Business telephone systems are typically vital to the pulse of any company. Businesses must go through the process of purchasing and transitioning from one telephone system to another on average between 5 and 7 years. Whether a company is upgrading their old digital system, installing a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) enabled system or implementing a Hosted PBX or Virtual PBX from Hosted VoIP Providers, the transition is usually painful. This does not have to be the case, though. Here are some steps that will reduce the disruption in changing telephone systems:1. Do Not Wait Till the Last Minute to Make a Decision on the Phone System. Telephone system vendors will agree to almost any installation time frame in order to make a sale. However, the less time they are given, the sloppier the installation will be. Planning a proper installation takes time that is not always under the control of the vendor or Hosted VoIP provider. Small systems need a minimum of 3 weeks for preparation. Larger systems require more time and some may require several months. If telephone service is being switched from one carrier to another, then time for porting telephone numbers should be factored into the equation. Carriers should be able to estimate the time that it takes to port which can be as much as 60 days.2. Identify All Telephone Lines and What They Do. This should have been done before the decision was made on the phone system. If it has not been done, do it immediately. Use phone bills or call the Local Exchange Carrier (LEC) to identify the lines and numbers. If there is still some uncertainty around specific lines and circuits, call them. Eliminate any that are not being used and make sure the new system or Hosted PBX service accommodates all that are needed.3. Know the Installation Schedule of New Telephone Circuits. Will the new circuits be ready in time for installation of the new telephone system? Each type of telephone circuit requires different hardware components inside the telephone system. If there is a chance that the new circuits will not be ready, then discuss with the new telephone system vendor how the old circuits will be handled with the new system.4. Have All Individual and Departmental Needs Been Met? Hopefully the new telephone system vendor helped review all individual and departmental needs to make sure the new telephone system or Hosted PBX service could handle them. Review each department to ensure their needs are known. Organize how individuals and departments will use each phone system or Virtual PBX feature.5. Know who will get each type of phone. If different models of phones were purchased, decide ahead of the installation who within the company will get each type of phone. Make sure that phone will handle the features used by each individual or department.6. Make Sure the Network is Ready for VoIP Telephones. If the new phone system includes VoIP telephones with an IP enabled telephone system or a Hosted PBX service from a Hosted VoIP provider, check the data network to make sure it is ready to handle the VoIP traffic. Does data cabling exist to all phone locations? Do remote VoIP users outside of the office have access to broadband Internet? How will the remote VoIP user’s phones connect back to the IP enabled telephone system? Will it be exposed to the Internet? Connected via private network, VPN or Session border controller? Does your telephone vendor know this answer?7. Have an Implementation Meeting with the Vendor’s Project Manager. The implementation meeting will make sure that everyone is on the same page. Dates should be set for installation during the meeting. Know how long the transition will take place. Will it take place during the business day, after hours or on the weekend? How will calls get answered during the transition? In addition, the answers to steps 2 through 6 should be discussed.Telephone system transitions can be exciting and painful at the same time. Although following these 7 steps will not guarantee a perfect installation, it will reduce the odds of nasty surprises.