Try to stay calm when I tell you this, but I am mid-way through an acronym dictionary for the world of business and unified communication. I know what your thinking. Why? Or probably more like WTF!? It is more fun (and useful) than it sounds I promise, especially when you realise just how ridiculous some of these acronyms are.
I plan to release this in the next couple of weeks, and it is intentionally light-hearted and designed for everyone, from end users to those the industry already. Click here to make sure you get a copy when released.
Our team is continually improving and enhancing ourselves or at least striving to, but whenever there is a change or addition to the tech team, it is the acronyms that cause the biggest problems.
Talking in acronyms is cool though right? It shows you’ve got experience and that you know what you’re talking about? Maybe this is true, but what is certain is that if you don’t know what they mean, then you feel very uncool.
Which leads me into this week’s topic – network infrastructure. In a world of high definition, colour screens, click-to-dial and software integration, it is often the uncool topic of network infrastructure that is overlooked.
We have a widely used analogy here in my team about a train and the train tracks. We are providing our clients with a brand new super efficient and fully featured train (phone system). We are planning to run this train on their train tracks (network infrastructure), so what parts of the ‘track’ do we have to watch out for?
Our train simply has to sit on rails; the design is as such. Our business phones have to sit on a structured cabling network. They were intended as such also. Simply put, the rails here are the cables running around your building, connecting your phones, computers and any other IT equipment together. In an age of wireless everything, let’s be clear that there is no escaping the need for a proper cabling infrastructure in the world of business communication. ‘Buy Cheap, Buy Twice’ has never been truer here, as I have sadly seen too many cabling networks needing to be repaired or replaced due to poor quality products or a poor quality installation. Use a recommended and high-quality contractor to get your cabling done. Make sure it is thoroughly tested and comes with a 25-year certification. Sorry, I went into full bossy consultant mode then, but this is the most common mistake I see in the industry, and it harms all parties when done poorly.
Just like our new train, all modern business phones need power. The simplest and most economical way to do this is to use your network cabling infrastructure to not only connect your phones but power them also. Power Over Ethernet network switches (no acronyms today remember) are common place now and are available for all budgets to suit. Network switches are not as cumbersome to replace as cabling, but can still be painful and damaging to vast areas of business if there are problems. With this in mind, I always recommend buying as high-quality a product as possible, and buy a spare as well! Like most things in life you often get what you pay for here, and you know what your budget is, but you should hopefully be using words like Cisco and HP here rather than some of the lower end brands. Indeed the brands above have ranges that are quite deep and often start at lower price points than you think.
Signals (and a Fat Controller?)
Our train is going to be joining a wider network of rails and trains, exchanging passengers and goods all day and all night. It needs to know what to let down the track and when to stop traffic; otherwise, you will have an incident that will bring the whole network to a stop. Your business phones are no different as they need a router and firewall to direct not only themselves but all the other equipment on your network. They need priority over other traffic otherwise your voice quality will suffer. They need protection from traffic that might harm them. Make sure you have not only an adequate device here but also a skilled and experienced maintainer controlling that device. The wrong setting here could cause huge problems and present a serious security incident if not done right. On a happier note, these settings are often quick to adjust, and our skilled team often assist with this for our clients.
Thinking of this wider network, our train doesn’t just want to go up and down your track all day. You might want to send it off into the wider world and the rest of the network. Your business phones love talking to each other as well, but they (and you) will probably want to call someone external to your building or business before long! So we must connect your network to the internet.
Internet connectivity is a huge topic in itself, and as I approach my 1000 word limit, I won’t have time to go into too much depth. Needless to say, I recommend going for stability over speed, and invest in a backup option as well as your primary option. Fibre availability is increasing, and prices are dropping, so every single solution I have designed for the last five years has had a primary and secondary option within it. We provide effective service level agreements* based on this design, so I have no hesitation in recommending it to everyone. Choose different technologies, different carriers, even different providers altogether if you can. Without internet connectivity, your business phones, and most of your business altogether, with stop working. First, choose the most resilient solution you can, and then stretch the budget to make it as fast as you can. Let’s talk some real figures here – this morning I have just finished a solution for a 30-user expanding team in London. They are growing into new premises and need new internet connectivity not only for their new business phones but also their business as a whole:
- Primary Connection – 50mb Fibre Leased Line – £269 +VAT
- Secondary Connection – 20mb Ethernet Over Fibre to The Cabinet* – £110 +VAT
These numbers might shock you, or you might be pleasantly surprised, but it is what it is. This is the money you need to spend on high-quality internet connectivity. Now for this particular client, they have asked us to provide the train network, signals, power lines and even help with the rails and we are more than happy to provide it to ensure our train runs smoothly. However not all clients need this, so we can provide whichever elements they need. At the end of the day, we just want to make sure our train arrives safely, securely and that you had the most pleasant journey (phone call) possible along the way.
All aboard? . . . Sorry, I had to, don’t pretend you weren’t expecting it.
Richard works at The Technology Group and is part of a great team that provide business communication tools and solutions to the SMB and Enterprise markets. We would love to talk to you more about how we can help you and your business with the tools needed to improve communication and collaboration with your clients and your team.