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What's on your voice readiness checklist!?

Level 11

I was thinking a good place to start off a VoIP discussion was with the topic of deploying VoIP! As many of us know voice has become a common staple in many IP networks and is typically designed into the network from day 1. However there are definitely still networks out there that are not currently running VoIP and are looking to implement these VoIP & mobility services. If you have had the opportunity to integrate voice into an existing IP network you know there is definitely some prep work that will have to be done. After all, if implementing VoIP into a network was a simple thing we wouldn't get paid the big bucks right?

Like many implementations and deployments after you have done a couple, they become easier and you learn how to avoid the more common pitfalls and setbacks. Many people have went as far as to create a 'checklist' of sorts for making VoIP deployments easier providing an simpler work flow to follow. Below are going to be a few bullets from my own checklist:

Power - How do you plan on powering VoIP equipment (Hand held phones, conference phones, desktop phones, etc), sure you can use power bricks or you can rely on PoE (Power over Ethernet) switches this way you don't have to worry about the additional overhead of the power bricks (ordering, inventory, cost, shipping, etc). You may also have to consider the power budget of those switches, depending on what (if any) other PoE capable devices are already receiving power. Remember many wireless-N & AC access points require more power than the older 802.3af standard could provide to fully operate, or perhaps you also have PoE capable surveillance systems? If you are deploying wireless handheld phones do you need some larger multi-device charging docks, or should you account for spare batteries?

Guides for the end users - This may sound trivial but we can't forget about the end users. Making sure the users know how to access their voice mail and use the IP Phones the way they need ensures we get fewer questions from the end users, which makes everyone's life easier.

QoS (Quality of Service) – This is definitely a very important aspect in every VoIP network. Without QoS to protect the signaling and RTP audio streams from the rest of the IP data network traffic the VoIP system could be rendered completely un-usable. Where should you create your trust boundary and how should you allocate your queue's?

IP Addressing/VLAN Assignment - Depending on the size of your deployment, you might have to take some extra care into your address assignments and DHCP scope creations (Do you need to create any special DHCP Options?). What if your routing schema is summarizable and hierarchical to the core of your network how can you maintain that standardization?

Authentication/Security - How are the IP Phones going to authenticate to the network will you need to deploy certificates or require the phones to participate in Dot1X authentication? Do you need to consider security compliancy with any governing bodies? (PCI, HIPPA, CJIS, SOX, etc)

Site Surveys - More aimed toward VoWLAN (Voice over Wireless LAN) deployments. The RF spectrum is the layer-1 medium for wireless networks, performing a site survey & knowing the RF environment of your WLAN gives you an amazing advantage from a support and maintenance perspective. If you are aware of the extent of your coverage and what interferes are in your environment you can either eliminate those obstacles or work around them eliminating issues before they even arise.

Those are just a few topics, what items are on your VoIP deployment/readiness checklist that you look out for and why do you consider them to important aspects during a VoIP deployment?

40 Comments
Level 13

Great perspective. When we deployed VoIP a couple years ago we found that providing effective training was critical. We also provided our end-users with quick-reference brochures on the new phones and the new voicemail system.

Level 11

First things first -- I definitely enjoy your blog (ccie-or-null). Fantastic stuff, and it's the website where I learned about the SCP certification.

Secondly,

I wish my voip checklist looked like this... so now it does. Copy +Pasta. Thanks!

Level 13

I hadn't seen his blog before. Thanks for the tip, I'll check it out.

Level 12

Our information collection was more around current phone numbers and how they would map to new extensions, whether or not credit card machines and faxes would work with the VOIP phones and if there were configurations that needed to be set up in the new VOIP system to accomodate them.  Give +1 to making sure the users are informed of the changes or it will be a deluge of calls to the helpdesk.  I don't know how many calls we got about faxes because we forgot to tell them they were required to dial 9 after the switch-over.  We also did a network hardware refresh in conjuction with the VOIP upgrade and went with POE as part of that.  We had multiple sites so the hardware/installation costs were non-trivial and the installation was over several quarters.  It's best if you can get a vendor with quality support to help with the rollout.

Level 11

Great call out there jwilson2013 there is definitely a good amount of leg work to be done just gathering information about the existing phone system! After all we have to know what we are trying upgrade, ensuring the upgrade is a step forward and not a step backward in functionality!

Having reliable feet on the ground to perform the actual hardware replacement can definitely make a deployment easier! There is definitely something to be said when you have confidence in the team that deploys the actual hardware. Especially those of us with dozens to hundreds of distributed locations where it is impossible to personally visit each location.

I get the feeling you have done a few VoIP deployments 🙂

Level 13

That was a big deal in our environment, as we had multiple subsidiary companies with disparate phone systems. Documentation was a big deal, and very time-consuming.

Level 18

Great article, and a very thought-provoking plan. I asked a colleague of mine who has worked on VoIP systems for... well, a really REALLY long time - someone who still is actively involved in major rollouts of VoIP products for multiple clients - and their list included:

  1. Active Directory. Is it clean? Is the info real? Is it formatted correctly?
  2. What is your end user training plan? Yes, you MUST have one.
  3. How are you communicating the change with your end users?
  4. What analog/rogue devices did you not even know you have? Are they mission critical to their owner?
  5. Have you talked to the admin asst's about how they use their phones? If you haven't, STOP EVERYTHING and go do that. If you piss them off by taking away a feature you didn't know they use, you will make a lifelong enemy who likely also has access to your personnel file.

You'll notice that their list diverges significantly from yours in that your VoIP project - like all technology projects - will fail at layers 8, 9, and 10 of the OSI model. Anything below that - QoS settings, bandwidth, etc. All of that can be fixed without too much of a black eye.

I'll also add - and this is purely self-serving - that having the right monitoring in place BEFORE you start is critical to knowing you succeeded or failed. All you will get from end users is "call quality stinks". They will not tell you that the MOS is 2.7 or that your packet loss jumps over the 30% mark at 2pm every day.

Having hardware and bandwidth monitoring (NPM), Call manager application monitoring (SAM), and (presuming you are using a solution that supports IPSLA) voice and voice infrastructure monitoring (VQNM) can mean the difference between pinpointing problem areas or just guessing until you either get it right, and hopefully the user base gives you that long.

MVP
MVP

We rolled out VOIP about 4 years ago. A checklist was made at the time along the lines that you've mentioned. VOIP DHCP scopes were created, PoE was installed & user manuals were created.

Then we rolled out the phones and changed each extension to an IP one. The whole setup was pretty painless. Just some prep work at the start and away we went.

Level 11

I don't get much opportunity to work with VOIP, however the discussion is really informative.

Level 11

Very true, Layer 8 (and above) have much more power and can be much more difficult to deal with than layers 1-7. Especially since they have the power to stop the project before it even it starts!

Having monitoring in place before the roll out, I don't think you can stress that enough, being able to properly monitor and manage your implementation is a huge battle. Along with having an ongoing maintenance strategy to ensure a simple item like documentation is kept up to date.

MVP
MVP

What Leon Adato said about checking with your admin assistant's....they pretty much rule the coop and can and will make life miserable for you if you don't take care of them.  On the other hand, if you go out of your way to take care of them, they will make life so much easier for you and your team.

Level 12

i agree with you tcbene, this topic is really informative. Thank you Stephen Occhiogrosso

Level 11

good topic. enjoyed reading this. We have just finished deploying voip for our service centers and while we did hire someone outside our company to do the setups initially now its my turn to figure out how to manage and troubleshoot. One of our biggest challenges was user training. when you have folks used to setting there ways not many like changes so they would ask questions I had no idea how to answer. I am studying for CCNA Voice and will soon go to a class about CUCM v10 and I have a trial version of VNQM running on solarwinds. This stuff if really awesome.

Level 9

This is a great topic.

You cannot stress enough about knowing all of the analogue devices that may have to be supported in the VoIP network. Fax machines and MFP copiers can be a real headache when moved to ATA's.

Level 9

Love this! We are just starting to roll out VOIP phones to a test bed of users. Great food for thought. A 'cheat sheet' for the users we have found is essential!

Level 11

Power, QOS, and IP addressing have been the most important to us.  The question of power determines what kind of switch you are going to be using or if you'll be needing external power.  QOS for quality, of course.. and how does the VoiP system integrate with your IP address schema. 

I'm a VoiP newbie, so I'll be reading and learning during this segment.

Level 10

The main issue with rolling out VoIP is having your dial plan in order BEFORE rolling out. You can imagine the headaches of duplicate DN's being issued at different sites, etc. occurring after the rollout. A simple rule for VoIP admins out there (and this is not an indictment at my current job, but at a former job). CALL a DN before you assign it - if someone answers it, THEN IT'S ALREADY IN USE!!!!

Also, intelligent use of toll-saver call routing can be very beneficial if you are in a large company, geography wise.

Always get the POE switches. Power bricks are just another item to get broken, lost, or mis-cabled. And one less thing that has to be ordered or forgotten to be ordered.

Level 12

We have not yet started deploying VoIP to end users (we have PBX to PBX between a few sites and that's all) so I'm going to save this info for when we start planing for it.

Thanks a lot Stephen Occhiogrosso ! Nice checklist !

I'll be following this series closely.

Level 14

So I have done this a couple times in the past.  Firewalls are a big issue.  Are you going through firewalls? should be on the checklist.  If you are, then border controllers and gatekeepers are probably needed assets.  Another is are you connecting to other call managers and gatekeepers?  Who manages them?  What is your dial plan going to be?  Does it conflict with any others?  Are your setting up conferencing?  Meet-Me numbers, etc.?

MVP
MVP

We are right at the very beginning of this particular adventure. But at least we are starting out by being ready. We are aiming for new edge switches to be PoE capable at least.

Not forgetting that increases power loading we are also adding to the ups capability in the closets.

Step by step

Level 12

this was a great article we did our VoIP roll out a while back and we just did alot of training on how to use the cisco phones and CUCM for our telephony guys. we use VNQM to monitor and its an amazing tool.

Level 9

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is phone placement.  When converting from analog to VOIP phones, remember that the analog locations are sometimes at odd heights and near doorways and other inconvenient locations where ethernet cabling does not exist.  It's also worth mentioning that you may need to order special wall mounts for some locations depending on the make and model of phones you are deploying.

Level 10

When you think all your administration will be simple... the ATA appear 

Level 11

Aha yes! That can be a very easily overlooked topic! Especially if the implementer's get stuck on the idea of:

"We will just put match up every desktop with an IP Phone"

Having to know where each and every phone that needs to be replaced just shows how much detail needs to go into these types of deployments.

Thanks mullinj

Level 10

That's a realistic checklist, but I will add a special one, BUDGET

Level 18

Back to layers 8-10 of the OSI model.

Level 10

I am beginning to learn VoIP and use VNQM in my studies.

Level 13

I'd add hardware, software, and HVAC to that list.

We're planning a VoIP rollout for one of our facilities where our biggest concerns are hardware/software, power, and cooling.  All our phones use PoE.

The first issue is we need to upgrade the switch software to handle VoIP.  Upgrading the switch software requires upgrading the aged hardware.

Regardless of the hardware/software, we need to run more power to each of the network access closets in order to supply PoE.  The additional power requirements have also triggered a need to upgrade the feeds from our electric provider and redesign facility power distribution.  This also impacted an upgrade of the UPS but that project was already in progress anyway.

The additional power requirements in the network access closets triggered a need to increase the cooling provided to each closet.

As Christopher Good mentions firewalls are a big concern. Application aware firewalls are great - but only as long as the VoIP traffic conforms to the standards the firewall is aware of.  I've ran into some issues where gatekeepers are using H.323 extensions that the firewall was not able to inspect due to the inspection engine not being completely up to date.  Encrypted control protocols (i.e. SIP w/TLS) also present headaches.  If you've got a Cisco FWSM in your potential VoIP path do yourself a favor and replace it with an ASA.

Level 17

What I wouldn't give to have telecom open their device to Orion (or even me to set it up for monitoring). All Excellent points, especially the one about the Secr..err, Administrative Assistant. Remember it's all about who you know, and AA's take care of a lot of people that YOU wish you knew.

Level 17

Great Checklist to start with, the addition of the AA's considerations and functionality needs that Leon Adato brought up is priceless!

Managing and adjusting the network, QOS, Firewalls, etc. is a good reason to have enough Engineer's on board while deploying.

I would also add an Audit function, or operational tasks. Get a few boots on the ground to get immediate user feedback and assist live with any post-training needs.

Monitoring is great but that immediate user feedback could be what really changes the processes.

Level 17

Knowing your phone is KEY as well, especially if you are looping the Network connection for your workstation through the phone.

- last thing you want to do is have everyone on Gig ports then change their phones to a device that only has 100mbps throughput.

Level 17

I would say layers 9 & 10 specifically are the cause of most problems.

Level 15

This is solid gold! (Really one of the best blog posts in a while here, and they are almost always amazing!)

I would echo what others have mentioned about training the end users, and then add a little snippet to that:

  • How are you training your engineers?

Not everyone is a VoIP guru, and tribal knowledge can be seriously painful when someone goes on a vacation or receives that well-deserved promotion.

Level 11

You've got a great list of questions there. I've never really thought of SOX or HIPPA compliance with VoIP but I can see some application especially in Voicemail and IM solutions.

Level 21

That seems like a pretty good list and I am not sure I have much that I could add to it.  We have been using VoIP here for years now so I don't even think about it much anymore as we have very few problems with it.  The biggest problem we have had is the occasional DDoS attack against it.

Level 14

VOIP Checklist, what VOIP Checklist?

Level 11

Voip is huge now-a-days. Each company should make a checklist and train its IT staff to implement the backbone and also how to provision phones for users, how to login a reset phones, and choose a good phone with minimal problems that meets the needs of the company.

Level 14

Money always seems to be a big issue and real high on the list when dealing with the government.

Level 11

This has been a great discussion and I wanted to let every know, I've consolidated these ideas into another document over the VoIP Management forum!

This way all the great ideas are in a single post!

Sample VoIP Readiness Checklist!

Level 15

Good discussion.  It matches the listening I went through several years ago converting a location to Cisco IP telephony.  Thanks!