Author: Jim Machi – General Manager CCD, Sangoma
In part 2 of this series I discussed price. Now let’s wrap up this series and talk about Unified Communications, features and quality. So, what kind of Unified Communications options are we talking about nowadays?
UC at its most basic level is voice, email and presence / IM capability in an application. Some companies are very particular about saying they have UC apps because they have the basic ones. But UC can also mean voice conferencing, video conferencing, text messaging, collaboration / document sharing and fax. And this contributes to different price points and target market fit. Enterprises like to utilize UC because it can save employees time. For instance, I hardly ever use voicemail anymore. I can see if someone I want to talk to is online / available, and then if so, make the call. Saves both of us time. And I schedule internal conference calls using our UC system. And during these conference calls, we can share documents on screen. And I can do this seamlessly when I’m at work, at home or even from a hotel room. My point about all this is with a hosted system, “turning on” these features later is likely easier. And you may not be able to decide if you want them when you buy the initial system.
This concept of “control” of the business phone system is critical for some companies. Some companies want to really have full control of their network. One reason is companies don’t want to be dependent on someone else for a mission critical application. But another reason is security. Is the data secure enough? Some people say it’s more secure in the cloud than on computers in your building as service providers are starting to adhere to security standards. I’m not sure there is a single answer on what’s best, but every business will need to think about that and make their own decision.
You may also be concerned about power outages and loss of connectivity. Your business may or may not have power backup at your facility. If it’s a larger business, you probably do. But on an IP phone system, which you typically will be moving to, this is important. With a premise based system, this will clearly be something to consider. A hosted system obviously has these same concerns, but there will be power backup systems in use, and possibly even offload to mobile or PSTN networks to keep connectivity in place.
Finally, let’s explore the topic of voice quality. If you have a premise phone system, you will have a dedicated SIP Trunk coming into your building. You won’t be on the public Internet. So, the quality should be excellent. With a hosted phone system, you might be on a private network or cloud and the quality should be excellent. But you also might be routed onto the public Internet, which can’t guarantee voice quality. So, there are some potential issues there. However, there are modern voice codecs which can adapt somewhat to the quality, enabling much better voice quality than 5 years ago. This is becoming less of an issue these days.
If your business is larger and you have multiple locations, there are also geographic reasons to not do everything the same. Perhaps it makes sense to do small offices in the cloud especially if there are no IT resources at that location.
In other words, do what you’ve always done. Make it a business decision. Cloud is getting a lot of press these days and it’s a great way to go, but understand the costs first and your future business needs before making any decisions. And if they work for you, put a migration plan in place and go for it.
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Five Things to Look for in Your Next Small Business Communications System