How to Simplify the Transition to IP-Based Unified Communications

By Ed Basart  |  Posted 2010-08-29 Print this article Print

Legacy phone systems are no longer cutting it, especially as more people work remotely and require mobile capabilities to collaborate effectively. As a result, an increasing number of enterprises are transitioning toward IP-based unified communications. But if the network migration isn't managed properly, unified communications can overwhelm networks and affect application performance. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Ed Basart explains how to transition to IP-based unified communications without overtaxing your IT department or budget.

Legacy phone systems are no longer offering the modern capabilities that drive business value, especially as more people are working remotely and requiring mobile features to collaborate and be productive. On top of that, IT teams are short on staff and budget. Add increasing layers of IT complexity and network needs to the problem and it's easy to see why IT managers are encountering major headaches such as decreasing productivity and rising costs.

Consequently, we're seeing a steady transition toward IP-based unified communications (UC) systems that offer advanced UC features designed for a rich, collaborative experience. But while UC can enhance business processes, it also can overwhelm networks, affect application performance, and require new policies and planning if the network migration isn't managed properly.

So, what can organizations do to untangle the complexities of transitioning to IP-based unified communications systems without overtaxing their IT departments or their budgets? The following are five tips for eliminating communication complexity. These tips cover the critical criteria that businesses must consider when changing their communications systems to IP-based unified communications systems.

Tip No. 1: Adopt a "metaphorical aspic" strategy

Legacy time-division multiplexing (TDM) systems are costly and difficult to maintain. It may appear safer to migrate by gradually upgrading the legacy system, but many have discovered that it is usually more costly (and certainly more complicated) than deploying new systems. The best approach is to seal off the old systems in "metaphorical aspic" and no longer invest in them.

Legacy systems can be connected using trunks to the new UC system, and off-system extensions unify the dialing plan. Another step is to decommission the legacy voice mail system and connect to the UC system. The successful manager then proceeds to pour "metaphorical aspic" on his legacy collection of TDM systems, preserving them in their natural state and then bridging them to the IP-based UC system. They can then be retired at will, either individually or in groups.

Ed Basart Ed Basart is Chief Technology Officer at ShoreTel. Ed cofounded ShoreTel in 1996. Ed is responsible for the long-range direction of ShoreTel's product R&D. In addition to ShoreTel, Ed also cofounded two other prominent companies, Network Computing Devices and Ridge Computers. At Network Computing Devices, Ed was vice president of engineering. At Ridge Computers, Ed served as vice president of software. Ed began his career as a software engineer at Hewlett-Packard. Ed holds a Bachelor's degree from Iowa State University and a Master's degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. He can be reached at

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