For the end-user business, the most challenging aspect of managing a VoIP implementation is the issue of “change management” and technical support. The average VoIP implementation today is going to be a challenge for both the system administrator and the helpdesk and support team. Today, technology not only moves faster than your staff can digest, but it touches so many other aspects of your business that it’s hard to hire one person who can do it all. From computer networking to virtualization, Microsoft server and desktop software, data center practices, and business continuity and disaster strategies, technical support has become a challenge for all businesses, large or small. little.
Remember buying that new VoIP system? Did you look for a partner that had the required technical depth, or did you look for a low-cost equipment provider? It is post sales support where you find out how much that system really costs! Consider your next ShoreTel upgrade from version X to version Y. Do you have a change management process in place? Your partner? Change and configuration management are as essential to the ongoing maintenance and support of your VoIP solution as project management was on initial installation. What tools exist to manage configuration interdependencies in your voip implementation, as it can get very complex very quickly.
For example, what version of Microsoft Server are you running? Is it 32 or 64 bit? Is it running on hardware with enough memory, NICs, processors, and storage capacity? Has it been virtualized? What version of hypervisor are you using? Will your new version of ShoreTel require you to upgrade your virtual operating system in addition to your ShoreTel server software? How many servers are there to upgrade besides the HQ server and any DVMs? Are they all the same OS version or are some 32 bit and some 64? What about application servers, like the recording server? What happens when the recording server cannot be upgraded to the new required bit size of the operating system to support the new version of ShoreTel? What about that VPN server?
Haven’t we even discussed desktop systems yet? Vista, XP, Windows 7/8? Do we have 32 bit or 64 bit or a combination? Any Mac computers in the mix? Only browser compatibility will drive a grown man to drink! Microsoft Office 2003, 2010, 2012? Panorama? Exchange integration? Active Directory? Sales force connectors? Will the new version make any hardware obsolete? Do you need new hardware? Do we have custom integrations to worry about? Is TAPI a requirement for any of these applications? How will the latest version of SIP affect the implementation? Apple, Android, Wireless, Mobility?
The list of interdependencies is exhaustive, and planning an upgrade requires careful consideration and planning. You need not only a clear statement of work, a detailed task list, but also a “roll back” plan. Is the maintenance window wide enough? Has the User Group been informed? Configuration management is a precursor to change management, and both disciplines require a great deal of planning and tracking.