The 7 key factors to consider when upgrading your analogue telephony
PSTN and ISDN phone lines are being replaced. Taking action now will ensure minimal disruption and open new opportunities for your organisation.
The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) has been the backbone of the UK’s phone network for decades. Yet it’s yesterday’s technology. Or even the day before yesterday’s – PSTN relies on the same principle of copper wiring that Alexander Graham Bell patented right back in 1881.
The technology is also becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. So the UK telecoms industry has committed to moving everything over to a Voice over Internet Protocol system (VoIP) in the near future.
Lots of organisations are already using digital voice and connectivity solutions due to the challenges that the pandemic threw at them. But a surprising number are still on analogue lines. The clock is now ticking so it’s time to get moving. The good news is that if you plan it right, you can make sure better ways of working are bedded in across your organisation.
Virgin Media Business recently hosted a panel discussion to tease out some of the challenges that organisations are facing, and the key factors to bear in mind as the big switch-off looms closer.
As the discussion made clear, there are seven key things to focus on in the years – and months – ahead.
1. Take a look around your digital estate
Many organisations are already well on the way to getting ready for the digital age.
If you use Microsoft Teams, Zoom, 8x8 or other online meeting or chat platforms, you’ll already know your way around the digital comms technology.
As we all know, the pandemic saw to that. Almost overnight, organisations were harnessing digital tech to enable remote and hybrid working. Decisions about communication technology were being made quickly and locally – sometimes even as local as individual cases and users.
One of the participants in our discussion is responsible for the technology at a charity with over 200 sites across England. She pointed out that many of the sites had gone off to do their own things, purchasing their own telephony systems as they saw fit.
So now it’s time to review and consolidate what you’ve got. As another of our panellists said, “It’s important as a company to have a strategy about what tools to use, otherwise you end up with multiple tools doing the same thing.”
Organisations need to gain a clear view of their existing technology. This will then let you streamline the technology you have and make collaboration amongst teams and customers so much simpler.
2. Pick a platform for everything else
The humble telephone line provides a huge amount of services ranging way beyond voice. From data signalling to terminals and monitoring, phone lines carry a wide range of functions that are essential to an organisation.
You probably won’t know what all your lines are being used for. But now is the time to review those old analogue lines, and to pinpoint an integrated solution that will work across every requirement your organisation has, today and tomorrow.
As our keynote speaker said in our discussion, “Evaluate what you have and what you’re using it for, identify the objectives and what you’re trying to achieve. This will help you find the right partner who can help you get where you want to be, with a fit-for-purpose solution that is future-proof.”
To leave the last word on this issue to a CIO from another national charity, “This isn’t just about picking a platform for making phone calls, it’s about how can you pick a platform for everything else.”
3. Bring the facilities on the journey with you
The technology used for communicating and collaborating across your organisation is only half the story. That’s because a lot of the services we all take for granted depend on the old-fashioned analogue lines.
Alarm systems, lift lines, even whole remote offices may all still rely on the old analogue networks. As one of the participants in our discussion pointed out, “A lot of people are still running old on-premise PBX,” and there is, “A lot to be done in three years.”
However, the same panellist added that, “The hardest thing was persuading facilities people to get off analogue and onto digital.” It’s vital to get every part of the organisation moving towards the end date together, to avoid any glitches along the way.
If you’re in a similar situation, it’s a good idea to work with your facilities managers and suppliers, letting them know that change is coming. You can then start to work together on the journey towards the future, shaping a new system that can apply across the board.
4. Factor in resilience and security
In our discussion, issues were raised about the reliability and resilience of any new system. Whatever events and indeed catastrophes might occur, when all else fails, the feeling has been that the phone lines would survive.
Can we rely on digital solutions if the society that we’re used to breaks down? What contingency plans might an organisation need to put in place? Mobile phones or even satellite?
Ofcom has implemented guidance to ensure that any new technology that carries voice is resilient to ensure it’s as reliable as the technology that we’re all used to.
Another factor to consider here is security. One participant raised the question of whether organisations simply move everything over to digital lines or whether they carry out due diligence first, to see what the shifts might mean for security across the entire network.
So, make sure you take security and resilience into account. Look at the full picture of the infrastructure underneath plus the solutions that sit on top. Connectivity, communications and security are the three things to focus on.
5. Don’t wait until the last minute
It’s important to remember that changes are already happening now. Some telecommunications providers have already started switching off analogue technology and are going fully digital.
So, leaving the switch until the last minute will lead to customer satisfaction issues, as organisations will be forced to make the change extremely quickly.
Now is the ideal time to start looking at what’s lurking amongst your legacy systems. As one of our panellists said, “There will always be unknown unknowns and they will become very obvious as soon as the switch happens.” But by acting now, you can begin to spot those vulnerabilities and put plans in place.
Rather than continuing to sweat the on-premise assets, by switching to a Voice over IP system, you can unleash the benefits of digital across your organisation. That puts hybrid and dynamic working, video calling, instant messaging and more at everyone’s fingertips.
6.Spread the word
It’s also important to start sharing the news with your suppliers and partners. If they use phone lines to interact with your organisation, they need to be aware of – and be acting to prepare for – the change.
Imagine if a key supplier doesn’t make the switch. If you can’t communicate with them, you can’t do business with them. It’s as simple as that.
And you also need to ensure that your key suppliers of equipment to your organisation (e.g. EPOS) are aware of and ready for your (and the industry’s) change, and any end user equipment is compatible.
In a perfect world, every single one of your suppliers, clients and customers will all be switched over in the near future, so it can be business as usual.
7. Find the right partner
You’re an expert in your own particular field, rather than telephony and communications. So rather than sweating over the nuts and bolts, it makes sense to choose a partner who is already an expert in the field.
There are lots of communications alternatives available to you. The trick is to evaluate the technology you already have, then decide on where you want to go. Are you going to take the ‘one fire at a time’ approach, moving in a switch-by-switch way? Or do you want to seize the opportunity to think strategically and introduce greater transformation?
The partner you choose should also be able to help you plan and execute the change. You need to find someone who can support you on any stage of the journey, from implementing a solution through to offering strategic support to help you carve out a path ahead.
Virgin Media Business has the expertise and technology to help you manage the change from analogue to IP with confidence.
We will work collaboratively with you to help you succeed, going at your own pace and scaling up or down as you go. Together, we can ensure you don’t just prepare for the switch but turn the change to your advantage.
Want to know how to prepare for the big switch-off and how we can help?