An IP communications system requires a robust network with sufficient bandwidth and Quality of Service to support voice communications. However, many organizations have legacy network equipment that lacks the reliability and predictable performance a modern communications infrastructure demands.

A recent study by Softchoice found that 95 percent of organizations are using network equipment that has passed its end-of-sale date, while 60 percent are using equipment that’s nearing end-of-life. End-of-sale refers to the date when the product is no longer manufactured and sold through approved channels. After reaching its end-of-sale date, a product is typically supported by the manufacturer for two to five years. After that time the product is considered end-of-life because the manufacturer no longer provides support, security updates or bug fixes.

Equipment that’s past its end-of-sale or end-of-life date may still work, but continuing to use it puts your business at risk. Older equipment is more likely to fail, making the network prone to outages. Furthermore, the cost to maintain legacy equipment goes up as time goes on, typing up budget dollars that could be used for other initiatives.

As noted above, older network technology may not be capable of meeting the performance requirements of IP communications and other business applications. As a result, it may put your company at a competitive disadvantage by inhibiting your ability to leverage the latest solutions and services.

End-of-sale and especially end-of-life equipment also comes with security and compliance concerns. Unsupported products that don’t receive critical security patches and updates are more susceptible to malware and other threats, and may not satisfy increasingly stringent regulatory requirements.

If your organization is using aging network equipment, it is important to develop an upgrade plan. Perform a risk assessment and prioritize equipment that is critical to day-to-day operations. What equipment failure would have the greatest impact on your organization? What equipment is closest to its end-of-life? Begin planning and budgeting to replace the most critical networking equipment first. Make sure your plan addresses current and future requirements for performance, security and scalability.

Of course, the best course of action is to implement a management strategy that helps ensure your network is kept up-to-date. Maintain a detailed inventory of your networking equipment, and monitor end-of-sale and end-of-life announcements from manufacturers. Use this information to develop a timeline for systematically replacing equipment.

Just keep in mind that the end of a product’s useful life may come before its official end-of-life. Technological innovation and changing business requirements may cause a product to become obsolete before it reaches its end-of-sale or end-of-life dates. It’s important to monitor new technologies and consider evolving business and customer needs rather than simply tracking dates on a calendar.

As a ShoreTel Gold Champion Partner, IPC has leading expertise in the ShoreTel Unified Communications platform and the network infrastructure required to support it. Let us help you assess your network and develop an action plan for upgrades that will maximize the value of your unified communications system.