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Is Your PBX At End-of-Life? What Do You Do Next?

If your enterprise PBX was installed more than 48 months ago, chances are that it is nearing end-of-life or is at end-of-life. Life cycles for VoIP-PBXs have shrunken. In the TDM world, an enterprise was able to keep a system between 10 and 15 years--that's no longer the case with the latest systems offered by the manufacturers out there.

If your PBX system (VoIP, TDM or hybrid) is reaching this older range, you have likely been looking to leverage Unified Communications & Collaboration (UCC) as a game-changing technology for your enterprise. You likely also have been looking to get approval for a replacement VoIP/UCC project and getting funding for such. And yet you have been stopped "at the gate" because there is no funding available for UCC, or the capital monies available have been put into some core infrastructure other than "mission critical communications."

Enterprises need to develop a roadmap for technology replacements, and many enterprise clients we have been engaged with for the last 30+ months have had a similar story--that is, funding for the project will not take place without some kind of a hard Return-On-Investment (the better the ROI, the better the chances of the project getting funding). In fact, without one, the projects have not been approved.

Systems at End-of-Life and Risks
We have been able to identify systems at end-of-life, and to get funding for project approvals. The risks associated with end-of-life are greater than you think--they include:

* Manufacturer Systems at End-of-Life--Many systems have been announced as end-of-life, and include both legacy TDM systems as well as VoIP systems. They include the following:


Note that the above list includes both legacy TDM and VoIP systems alike. It is also important to note that every manufacturer needs to show a profit, and supporting multiple systems and multiple releases can get cost-prohibitive for any manufacturer.

* Systems Must Be Currently Supported--Systems need to be "currently supported" (in the terminology) in order for the enterprise to receive proper support for maintenance contracts and engineering support at the manufacturer and VAR levels. This equates to risk in the case of the enterprise user's system(s) that is not "currently supported".

* Cost To Upgrade--In many cases, to get systems that are "currently supported" by the manufacturers and VARs requires a major investment in an upgrade, and we have encountered costs close to that of a replacement system when considering the immediate fix plus dealing with additional equipment that's scheduled to go end-of-life within the next 18-24 months.

* Spare Parts Availability--For manufacturer end-of-life systems, spare parts--including any hardware from gateways, servers, hard drives, circuit cards, and endpoints--become increasingly difficult to find and replace.

* Capacity Issues with Current Systems and Associated Costs--Systems that are near/at capacity are difficult, at best, to add capacity for additional gateways, software licensing, or trunk/station cards without major investments. Some capacity increases cost up to 40% of what it would cost to replace the existing system with a new one.

* Consumer-Driven Requirements – Consumer-driven technologies--such as Apple's FaceTime (video), SMS texting (IM/chat), and Facebook's friends list (presence)--are driving a need for newer technologies.

* No Investment by Telecom Manufacturers in Traditional TDM Voice--TDM is dead, really dead at this juncture. No manufacturer has had any engineering and development resources in TDM "digital" development for close to 60 months, depending on the manufacturer. Updates are no longer available for upgrades, bug fixes, and patches of older systems. Sure these systems still work, but will the manufacturer support the legacy software in the event of an outage? The answer is simple, yet compelling: No.

* Fewer Trained Resources--Fewer and fewer technicians have the knowledge and skill sets to support older, mature systems--over time, such expertise wanes considerably. Technical/engineering resources available from the manufacturer erode over time as well.

* System Age--The age of the systems can be a clear indication of the deterioration of support for parts and technicians. I stated earlier a figure of 48+ months. Some extended support contracts allow for more time, and some of them can get pricey, in some instances nearly doubling the cost of the maintenance contract annually. Also, enterprise customers will receive manufacturer notices that all parts supplied are refurbished, manufacturer discontinued, and are thus no longer supported. Parts unavailability over time becomes critical.

* Risk of a Multi-Day Outage Increases--Based on the age of the systems and increasing number of outages and issues over time, the state of the systems in place poses greater risk to basic communications services. An outage, in some cases, can last several days. So the key questions are: Can your enterprise function "as usual" without a PBX Telephony system for several days? What risk(s) would this pose to the safety of the staff and community you serve at large? Would your job be on the line?

* Good Money After Bad--Newer systems added onto older systems to solve capacity issues creates a more complex environment to manage. Also, the cost could have been invested toward a new system. If money is spent to add onto an older system instead, the result in most cases is a less-than-wise spend.

Next page: ROI

The ROI Areas Can Be Significant
There are numerous ROI areas we leverage that take a client's project from "standing still" to approval. Here is a partial list:

* SIP trunking
* Lower maintenance contracts
* Lower move-and-change costs
* Audio and Web conferencing
* WAN optimization
* Real Estate optimization
* Contact Center optimization
* Reduced legacy tie lines and Off-Premises Extensions
* Eliminate pagers
* PCI compliance for credit card machines
* Revenue loss in Contact Centers

ROI is a critical component in the process, as it can be the driving force toward overall project approval. We have been involved with several clients in the last 24 months that absolutely required a hard ROI attached to the prospective UCC project, and without such, never got approval. Those that made it past the "starting gate" provided management with some level of hard dollar savings, period. A multimillion dollar UCC project requires executive management approval, and a strong financial ROI will result in project approval for the organization.

In one client's case, we were advised that the CFO would not approve a UCC project for an aging TDM infrastructure unless there was an ROI to pay for the entire project. ROI, of course, includes hard and soft dollar values; however, in our experience soft dollar is a much more difficult sell.

Why You Should Attend Enterprise Connect's Session
If all of this sounds like your challenge, then an upcoming Enterprise Connect session, "Your PBX is at End-of-Life: What Do You Do Next?" is for you.

This session will:

* Identify those systems at end-of-life (as presented in this post)
* Establish an end-of-life timeline and how much time you really have available based on the age of your system
* Risk if you don't do anything
* Learn why a system upgrade alone or extended support agreement are not necessarily the best choice
* Enact a process of discovery, assessment, and procurement to determine which new technologies are most appropriate and make the most sense for your enterprise
* Discover how to create the business case for a system replacement
* Identify ROI areas that will help drive your project approval and more than pay for your new VoIP/UCC investment quickly

I will share with you examples of areas to target, and how you can leverage these for a compelling ROI and project approval.

This is a strategic session. If your system is any one of those manufacturers and systems listed in the table presented earlier, then this session is for you. You will not only take away the "why" for a system replacement, but an overall process for "how," including a step-by-step methodology and a compelling ROI for getting your project approved. And with such an approval, you will get a leading edge UCC platform that you, as an IT leader, will be able to leverage to facilitate moving your enterprise forward technically and strategically.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Steve Leaden is founder and President of Leaden Associates, Inc., an independent Communications and IT consulting firm providing specialized support to enterprises in VoIP, Unified Communications, Contact Centers, converged networks, and Cloud-based architectures.

Steve is Past President of The Society of Communications and Technology Consultants (SCTC), a national association that requires ethics and objectivity as a prerequisite for membership. Steve is also a contributor to, a regular speaker at Enterprise Connect, and writer and podcast contributor as one of the experts.

Steve is Past President of The Society of Communications and Technology Consultants (SCTC), a national association that requires ethics and objectivity as a prerequisite for membership. Steve is also a contributor to, a regular speaker at Enterprise Connect, and writer and podcast contributor as one of the experts.

There's still time to register and join Stephen Leaden at Enterprise Connect Orlando 2014!