So, you currently use cloud-based conferencing or a few Unified Communications applications and, based on your organization’s strategic business drivers, have prioritized more applications to move to a hosted model. Although your company has invested in conventional telephony until now, you are nonetheless pursuing the long-term, cost-saving objective of consolidating applications and migrating your enterprise voice services to the cloud.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Research indicates that telephony-enabled UCaaS is the fastest-growing segment in the portfolio of hosted UC applications.
New telephony for a new era
A combination of factors is driving this growing demand for telephony-led hosted UC: 1) On-premise PBX and PSTN technology is expensive and cumbersome, and outdated systems are only replaced every half-decade or more. As these infrastructures age and contracts come up for renewal, companies are scrutinizing the various other, scalable, more affordable voice options on the market today, 2) Cloud technology is not what it used to be as few as five years ago. Networks have reached such maturity that it is possible to transfer audio to the internet while maintaining quality and security, and limiting the cost and complexity of keeping your solution constantly up to date.
Premise-based vs. hosted telephony: what’s the difference?
From a functional perspective, a cloud telephony solution offers access to the same features as an on-prem version (internal and external call routing, individual telephone numbers, response group and IVR, 800 numbers, call center support, etc…) Leading UCaaS solutions like Microsoft Lync have the ability to effectively replace traditional PBXs – and reduce companies’ reliance on system integrators and telcos – without scaling back on calling or communication features.
While on-premise deployments offer clients complete control over their infrastructure, they also require enormous CAPEX upfront as well as ongoing internal expertise and maintenance resources. In addition to cost, another drawback to premise-based PBX is a lack of scalability, even for very large enterprises. When building an on-premise infrastructure dedicated to only you, there is generally an unused gap to accommodate eventual new users; whereas with cloud deployments, you only pay for what you use at any given time. This is true for hosted telephony as well. Seats – or in the case of hosted UC, user accounts and telephone numbers – can be added and subtracted as needed for maximum flexibility.
To go a step beyond simple calling, an integrated UCaaS solution provides next generation telephony capabilities that bring enterprise communication to the next level. For example, when an employee receives a call, her desk phone, mobile phone, and computer can simultaneously ring. The caller no longer needs to decide between where and how to reach a respondent; it is now the respondent who decides how to answer a call based on whichever device happens to be the handiest. If unavailable, unified messaging ensures that the employee receives both a voicemail and an email link to listen to the voicemail, in addition to a written transcript of the voicemail.
With any cloud migration, an “all at once” approach is rare for a variety of reasons, including the need to maximize hefty investment in legacy systems. PBX infrastructure is pricey and service agreements are lengthy. If you’ve just renewed your contract, you may not be in a position to trade out your existing premises-based telephony system. In this case, a variety of co-existence or hybrid models can help you move incrementally to the cloud, making use of existing premise-based infrastructure as well as new services on a provider’s cloud platform.
Finding a solid partner
Telephony is universally considered mission critical to all businesses – meaning that any latency issues and lapses in quality – regardless of how small – are intolerable. This fact may be giving you pause. But fortunately, as with all cloud-based solutions, the platform on which your application is hosted and the network you use to reach it make all the difference. When it comes to the cloud , SLAs become that much more essential, making it vital to pursue a hosted IP telephony solution with a provider that boasts a Grade A platform and is experienced in the dedicated management of such technology.
It is wise to look for globally-equipped collaboration service providers that have built up their cloud telephony out of a long experience hosting real-time collaboration and communication services. These players already have global voice routing networks and infrastructure, and consider telephony an expansion of their existing product line and expertise.
When considering hosted PBX/UC, examine both your business drivers and the Service Providers that can fulfill your requirements:
Common business drivers:
Aging PBX/reducing maintenance costs
Strategic decision to move more applications to the cloud
Shifting IT roles from implementation to coordination of providers
Convergence of IT teams: application, desktop, telecom/telephony
Selecting a PBX/UC provider:
Cloud platform capabilities/security
Delivery methods/hosting options
Ability to integrate/leverage your existing IT environment
User adoption services
Ongoing day-to-day service and support
Solid market position/customer base
Whether a forthcoming replacement of a PBX or a more strategic method of improving your telecommunications cost structure, hosted enterprise telephony is part of a bigger picture (UCaaS) that can play a transformative role in how a workforce communicates and collaborates, effectively consolidating all communications applications into a single, fluid user experience.
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