For the end user company, the single most challenging aspect of managing a VoIP deployment is the issue of "change management" and technical support. The average VoIP deployment today is going to challenge both the system administrator and the technical service and support team. Today, not only is the technology moving faster than your staff can digest, it touches so many other aspects of your enterprise that is difficult to employ one person that can do it all. From computer networking, to virtualization, Microsoft server and desktop software, data center practices, to disaster and business continuity strategies, technical support has become a challenge for every company big or small.
Remember shopping for that new VoIP system? Did you seek out a partner that had the required technical depth, or where you shopping for the low cost equipment provider? It is post sale support where you find out just 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? Does your partner? Change and Configuration Management are as essential to the maintenance and ongoing technical support of your VoIP solution as project management was in the initial installation. What tools are in place to manage configuration interdependencies in your voip deployment, 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 sufficient memory, NIC cards, processors and storage capacity? Has it been virtualized? What version of hypervisor are you running and will your new ShoreTel version 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 DVM's? Are they all the same OS version or are some 32 bit and other 64? What about the application servers, like the recording server? What happens when the recording server cant be upgraded to the required new OS bit size to support the new ShoreTel version? How about that VPN server?
We haven't 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? Browser compatibility alone will drive a grown man to drink! Microsoft Office 2003, 2010, 2012? Outlook? Exchange Integration? Active Directory? Sales Force Connectors? Will the new version obsolete any hardware? Require 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 impact the deployment? Apple, Android, Wireless, Mobility?
The list of interdependencies is exhaustive and planning an upgrade requires careful consideration and planning. Not only do you need a clear statement of work, a detailed task list, but also a "fall 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 requires a great deal of planning and tracking.