardware at each site, or you may only need virtual resources.
911 is a very important consideration for UC systems with multiple locations. Most states have specific laws relating to 911 calling abilities as well as what information is sent to a 911 operator when a call is made. These requirements must be taken into account for each location. It becomes even more important when you are planning on centralized trunking. The ShoreTel system includes a basic “e911” tool that is sufficient for many deployments when the system is designed to use it correctly. If it will not meet your requirements, there are many other options to choose from, both on premise and cloud based.
In addition, you may want to have certain members of you staff or your security team notified immediately if someone calls 911. With the correct tools, this is possible through several methods including PC bases notifications, phone calls, emails, and paging.
Designing and implementing a UC system across multiple locations requires careful planning and consideration. However, where done correctly, there are benefits including, long-term cost savings, increased productivity, and disaster recovery. Choosing the right partner to guide you through the process can make a world of difference. For more information about choosing the right UC provider, check out our recent blog post here.
Founded in 1997, Inflow is one of the nation’s top Unified Communications and Contact Center consultants in today’s market. Pioneers in cloud unified communications and cloud contact center success, Inflow is the first company to provide contact center consulting and training focused solely on helping you elevate your customer experience.
With over 200,000 endpoints supported under Inflow’s innovative success programs around the world, Inflow built its brand and reputation around providing unrivaled customer support. Inflow is in Mitel/ShoreTel’s top 2% in global customer satisfaction, and quickly acquiring a top spot with RingCentral, Genesys PureCloud and NICE inContact.
By partnering with Inflow, you can expect the highest level of strategic consultation, execution, and optimization available in the industry.