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8 Things to Know About Migrating From PRI to SIP

8 Things to Know About Migrating From PRI to SIP

When computers were the new hot technology in businesses, those who were fast to adopt it surged ahead. Companies that were slow to shift away from their manual processes lagged behind.

For decades, PRI dominated the business phone scene, but times have changed. With SIP revolutionizing connectivity, the pressure to switch is mounting. Yet, the fear of disruption looms large, leaving many unsure about taking the leap. The question is, can you afford to stay behind?

In this post, we'll navigate the maze of PRI to SIP migration, offering insights and strategies to ensure a smooth transition. From crucial factors to consider to best practices for implementation, you'll emerge equipped to make the shift confidently, leaving doubts behind.

Migrating from PRI to SIP: Factors to Consider

With any change in service, there's risk involved. However, the weight of the reward is enough to tip the scales. Additionally, the ILECs are retiring their copper networks so you inevitably are going to have to move from PRI at some point.

And you're not alone. By the year 2018, an estimated 70% of businesses already made the switch to SIP.

However, if you are still considering the switch to SIP from PRI, here are a number of reasons you should consider migrating as soon as possible. 

1. SIP Interoperability

SIP interoperability is the main factor when deciding if your SIP deployment will be successful. If your SIP service and Private Branch Exchange (PBX) can't talk to each other, your going to have a lot of troubleshooting on your hands. It's also a problem if you switch carriers who don't communicate well with each other.

Because SIP is an Internet protocol, software matters far more than it did with PRI. Software allows you to customize your phone to meet specific needs, but since carriers have their own interpretation of SIP, programming won't always translate if you switch to a new provider.

Every company has their own interpretation of SIP, meaning they've setup their products to support how they interpret the protocol. Because of this, it's crucial to validate interoperability before switching carriers. At a minimum, ensure your phone can run the necessary tasks for day-to-day work.

While the lack of shared interpretations can be frustrating, there is hope for better interoperability. Every 18-24 months, the Session Initiation Protocol Interoperability Test (SIPit) holds a conference. This is a week-long event where vendors from around the world bring their implementations to ensure they work together. Although there's a lot of time between events, it still means there's progress in the arena. They've also created an Automated Self-Test that can be used to check your SIP implementations between events.

2. Updating Switches and Caller ID

Updating switches is a problem you have much less control over. When you change carriers and initiate SIP trunking services, your carrier needs to ensure that every phone company has updated your new information. Typically this done through clearinghouse services such as Neustar.

Every carrier has a switch. While your phone service provider has your correct information, if others don't update their switch database, calls will not get routed properly. For example, if a customer calls, but can't get through, it's likely because their carrier has yet to update your information.

Caller ID is in a similar situation. When switching carriers, details can be lost, affecting the way customers see your information. With firm regulations from the FCC on Caller ID, it's critical to keep your information as correct as possible. Local Number Portability means that you can keep your phone number as you switch carriers. Some carriers are better than others at keeping their phone number lookup databases from getting stale. 

To mitigate risk from both these issues, you need to actively manage your carrier's information on your company and ensure they're updating the proper channels so you can maintain contact outside your organization.

3. Hosted PBX Option

You'll likely have to upgrade to a different PBX as you switch to SIP. Using an on-premises PBX can be costly, and many companies are opting for a cloud-based PBX to meet their needs. Still, this may be more expensive than necessary for a company making the initial transition to SIP. Higher costs make finding a PBX-as-a-Service provider a better option.

Outsourcing to a cloud-based PBX service offers cost savings, scalability, less maintenance, and improved reliability. A reputable provider will have procedures in place to ensure a smooth transition from one carrier to another.

4. Owning the Network

When deciding whether to make the transition, it's important to know the extent and status of the network you'll be using.

First, ask your carrier if their network has only one path to the public switched telephone network or do they have planned resiliency and connect to multiple networks. If it's the latter, there's a good chance your service will be of higher quality than the single-path solution.

Additionally, find out if they integrate with any PBX system. Some networks will only operate with a certain PBX, limiting your options. 

Either way, finding a network that covers everywhere you need and works with your required services will give you more control and, ultimately, more flexibility.

5. SBC Required

A Session Border Controller (SBC) is a system that acts as a gateway for your dial tone, routing calls to their correct destination. Imagine it as a switchboard operator in the 1950s, plugging and pulling calls to ensure they reach the right person on the other end.

Using SIP requires an SBC to set up and tear down calls. As a bonus, an SBC serves as a firewall for your phone system. You can establish criteria that tell the SBC whether to permit or deny calls, such as international numbers.

If you've chosen to work with Atlantech, we'll provide the SBC so you don't need to worry about purchasing or managing your own. Having to own and manage your own SBC adds a significant layer of cost and complexity that you should try to avoid at all costs. 

6. Software Apps and Functionality

SIP enables seamless integration of business communication channels, treating phone service as data like email or file transfers. This allows for enhanced customer service and efficiency within the organization.

Any computer can turn into a phone with a simple headset and software, also known as a "softphone." This allows employees to call in from any computer with the software installed, allowing them to join conference calls or other meetings without needing their own VoIP phone. You can also instant message other people on the hosted PBX platform, and those instant messages can interact with other messaging platforms.

You can provide presence indicators to others in the office or even to the public. Publish your status, such as "in a meeting," or "away from desk," so people have an idea of why you're not answering.

Metrics and analytics improve business processes, while voice as a data application extends office communication beyond the local office walls. With softphones, communication is possible from any location, whether in the field, on-site, or during transit.

7. Rich Conference Calling

SIP enables a new level of conference calling. You're limited to less than 23 lines on the same call with PRI. Because SIP operates in a packet-switched fashion, you're liberated from depending on circuit switching.

High-quality video conferences with unlimited participants are cost-effective, ideal for large or remote organizations. Participants can join from a softphone or SIP-enabled IP phone, offering newfound flexibility.

8. 911 Access

Finally, you need to verify whether your provider can pass calls into the U.S. 911 infrastructure. If an emergency occurs, you need to make sure you call gets routed to the proper PSAP.

Because of E911 database issues, some calls may not connect to the right E911 operator. There's also a chance that although the call connects, the data required to dispatch the authorities is not sent. Making sure that how you make and where your E911 calls get routed is factor that you definitely need to account for when making the change from PRI to SIP.

How to Make the PRI to SIP Transition as Smooth as Possible

Transitioning your business phone system from PRI to SIP can seem daunting, but with careful planning and execution, it can be smooth. Here's a concise guide to help you navigate the process effectively:

  • Assessment and Planning: evaluate your current infrastructure and set clear migration objectives and timelines.
  • Choose the Right SIP Provider: select a reliable provider with experience in PRI to SIP migrations.
  • Network Readiness: ensure your network can support SIP traffic with sufficient bandwidth and QoS rules in place.
  • Migration Execution Plan: develop a detailed plan with tasks, responsibilities, and contingency measures.
  • Testing and Validation: thoroughly test and validate your SIP infrastructure for compatibility and functionality.
  • User Training: provide comprehensive training to end-users to facilitate adoption of the new system.
  • Monitoring and Optimization: establish ongoing monitoring processes to optimize performance and address issues.

With these steps, you can smoothly transition to SIP and reap its benefits for your business. Contact us for expert guidance on your migration journey.

Mitigating Security & Compliance Risks During a PRI to SIP Migration

When migrating from PRI to SIP, ensuring data security and compliance with regulations is paramount. Here's how to navigate these concerns effectively:

  1. Data Encryption: Implement encryption protocols to secure data over SIP channels, protecting against unauthorized access and eavesdropping.
  2. Firewall Configuration: set up strong firewalls to secure traffic between your network and the SIP provider, preventing unauthorized access and malicious attacks.
  3. Access Control Measures: implement strong access controls, including secure passwords, multi-factor authentication, and role-based privileges for SIP services and systems.
  4. Regular Security Audits: regularly audit SIP infrastructure for vulnerabilities and promptly address any issues to maintain security.
  5. Compliance with Regulations: adhere to HIPAA and other regulations when transitioning to SIP, ensuring compliance with data privacy and security requirements.
  6. Secure Call Routing: secure call routing prevents spoofing and fraud by verifying the legitimacy of calls through authentication techniques.
  7. Employee Training: train employees on SIP security best practices, including risks of unauthorized access and social engineering attacks.
  8. Vendor Security Assurance: choose SIP providers with strong security certifications and protocols in place.

When to Migrate from PRI to SIP

Use these factors to decide if it's worth migrating to SIP. Even if you don't find the benefits outweigh risks, there are ways to mitigate issues along every step to make it a more viable option for your business.

Before you make the official transition, alert any stakeholders that the change is taking place. They'll be more understanding of communication issues if they know you're facing challenges from the migration.

And if you need help understanding what questions you should care about when selecting a phone service, we've written a guide specifically for you. 10 Questions to Ask Before You Buy Phone Service for Your Business will spell out everything you need to ask and why it's essential.

Once you know what you should be buying, our Essential Guide to Phone System Pricing will help you understand how features and redundancy affect your overall price tag.

Tom Collins
Post by Tom Collins
May 23, 2024
Tom is the Director of Enterprise Sales & Marketing for Atlantech Online. He has over 20 years of professional experience in the Internet Service Provider industry and is known for translating technology into positive results for business. A native of Washington, DC, a graduate from University of Maryland (degrees in Government & Politics and Secondary Education), Tom is also a five-time Ironman finisher.