Category Archives: voip phone system chicago

Down phones

What does downtime cost and how to avoid it

 

I love to read. One of my favorite authors is Malcom Gladwell who is renowned for explaining human nature and why we behave the way we do and why we make decisions. However, when it comes to phone services, it seems as if so many people make decisions based on a few narrow factors. Price, the charm of the salesperson and the inertia of staying with a current provider seem to be the qualities most common to business clients staying with a poor performing hosted voice provider. I read their horror stories – when the primary motive was saving money or they did a “plug and play” install – which turned out to be “plug and pray“.

In order to find out what is happening in real time to those people that make poor decisions, I went to www.downdetector.com. It is an interesting website where you can see outages from a variety of providers in real time. You can see maps of where outages are occurring and you can also read comments from people posting throughout the outages. It was astounding to see the comments and the shear misery of the downed businesses.

How much does misery cost? A simple method to calculate the cost of an outage is: what is the amount of fixed monthly expense you have per hour for the people that are most affected by the outage and cannot do their job. For example, if I have a call center taking inbound sales calls with seven agents and I am paying the agents each $12.00 per hour, my fixed direct cost is $84. An outage of 4 hours costs me $ 84 x 4= $336.  That is the lowest estimate of what that four hour outage cost – speak to your accountant on how your indirect costs will increase your cost (for most businesses) to almost double that amount. If I factor in the cost of lost business- people that were trying to reach me during those four down hours, my costs are further increased due to the lost revenue.

If I look at the heat map of the outages on downdetector.com, I see that I live in a sea of red for my Internet service provider- the worst place to be. How can I mitigate the costs of an outage? As my father has taught me, the best way out of a critical situation is never to be in one.

Technology is supposed to help us. Right? Well, that is why we have the latest and greatest development called SD WAN (software defined wide area network). The best way to make sure that your provider doesn’t go down is to make sure that you have multiple providers and multiple ways of reaching the Internet. That is the rationale behind SD-WAN. Basically, it means that you have a device on your premise that enables you to plug in multiple connections to the Internet into one device to make one big connection to the Internet. When service is not down due to an outage, you are able to aggregate your services. When service on one of the component connections is down, the SD WAN provider routes all of your traffic to the other connections. So if I have a cable modem, a fiber connection and a wireless LTE connection, the probability of all of them going down simultaneously is virtually null. If I couple that with a hosted service that is housed in a Level III data center and a portal that allows me to route incoming calls to other devices or locations, I have eliminated the chance of an outage.

If you look at 99% reliability, that means approximately 20 hours of down time a year. Even 99.9 % reliability can cost 2 hours of downtime. You can’t choose when that downtime is going to happen. It can happen at a low impact time – or it can happen at the worst possible moment.

Lessons Learned:

  • Go onto downdetector.com and see if there are lots of outages with your provider
  • If you want to avoid the risk of downtime, diversify your bandwidth
  • Make sure that your cloud phone provider is housed in the best possible data center
  • Make sure your cloud phone provider is completely virtualized with redundancy.
  • Make sure that you have access to a portal and know how to re-route your calls immediately.
  • Make sure that you use SD WAN as part of your total solution.

Predeployment Network Assessment

So Your Company Wants to Adopt VoIP… How Do You Know If Your Network Is Ready to Make the Transition?

While the cost savings and new applications of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) are rapidly attracting many small to mid-sized companies to this popular communication solution, it may come with a significant price to your network.  Not only must your network carry more traffic, but VoIP traffic demands very high performance and is more sensitive to normal network problems like delays and choppy communication.  Even modest levels of impairment, unnoticed by users of most data applications, will cause significant caller frustration and will not sit well with your customers, business partners, or even your own employees.

Before investing in a large-scale VoIP deployment or even in a small trial, you need to know how well your network infrastructure will handle the additional, quality-sensitive voice traffic.  Many seemingly well-planned trials encounter delay after delay, exceed cost estimates, and are eventually cancelled when the network proves unable to meet the unique requirements VoIP places on it.  However, these business issues can easily be avoided if your telecommunications provider properly assesses your network ahead of time to truly understand the scope and type of work required to ensure a successful transition to VoIP.

Gartner reports that 85% of networks are not ready for VoIP.  What’s even more shocking is that 75% of companies that do not perform a pre-implementation analysis of their network infrastructure will not realize a successful implementation.  These are astonishing statistics because without conducting a network assessment with a quality assessment tool, the potential for wasting time and money is extremely high.  In order to increase the likelihood of a successful VoIP implementation, an evaluation of the network must be properly executed and should include the following four steps.

  1. Pre-Deployment Assessment

The pre-deployment assessment step analyzes the current capabilities of the network, evaluates its ability to support VoIP, identifies potential problems, and determines the requirements needed to handle expected call traffic.  It is strongly recommended that the pre-deployment test is conducted prior to the purchase or installation of any VoIP equipment.  The analysis should include such items as bandwidth, utilization, jitter, throughput and latency.

  1. Post-Deployment Assessment

The purpose of the post-deployment assessment is to gain a complete understanding of VoIP quality and network efficiencies prior to turning it on.  This step determines the level of success and prevents issues with call quality or dropped calls.  Whenever new equipment is introduced to a network the chance for unexpected issues rises; therefore, it is critical that post-deployment assessment is not overlooked.  This assessment should be immediately performed so any changes can be made in a timely manner.

  1. Regular Maintenance Assessment

As you’re probably aware, your network is dynamic and constantly evolves.  New devices such as IP phones, laptops, switches, and routers are added or removed.  Whether it’s a minor change or a major one it will impact your network.  Therefore, it is important to re-evaluate your network regularly to identify any faults so they can be corrected as soon as possible.  Conducting ongoing assessments will help your organization increase quality, optimize system infrastructure, and reduce costs.

  1. Break/Fix Strategy

Unfortunately, unforeseen things may happen to a network that’s not readily identified by your IT department.  The situation may be brought to your company’s attention by a customer, an employee or business partner.  The Yankee Group has reported that some companies’ labor costs grew 30 to 40 percent with VoIP because of dealing with network problems.  Having a network assessment tool in place enables one to take action quickly, diagnose the problem, and resolve it, while minimizing its impact to the system as a whole.

Essentially, these four key steps have illustrated the primary objective and the many benefits of conducting network assessments.  Whether your company is about to take the plunge into VoIP or has already gone down that path, it is critical to deploy a tool that can accurately analyze your network.  Surprisingly, most companies overlook this integral component of the VoIP implementation process and the research clearly shows its negative impact.

As you tap into this relatively new communication solution that’s changing how business gets done, make sure you ask yourself this question.  What is my telecommunications provider doing to create a network environment that enables my company to take full advantage of VoIP? If network assessment is not included in the response then something is definitely wrong.


Chicago hosted phones

5 Tips to help you choose the right hosted provider!

My colleague Harry Bhattia wrote this article. I was really impressed – so impressed that I couldn’t say it better myself.

In the recent times, VoIP service providers have crowded the market and made it difficult for businesses to choose the one that would actually do what they commit to. You may have made the toughest of your decisions while moving to VoIP services from the traditional phone set up and you would definitely not expect your business to face down times due to a poor telephone network.

Promoting managed IT services that save money and provide greater functionality, is like marketing of any other service, which means that the providers must take into consideration the time-honored factors of price, promotion & distribution. With all the sophistication in their pitching styles, it is possible for you to get trapped in a non-rewarding deal. So, we have stated a few points that to help you select a reliable VoIP service provider in Chicago.

Ask to explain things & talk out of the acronyms – The telephone technology is full of acronyms. They may be comfortable using terms like VoIP and PBX but you, as they may overwhelm a customer /the SMB owner. In a confused state, you may not even understand what they are trying to explain and consequently you may miss important details of the technology you will be using thereafter.

Demand a complete solution – Do not forget that you are on the demanding side. Understand the details of how the VoIP services offered by the provider will influence their businesses. Look at what’s unique in his offerings. Also, study their previous works and customer feedback so that you get a brief about past experiences of businesses like you with the service provider.

Plan & implement wisely – Ask the provider to spend a weekend at your business set up (pre-installation planning) to understand how the present system works and where is the need to rebuild things. A good installation plan will make the configuration easy for you. It really makes a difference.

Safety must be the first commitment – A recent study revealed that about 40% of the VoIP users did not have specific plans to secure their VoIP deployments. The end-points of your VoIP systems are vulnerable to attacks right from their operating systems to internet protocols and management interfaces of VoIP phones. It sounds scary; it also means that there is a lucrative chance for those who sell VoIP security services. Check if your VoIP provider includes a security plan in his package to cut down on the cost of hiring another provider selling security services.

Training as a part of service – Plug n play does not imply installing software and leaving the rest. The automation also requires users to be trained to know how the new software will help them reduce efforts. It is a bad idea to leave users baffled on a completely new set up of devices. Ensure that your VoIP provider will train you on using the VoIP systems.

Well, if you are convinced that these tips will help you build a better VoIP network that never fails, you may consider another advice from us. Call us – we talk in plain English (without jargon and we define every three letter acronym we use!).

Learn More!


Call History

What Your Call History Can Tell You About Your Business

 

In business, your call history can really tell you a great deal. Having insight into your entire company’s communications can be beneficial to improving various areas of your operations.

As managers, reviewing call activity gives visibility into employee performance, customer needs and issues, as well as your sales and marketing efforts.

But, who has time to review call activity the old-fashioned way?

Thankfully, with modern UC technology and state-of-the-art online portals, the ability to view and analyze critical call data is simple.

Viewing call history as a whole doesn’t provide much insight. However, when inbound and outbound call data can be broken down and evaluated by departments, individual employees, phone numbers and even extensions, a great can deal can be learned.

Using a built in Call History component is a good example of how built-in business intelligence tools can make the reporting of this critical data work for your business’ needs.

For instance, running reports for the longest and most frequent calls your customer service department makes and receives can provide perspective as to which customers require the most assistance and whether or not you may need to monitor or intervene in order to keep an important account. It also gives you a better idea of your personnel needs throughout the day and individual employee workloads, which can help to improve staffing efficiency.

For sales departments, outbound calling is critical to sales results. So, having the ability to view all the outbound calls by day, week, month, employee or region provides you with a valuable performance evaluation tool and a concrete way to improve productivity.

Inbound call reporting for specific phone numbers is a great way to track marketing campaign activity. When designating a specific phone number for a new campaign, you can instantly see the results based on the amount of call activity.

Customizable call reporting is also a crucial component; every organization has different needs, so having the ability to create customized reports will enable you to get to a more granular level in your analysis.

As you can see, diving deeper into your call analytics can really help to improve employee performance, sales, marketing and customer service throughout your organization. So, be sure to take advantage of the important call data that is already available to you. And, if you are not using a system that provides you with the advanced technology and reporting you need, check into our award-winning unified communications solutions.


Presence management

Presence Management: The Greatest Form of Communication

Want to increase communications and productivity between employees and customers?  Then, presence management is the way to go.  This wonderful technology gives all individuals within a company the ability to know what everyone is else is doing in real-time.  Is someone in the building or even at their desk? Are they in a meeting? Are they on the phone? By having this information one can determine if and in what manner to connect with another person.  That’s essentially the purpose of presence management and it’s enhancing the way we communicate. Having this information presents one with an array of communication options that’s dramatically driving up productivity for those companies – both large and small deploying presence management.

Unified presence management is driven off of a company’s voice and data system and empowers people to control every facet of their communications.  It includes and functions off of all devices such as computers, cell phones, Voice over IP (VoIP), and personal communications services.  As soon as someone logs onto their computer a pop up window appears containing the names of fellow employees and their current activity as well as their location.  Essentially, the technology lets you see the presence status of others, send emails and voicemails, receive faxes, control all your phone calls via desktop phones or a softphone, send secure Instant Messages and voice messages, launch a collaborative web conference session – all with a single mouse click.  Users may also put notes into presence for everyone to see.  For example, a note may have the time when an employee will be back in the office from lunch or say an off-site meeting.  Another user may make everyone aware that they may be working from home that day.  Knowing everyone’s availability offers greater options to rapidly assist with everyday business issues.

The power of presence is absolutely incredible.  For instance, a customer may contact your facility with a question and the individual that answered the phone may not have the necessary information to respond appropriately.  Immediately, the employee can view presence and see who is available to assist the customer.  They may send a question via an instant message or put the caller on hold, contact their colleague to gather the information or directly transfer the call while giving the colleague a heads up.  The flexibility of presence is tremendous and one can assume that it is easily driving customer satisfaction levels through the roof.  A basic phone system cannot operate in this fashion and unfortunately those that utilize traditional telephony are missing the boat.

Included in presence are such features as find me follow me.  This unique technology gives people the ability to reach a specific individual anytime, anywhere based on the implementation of a few easy to set rules in the system.  A can call come in and the caller has the option of finding the person on their cell phone or at another predetermined location.  The user may also have all calls set to directly transfer to the cell as well.  Another relatively new feature is twinning – a setting that rings both the desk and mobile phone simultaneously.  Reaching the person you want to, has never been this easy.

Time is more important than ever in today’s business environment.  Presence management saves an incredible amount of time because of the technology’s innate ability to drive efficiency and productivity.  Every business owner realizes the positive impact that even a minimal amount of improvement in this area can have on an organization’s bottom line, not to mention the empowerment an employee has to make better-informed communication decisions that in the end drives satisfaction in the workplace.  Presence management is a true win for everybody!


Unified Communications Chicago

5 Reasons Every Business Needs a Unified Communications (UC) Solution

No matter what type of business or size business you have, the one aspect that you cannot afford to neglect is the communications you have with your customers. Businesses today are reaping the benefits of adopting one reliable solution for all of their communication needs thanks to the evolution of cloud-based unified communications (UC) solutions.

Here are 5 reasons why every business today needs a quality unified communications solution in place.

1. Cost
If you think about all of the individual services, equipment and staffing your business requires to communicate with your customers, you will be shocked at your monthly expenses. Communications, no doubt should be an investment, but one that is affordable. Quality and affordability are often both difficult to achieve, but thanks to modern cloud-based unified communications solutions, both are now obtainable. Every business should be looking to adopt a full service, subscription-based UC solution, one where everything is included. When we say everything, we mean it. The best UC solutions will include your phones, advanced calling features like auto attendants, unlimited calling, online faxing, video conferencing, toll-free and the latest mobile apps and tools, all for no capital expense. When you think about the value of this and what you can eliminate, for example, your fax machine costs and maintenance, modernizing and unifying your communications into one cost-effective solution is a no-brainer.

2. Disaster avoidance
When you think of disasters in business, you immediately think of revenue lost and unanticipated costs. Disasters can range from man-made interruptions to natural disasters like hurricanes and blizzards that can affect your business for days on end. With a cloud-based unified communications solution, disasters are no longer a concern. Communications can remain intact because all of your features and services are managed and accessed through a secure, online portal from any device. This means, that you can forward your calls to any number and voicemails can be retrieved from anywhere you are. Features like auto attendants, can also be used to inform customers of office closures. So, while your physical place of business may need to close, your communications with your customers will never be down.

3. Mobility
One of the greatest benefits of a cloud-based unified communications solution is the mobility and flexibility they provide. The world has become forever mobilized and so should your business. You no longer need to be chained to your place of business waiting for calls, or be worried about giving out your personal cell phone number. Cloud-based UC solutions offer the mobility to get calls on any device, through features like mobile twinning, where your business phone and mobile phone will ring simultaneously, so you never miss a call or mobile softphones, where you can make and receive calls on your mobile device using your business number. The ability to make business happen wherever you are and on whatever device you choose, is a benefit that no business should overlook.

4. Scalability
No matter what type of business you have, your hope and plans are for growth and profitability. Since the speed of growth is unknown, it is often difficult to plan ahead when making important investments, such as your business technology. Fortunately, cloud-based UC solutions allow you to scale up and down as needed. Having the reassurance that you can add and remove new employees, services and equipment instantly, gives you peace of mind and more control over your bottom line.

5. Productivity
With a cloud-based UC solution, your employees productivity level gains an instant boost. Not only can employees from any of your locations communicate on one system through 3 or 4 digit extension dialing, but they can also chat live through a secure, online customer portal. New tools like video, audio and web conferencing allows your employees to meet, collaborate and share documents from any device, anytime.

Cloud UC solutions offer countless advantages to businesses and help to ensure it is business as usual, no matter what takes place or where you or your employees physically are.

Interested in learning more about the benefits of UC solutions? Broadview offers an award-winning, 100 percent cloud-based unified communications solution, OfficeSuite Phone and has more than a decade of cloud experience. Click here for more information or a free quote for your business.


Obstacles for new office technology

Common Obstacles of Communication Technology in Business

A business’ success and its employees’ ability to communicate are directly correlated. Communication amongst one another as well as with other businesses and clients is crucial. That’s why newer and more powerful technologies for communicating are popping up every day.

Of course, with new technology comes the potential for speed bumps, and smoothing them out is essential for maximizing the efficiency of using communication technology. Technology issues that entrepreneurs will face in business run the gamut, and mastering them is something to consider spending time on.

Researching Communication Technology
Often, it’s not the technology itself but rather finding the right communication product to use that is problematic. Before investing in a new email platform or phones for the office, it’s important to read reviews, compare prices, and have a consultation with representatives from the company. You want to know what their support availability is like, whether the product will be useful for a business the size of yours, and whether it can help you to accomplish your goals.

Maintaining a Website
Making a website for your company seems simple, right? Many people don’t realize that a website isn’t just a basic source of information. It also acts as a sort of business card and a way to engage potential customers. Therefore, you need to streamline the communication aspect of it and make sure you stay with the times. Having a knowledgeable development and design staff can help with that aspect of it, but sometimes it’s a good idea to consider implementing an instant chat client to immediately answer customer questions.

Deciding on Communications Media
Technology has changed the way businesses reach out to their clients and work internally. While phones used to be the only necessary technology, you now have to decide if you want cell phones, a cloud phone system, conference call capabilities, video chat services, et cetera. On top of that, you need to select data plans, put together a customer service team, choose a reliable e-mail platform, and more. Gather a list of practical options and consider whether or not they will be useful within your industry and for your company in particular. Don’t underestimate the need for a customer service team that can respond to emails – as your company grows, you’ll find you can’t do this yourself in a timely manner. You don’t want inefficient communication, or an unnecessary overuse of budget, to become an issue down the road.

Social Media
Many companies don’t even consider social media to be a communications technology, but that’s a very dated way of thinking. Though it’s a recent phenomenon, it’s an important one. Do you have someone manning your social media profile, ensuring that the tone is consistent, customers are being responded to, and branding opportunities are being maximized upon? It’s worth considering having a consultation with Social Media Marketing experts if you’re not seasoned in this area yourself.


Chicago VoIP

The Best-Kept Secrets about VoIP

A lot of business owners – especially those who manage businesses that have been around for quite some time – are creatures of habit. They figure that their current operations have garnered them the success they’ve had thus far, and so, why fix what isn’t broken? But like an old oven that takes 30 minutes to pre-heat, sometimes you don’t realize that your office technology is “broken” until you go to replace it.

The reason why non-VoIP users don’t see what’s so great about VoIP is for exactly that reason: they haven’t used it. There are a lot of things you can’t know about VoIP, or any type of new technology, for that matter, until you try it.

It’s easy to use. Not all new technology has to be intimidatingly advanced. So many users love VoIP because it’s more user-friendly than they could have ever imagined. Because everything is set up, operated, and managed in one online portal, making changes and trying new things on your new business phone system is incredibly intuitive. Adding a contact list, checking your voicemail, creating new lines, and sending faxes will become second-nature to you in no time.

It cuts out the hassle. When you open up a new office and are buying all your supplies, you can cross phones and physical phone lines off your list. VoIP is designed to remove the hassle from adding or removing lines, so when you do decide to expand your business, you can have virtual phone lines and you can even rent the phones to avoid capital expense. Then, you can continue to manage the phones at the new office just as you always have been – simply with a few more numbers under your belt.

It’s incredibly secure. A lot of people worry about their phone calls being hosted over the internet, and about the possible security breaches in particular. In truth, VoIP is even safer than a landline phone – otherwise, hackers could be accessing all the data that pertains to your business, not just your phone lines. Your VoIP provider takes multitudes of measures to protect their servers, there’s no need to worry about losing confidential information.

It can do what your old phone can’t. Can your phone currently integrate with your business apps, e-mails, calendars, et cetera? VoIP has the ability to sync with anything in the cloud so you can easily schedule calls, access your voicemails, send faxes, and more. You can even sync it with a smartphone app which can be accessed from anywhere. It’s essentially like a virtual office that you can take with you.


Communications solutions Chicago

What Is the Best Communications Solution for My Business?

There are so many alternatives out right now for companies and organizations that are looking for a communications solution. There are many factors that need to be considered in making the decision. Sometimes you come across an article that you just have to share. This is a case where I came across an article that encapsulates almost all of the necessary elements of that decision and is a very well organized presentation. As always, we are here to listen and to help you make sense of all of the information presented. Please feel free to call us and we will gladly explain what you may be confused about or would like additional information on. For over 20 years, we have helped businesses and organizations throughout Chicago make sense of the two, three and four letter acronyms that make up crucial components of your communications solution.

Telecom

Click on the phone to Call Us!

Sandra Palumbo, research fellow, reports into Yankee Group’s Research Council. Her research focuses on cloud computing, enterprise mobility and service provider strategies, with particular emphasis on software as a service (SaaS), mobile applications, Web portals, managed services, professional services and wholesale.

Picking the Right Communications Solution for Your Business Is Critical in This Fast-Paced World

Businesses large and small continue to evolve their communications infrastructure in an attempt to garner the greatest benefits from the latest technologies. Today, the technology options available to businesses of all sizes are greater than ever before. Instead of just choosing between a managed service and a traditional on-premises deployment of a communications solution, we now have cloud delivery as an option. The move to communications and collaboration applications is not just thought of in terms of office worker use, but mobile worker use as well. Security, reliability, performance and flexibility are solution criteria that are now more important than ever before in a highly competitive, rapidly evolving world.

History shows that while many companies struggle with choosing the best communications solution for their business, other companies enamored with the promise of the latest technologies move quickly to adopt them without considering how those new solutions fit into their existing infrastructure and if they will truly benefit the business and its employees.

Enterprises are rapidly extending beyond their physical borders and to be successful, businesses must be able to communicate and collaborate with their employees, partners and customers, no matter where they are located. Implementing technology solutions that are easy to adopt and can scale to meet the needs of the business today and tomorrow is a real challenge for any IT department looking to stay competitive in today’s marketplace (see image 1).

image 1This report examines the evolution of communications services and their associated underlying technologies. Specifically, we analyze the architectural and feature evolution of managed/hosted telephony, VoIP, IP trunking and unified communications (UC). Additionally, we present key decision criteria for selecting the right IP telephony solution for a particular business.

The Evolution of Managed and Hosted Telephony

In today’s complicated technology world, the terms “managed telephony” or “hosted telephony” can often refer to a variety of solutions. Yankee Group defines VoIP/IP telephony as the use of business-class voice and multimedia applications provided through IP telephony systems, handsets and software. When the terms “managed” or “hosted” are added to “VoIP,” “telephony” or “IP PBX,” we are referring to businesses using a third-party service provider to manage and maintain at least some aspect of the voice service. Typically, this includes the monitoring and management of any hardware and software required to make the voice solution work. Managed solutions typically involve some on-premises equipment and hence remote management and monitoring, while hosted services are typically more cloud-based or hosted at the service provider’s location.

As enterprises come to terms with the business challenges that prevent them from reaping the benefits of IP telephony and UC solutions, it becomes time for these businesses to understand what solutions exist for overcoming these challenges and leveraging today’s IP networks. Because the underlying network is based on IP, IP telephony solutions can be located anywhere within the network reach, including the telecommunications provider’s cloud or hosting/data center. This allows for the possibility of a business offloading some of the day-to-day management and maintenance work to a service provider. A managed or hosted model is typically a most intriguing option for small and midsize enterprises because they don’t have the same staff expertise or balance sheet flexibility as larger enterprises.

From an economic or cost standpoint, a managed/hosted service is typically less front-end loaded with capital expenditures for equipment. Instead, a monthly service fee is billed over the typical three-year course of a contract. A managed/hosted service also offers savings in terms of time and productivity for IT staff, since most of the day-to-day management and maintenance work is handled by the service provider, meaning internal IT staff can focus on more strategic IT priorities and projects. This lets businesses with small in-house IT staffs do much more with the resources they have.

Many businesses that turn to managed/hosted IP telephony services already have some history with outsourcing and view it as a strategic business priority. With the emergence and adoption of cloud-based services, companies that are newer to outsourced services may find this the perfect time to consider a managed or hosted solution. As more applications are pushed to the cloud, a managed service can be a great first step and foundation for future communications and collaboration application adoption that doesn’t require a lot of heavy lifting from the internal IT staff every time something new is deployed.

Yankee Group’s Anywhere Enterprise: 2010 US Unified Communications (UC) FastView Survey proves that for enterprises, speed and savings are the primary drivers for the move to managed and hosted IP telephony and UC solutions (see Exhibit 2). Enterprises are looking to save on IT maintenance, integration between multiple providers and infrastructure costs. These drivers tie nicely into the value proposition behind all managed and cloud-based or hosted services. Businesses also can benefit from the hosting/managed service provider’s road map for the evolution of available services and applications. It often is easier to undertake technology improvements and refreshes when using a managed service because those arrangements can be worked into the agreement upfront, without having to renegotiate or wait for a contract period to end.

image 2Concerns around a perceived lack of cost savings require some upfront conversations between businesses and their potential providers. Providers and businesses need to work together to identify the best IP telephony solution for a given business, whether it’s fully managed, a cloud-based hosted solution, a more traditional on-premises deployment or a hybrid. Every business will have different needs and goals, and service providers need to partner with businesses in putting together the right solution. Even when cost isn’t the concern but something such as reliability or performance is, VoIP’s benefits are no different in a managed arrangement as in a traditional one and need to be addressed as part of the initial solution plan and architecture.

If cost savings are an overall driver, the business must work with its provider to build a detailed cost assessment of VoIP and UC solutions, bearing in mind the business’ current and future communications environment. This ensures there will be no surprises when the bill arrives each month. Managed/hosted solutions can provide some savings over traditional deployments, but savings aren’t guaranteed until the enterprise architecture is really analyzed and evaluated. In a later section of this report we provide some detailed guidance for areas of consideration in selecting your service provider and solution.

The Benefits of Consolidated Trunking

Despite its benefits, managed and hosted telephony solutions may not be the answer for every business. For companies that choose to keep the IP PBX on their own premises, an architectural change that can have immediate cost savings is to move to consolidated IP trunks. Typically, VoIP is deployed on a node-by-node basis, with each location having its own call control and voice infrastructure. This means each location has its own trunks for calls out to the PSTN. In some cases, multiple trunks may be required for redundancy purposes. This architecture can result in a very high cost together with very low trunk utilization.

An alternative architecture choice is to centralize call control either in a central data center or corporate headquarters and then leverage the corporate WAN to distribute call control. This provides companies with the ability to consolidate trunking services to fewer locations. It also gives organizations the option of using higher bandwidth trunks that can carry more calls, which translates to fewer lines to terminate.

By adopting an IP trunking architecture, businesses can capitalize on the many core strengths of IP solutions, particularly when compared to traditional PSTN voice solutions. In addition to consolidation, these improvements and benefits include:

  • Better network reliability than traditional PSTN solutions. The idea that VoIP is any less reliable than traditional voice is one of the biggest myths holding back greater adoption. IP is a resilient protocol and reliability can be built into the design. For example, instead of having separate voice and data networks, a company could choose to deploy two data networks that act as a backup for one another. This would cost no more than the traditional model but could protect against any network outage. It would also provide better disaster recovery capabilities than running separate networks.
  • Lower intra-enterprise calling costs. All on-net calls (that is, calls within a corporation) are kept on the corporate data network, meaning the cost of these calls can be eliminated altogether or at least greatly reduced, depending on architecture. Cost savings will vary by organization type. A large, distributed multinational company will save orders of magnitude more than a large company located in a single building.
  • Faster deployment of UC applications. Particularly when a centralized architecture is adopted, new UC applications can be deployed in the central location and then distributed to all users over the company network. This can improve the time to market of new applications by orders of magnitude compared with the node-by-node deployment of traditional communications applications.

In these tough economic times, businesses are trying to improve profitability and reduce costs, and they are forced to look for ways to save when it comes to their communications expenses. Additionally, companies with smaller IT organizations must look for new, less staff-intensive ways of solving problems. The right IP telephony solution helps companies achieve the following benefits:

  • Reduced overall communications costs
  • More efficient use of network assets
  • Optimized trunking to match a company’s calling patterns
  • Accelerated deployment of current and future UC applications through the simplification of network design
  • Higher reliability and better disaster recovery capabilities than traditional TDM-based systems

VoIP is the direction every business is moving in and will eventually adopt. The key for businesses today is to find the right solution and the right service provider partner to deliver that solution to their business. And while the decision to move to VoIP may be an easy and straightforward one, choosing the best solution and solution provider can be a bit more complicated.

Finding the Right VoIP Solution

Businesses that do their homework in preparation for the adoption of a VoIP solution will find the decision an easy one. These businesses will also discover that VoIP and UC will benefit their business in many more ways than just cost savings. They bring tremendous productivity and collaboration improvements as well. IP trunking is the most cost-effective method of creating a scalable IP telephony and ultimately UC deployment, and it has benefits beyond those of PSTN trunking. The key to true success, however, is finding the best service provider for your company. What are the key considerations when making the decision?

For every business and situation, the answer varies, but Exhibit 3 offers a guide to better understand the areas for consideration and evaluation in selecting the right solution. We break the table up into two key components—voice and data—because a VoIP solution requires that companies not only have a handle on their voice costs but also their data costs, since the move to VoIP is a move toward convergence. When evaluating new solutions, companies must also understand their current costs (recurring, capital and operating) and be able to compare that to the expected new costs of the various solutions. With the various telephony solutions, it isn’t easy to do an apples-to-apples comparison, but it is possible to know exactly what a company’s investment and costs are with each solution to help make the best decision for how each particular business likes to operate.

image 3Except in some very specific cases, the cost of a solution is not the sole driving factor, especially when dealing with more complex solutions and services. Once a business has a handle on the costs and infrastructure pieces of the decision as outlined in Exhibit 3, IT decision-makers must consider the qualities of the actual solution provider. Features to consider include:

  • The quality and coverage of the trunking service
  • The quality and coverage of the underlying network
  • Experience in the market and availability of reference accounts
  • Interoperability with the major UC vendors
  • Deep expertise in trunking solutions and IP communications solutions
  • Commercial availability of IP telephony services
  • Managed and professional services experience and offerings

VoIP and IP trunking solutions are never going to be one size fits all. Businesses must find the solution that is right for their particular circumstances. Does the business prefer managed/ hosted solutions to premises-based? What are the growth plans? How easy is it to add, remove or change services? What is the state of the current telephony solution? These are just some of the many questions businesses will need to consider, and finding a service provider willing and able to have these discussions and offer business options and flexibility is always a great place to start.

Working with the right service provider partner to deploy a VoIP architecture that leverages IP trunking not only has an impact on costs, but also provides businesses with a road map to other communications and collaboration solutions, such as those found within the UC suite of applications. The right VoIP and UC solution, coupled with the best partner for the business, can lead to a path of change and growth beyond what many traditional communications solutions can enable.

Understanding the Implementation of UC

Communications, collaboration and worker productivity are key components to a business’ competitive advantage. Workers are being challenged to reach more people in shorter periods of time with the right information at hand. To meet these communications demands, many companies are turning to UC, especially as a means to enhance the functionality and use of their IP telephony infrastructure.

UC, in short, brings all a company’s communications and collaborative tools together into one solution. It is the convergence of voice, video, Web and desktop communications built on an IP network and allowing businesses and employees to overcome time, distance and media barriers. UC ultimately enables employees to communicate with each other virtually anywhere, any time and over any device. UC improves the manageability and effectiveness of the ecosystem and makes the enterprise more responsive and agile.

UC consists of the following tools:

  • IP telephony/VoIP: VoIP enables companies to use the corporate data network for phone calls rather than having a dedicated network just for telephone service. Historically, VoIP was considered by many organizations as the foundation of UC. However, during the past year, presence and desktop integration have been elevated to being critical to the success of UC.
  • Presence: The ability for users to understand one another’s availability and willingness to communicate over a variety of devices is critical in today’s quick-moving business environment. While instant messaging (IM) applications are common today, presence is also being used to understand a user’s status on phones, wireless devices, video conferencing and other collaborative tools. Additionally, presence can be extended to objects such as alarm systems, medical devices and even documents.
  • Mobile client: Enterprise mobility is rapidly becoming a key driver for UC. A mobile client mobilizes a UC platform and puts the desktop in the hands of mobile users, which make up 40 percent of the work force. The holy grail of mobility is when a worker can seamlessly access UC applications anytime, on any device.
  • Fixed-mobile convergence (FMC): FMC enables a worker to seamlessly move calls between desktop and mobile phones for voice call continuity. As the mobile workforce grows, the ability to provide mobile integration becomes a key decision point for organizations evaluating UC solutions.
  • IP network: An IP network is required to deliver information and communications to users. IP is the only protocol that is scalable and simple enough to make the vision of UC a reality; it will be the common network for the deployment of all communications systems. Although IP is a dynamic, scalable technology, it does require ongoing optimization. Management of a network life cycle is critical now as more applications are running on the network.
  • Integrated multimedia conferencing: Conferencing applications have existed for a number of years, but only recently have they become integrated into UC. Yankee Group considers the following services multimedia conferencing:
    • Video conferencing: Long a nice-to-have, video is now one of the main applications driving UC deployments. Quality and ease of use have improved dramatically, allowing more users to take advantage of video communications.
    • Web conferencing: This form of conferencing has become popular within the last five years, due largely in part to ease of use and accessibility. Audio and Web conferencing are now the most widely adopted forms of converged conferencing.
    • Audio conferencing: The most mature form of conferencing, audio conferencing through the use of bridge lines is still the most widely adopted form of conferencing. However, as this space evolves, we will see audio become more integrated into other forms of conferencing systems and UC solutions. Yankee Group has seen companies recoup their investment in UC in as little as six months by shedding expensive bridge line services.

Yankee Group believes a strong UC strategy begins with a solid foundation built on a well-planned VoIP environment and leveraging the concept of presence. Exhibit 4 depicts the key components of a full UC and collaboration solution.

image4UC is valuable on many levels. It is one of the few technologies that can fulfill on the promise of any IT project. Specifically, UC can:

  • Lower TCO
  • Increase worker productivity
  • Create new efficient business processes
  • Improve customer satisfaction

Over time, the focus of the value proposition has changed. A few years ago, the primary driver for VoIP and UC revolved around cost savings alone. Though cost savings still remains a key part of the UC decision, especially in tough economic conditions, the real potential is as a foundation for fundamentally changing the business and building long-term competitive advantage. Yankee Group believes we are finally approaching the time when UC solutions will be rapidly adopted by businesses of all sizes as collaboration and communications is poised to take businesses to the next level.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Deploying VoIP and ultimately UC is a key component to transforming into an Anywhere Enterprise®. The business benefits that can be achieved from the flexibility, scalability and functionality of a full IP environment can take business and employee productivity to the next level of success. If deployed strategically, it can also help companies redefine business processes around communications and leapfrog their competition. However, any new technology deployment needs to be a well-planned, strategic initiative with full buy-in at all levels of the organization and the right service provider selection.

Businesses must adopt VoIP and ultimately UC with a view to where their business will be in the future—what technologies and applications are on their road map. Taking into account business expansion, the number of remote and mobile workers, business plans around the customer experience and other possible initiatives all need to be factored into any IP telephony decision. Unlike other technologies, the voice and communications solution chosen by a business today will likely be one that is around for a while. With that in mind, Yankee Group recommends businesses:

  • Ensure full support from management executives to run the show. The deployment of VoIP solutions, hosted or on-premises, is not a one-time project. Long-term service commitment and collaboration from the management team is instrumental in achieving a seamless service migration without sacrificing the expected quality of service.
  • Choose a solution provider that has a robust IP network as a foundation to the service. For a managed service to provide the necessary levels of reliability and scalability, the data infrastructure needs to be rock solid. An all-IP network will provide high-quality services, newer services faster and a level of reliability that is better than a service built off a hybrid of IP and circuit switching.
  • Assess your readiness. UC can be too complex to be deployed across the entire organization in one sweep, especially in larger companies. Find a department or group of workers that would benefit most from UC. A younger group of workers or a highly mobile group is ideal. This will help you establish a strategy for deployment and start a grassroots adoption campaign as UC is slowly rolled out to a wider portion of the company.
  • Evaluate service providers on decision criteria that are relevant to this era of communications. Too often, companies make decisions based on vendor incumbency or simply choose the lowest cost provider. UC is ushering in a new era of communications and decision-makers need to evaluate solution providers based on criteria that will enable this transformation. Specifically, organizations should look for the following: Dedicated account managers and project managers to help with the transition, financial stability to ensure investments in UC will continue, full 911 compliance, a one-stop shop for all a company’s communications needs and an aggressive road map of future UC services.
  • Do your homework prior to any service-level agreement (SLA)/quality-of-service negotiation. Be ready to compare and analyze SLAs among multiple service providers. Assess your major business-impacting breaches to determine optimal uptime and negotiate business-driven SLAs. Be aware of contract lock-in by setting up baseline service requirements and expectations.

 


communications continuity

Prepare your business for winter storms

Before the next big storm of the winter season hits, here’s how to ensure your business stays connected.

Prepare your business for winter weather.

For businesses that use Broadview Networks’ cloud-based OfficeSuite® Phone, keeping in touch when their office must close is easy. Since the system is hosted in the cloud, changes can be made via an online portal that is accessible from laptops, tablets and smartphones. OfficeSuite Phone helps businesses deal with power outages; effectively manage working from home; keep the lines of communication open; and create a disaster recovery/business continuity plan.

Before the evening commute kicks off early today, here are a few tips for making sure your business does not lose touch during the storm.

  • Make Changes Online – to set up or change any of the features below, simply login to the OfficeSuite website.
  • Create a New Automated Greeting – Let callers know about changes in hours or closings. You can set up the Auto Attendant so that callers can be directed to employees’ home or cell phones, or to another business location that will not be impacted by the storm.
  • Set up Emergency Override – Ensure all calls to your business are handled. With Emergency Override Routing, all calls to all of your company’s phone numbers (that have this feature enabled) will be routed to whatever destination you choose.
  • Forward Calls to Another Number Using your Desk Phone – By setting up a Forward to Prompt button and pressing it before leaving your business today.
  • Modify Call Handling – Change where calls are sent when you cannot answer. Send calls to voicemail, auto attendant, co-worker or to another phone number, like your home or cell phone. Change this online anytime.
  • Change Incoming Call Routing – Modify where calls are sent so that each call can either be answered or handled with a voicemail box.
  • Set up Mobile Twinning – Have all calls ring your desk phone and your cell phone so you can stay in touch no matter where you are.
  • Get Voicemail Anywhere – in email as an attachment or transcribed message, with our free Voicemail App for iPhone or Android, or as a text notification.
  • Turn your Mobile Phone or PC into Your Office Phone – with our Mobile Softphones, your mobile phone or PC/laptop can becoming a fully-functional office phone that uses your business phone number.
  • Forward Calls, Open Trouble Tickets, Manage Toll-free Service, Pay Bills – all online viaeCare Enterprise.

Click hear fool

Request your Free Network Evaluation