How much are those upgrades?

Sometimes the most painful exercises are the most valuable.

I spent an hour or so yesterday in a meeting, going over every line of expense in my new phone upgrade plan. It was grueling. It was also enlightening. Know what I found out? I need to pay more attention to the “small stuff”.

If you’re at all like me, when you plan upgrades, you probably have a mental picture of what’s involved. You say “I know X needs upgraded, and when we change X, Y is going to need to change, too”. So you calculate the requirements for changing Y, add them to the requirements for X, and sum the results. Of course, lots of time, changing Y requires alterations to Z. When does it stop?

When it’s done.

Sad but true. I had mentally done the requirement scavenger hunt, but my problem was that I stopped too early. I didn’t investigate all of the possible leads, and I didn’t chase it down to the finish. What did that nearly cost me? A few weeks and a few thousand dollars. It turns out that upgrading VoIP phones doesn’t just require upgrading bandwidth. Or upgrading the phone system. Or buying phones. Or buying PoE switches. Which is sad, because that’s sort of the end of the line for my train of thought. I thought I was being thorough. But no. As it turns out, those PoE switches have to connect to the VoIP phones somehow. Using cables typically, so I hear.

As it turns out, we currently have ethernet lines for computers in that office. Not phones and computers, just computers. There are phones that contain a “hub” port on the back, that you can use to connect to the computer, so that you only need one port, but the wiring in that office is in a state of disrepair beyond the scope of this entry. It deserves it’s own entry, which will come at some point in the future.

In any event, new cable runs are needed, and sadly, they don’t grow on trees. Honestly, I can’t believe I neglected this until now. And I wouldn’t even have thought about it now, unless someone prompted me with the line “I don’t care how small the expenditure is, I want to know about it. I don’t care if you have to order cables for the phones, I want the price included”. Oops.

But this is how we learn, and making mistakes is a part of that process. Don’t hide your mistakes, or lie to yourself that they didn’t happen. You can’t improve that way. Accept them, find the reason you made that mistake, and fix it.

  • chewyfruitloop


  • Brian

    I personally don’t believe VoIP phone systems are the logical choose in most situations. They do have benefits if you have remote offices. You discussed the cabling costs…. have you looked at the cost of VoIP phone handsets?!? By not going VoIP you could pay for all the cabling. The average cost of a VoIP handset is 2 or 3 times the cost of a digital phone!

    I looked into moving our phone system to VoIP when our company moved…. to say the money went into our new server room (which if memory servers me right your server room has issues too), not hundreds of phones sitting on users desks.

    My suggestion would be to go with a modular phone system… for example a Toshiba phone system. This way you can get the best of both worlds….

  • Justin

    If you are having to upgrade your network cabling to support VoIP, then you needed to do that anyway. You only need Cat5e to support VoIP and that has been available for a very long time.

    I just recently completed a year long project of moving my company to a Cisco VoIP. It included re-cabling one office from Cat4 to Cat5e. Cost about $20k and took a weekend for 100 drops. It would have cost an additional $10k to go to Cat6.

    The average cost of a VoIP handset it quite different than the cost of an average VoIP handset. There are some very amazing handsets out there. And there are more than sufficient handsets in the $300 range.

    My deployment included 3 offices in different states, included a full replacement of all network gear, switches, routers, firewalls, and about 100 phones. It cost about $150k total including professional services.

  • @chewy
    I agree.

    I think it depends on the situation. In our case, we’re not trashing our existing phone system. We’re getting a voice compression module for it that allows it to keep the existing digital (but non-IP) handsets, and adds the ability to use VoIP handsets. And since it’s an antique Avaya, we can get IP handsets for less than $100. Aside from the $2000 voice compression module, the only /really/ expensive upgrade will be the bandwidth, which we need anyway.

    Switching away from having a dozen POTS lines in our other office will cut down on the phone bill after we get our new carrier here. I think it’s going to be a net win.

  • @Justin

    Nice, thanks for breaking down the costs like that. I’m only doing one office, and I’m hoping to only run 25-50 cables, and hopefully in a small space.

    We’ve got a small office in Manhattan that’s a refurbished flat turned into an office, and the wiring is horrible. I’m going to avoid the existing wiring as much as possible.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • Ian

    I’ve been snapped back a couple times over the years involving something I didn’t think would be an issue and turned out to be show stoppers. Thankfully, I’ve been able to get past these issues. It’s nice to have someone to talk to regarding these projects, especially someone who might look at things from a managerial perspective. That’s not to say you(or anyone else) can’t look at things from that perspective, but when you’re the “technical person”, it’s sometimes hard to play both roles since the mindsets can be very different.

    Regardless, it’s disconcerting when you wonder how you missed something so obvious though. We all do it.

  • Heh…when discussing plans for our new server room at $WORK, I completely neglected the cabling between the twelve racks. I had it all planned out, it just never made it into the spec. I only realized this when the subcontractor pointed out that, really, he could get away with just running 8 patch cables to each rack…no termination,no testing, no patch panel, nothing.

    Same experience you had: how the hell did I miss that?

  • @Ian

    Thanks, yeah, we all do. It’s just frustrating :-)


    Exactly. “So where’d you get those bonded gigabit wireless ethernet cards?”