Author: Mac McCarver – Content Creation Manager
Every government agency is different, and the considerations that are most important to their technology decisions are as varied as the valuable work they perform for the public. This extends to their choices surrounding adopting a new business phone system for their government agency. With modern Unified Communications (UC) phone systems, the first decision is essentially whether the government office phone system is deployed on the agency premises, accessed remotely on the Cloud, or virtualized on private server equipment.
Here are the main differences and benefits of each deployment type for government agencies:
Hosted or Cloud Phone System
A hosted phone system connects through your Internet connection to a provider that maintains the equipment at an off-site “cloud” data center.
Any government agency that needs to conserve IT budget or be able to flexibly scale up or down with staffing needs
Hosted phone systems like Switchvox Cloud are equipped with all the same robust UC features as the on-premise deployment option. Features such as Call control, Collaboration, Mobility, Call management, Voicemail, Messaging, Contacts, Web-based management, Call training, Integrations, Contact center, and Analytics.
Hosted phone systems boast inherently lower setup costs than on-premise systems. They also have no maintenance costs, which can be huge for government agencies with tight IT staffing and budgets.
One potential downside to hosted phone systems is that, because you’re paying monthly, your ongoing service remains a budget line-item indefinitely.
With a hosted phone system, your provider shoulders all the risk, work, and complexity. Also, because you’re not carrying the burden of housing and maintaining your phone system hardware, growth or retraction can happen quickly and software updates happen automatically, keeping the system up-to-date effortlessly.
One of the best things about hosted phone systems is the flexibility they offer. Hosted (cloud) service providers have the resources to implement a solution that a government agency might not be able to deploy without costly contracting expenses. This gives government agencies the flexibility to have exactly the phone system and features that they need for a fraction of the price.
The downside to consider is that cloud options do not scale to service very large agencies in a cost-effective way because the cost per seat remains the same for 5 or 1000 users. In other words, once you grow beyond a certain point, hosted phone systems start making less sense financially.
When it comes to implementation, hosted phone systems are usually very cost-effective, quick, and easy to get off the ground. That means less dependency is required for in-house IT resources.
On-Premise Phone System
An on-premise UC business phone system is a deployment type where the telephony hardware is kept on-site in a server closet.
Larger agencies who can budget the upfront costs of acquiring hardware, especially those with many users.
On-premise phone systems like Switchvox include all UC features such as Call control, Collaboration, Mobility, Call management, Voicemail, Messaging, Contacts, Web-based management, Call training, Integrations, Contact center, and Analytics.
On-premise systems typically cost more to set up, and any future upgrades and support costs are the responsibility of the government agency. However, there is also no risk of price increases, and they offer a lower total cost of ownership, especially as the system grows.
With on-premise systems, you have complete control and flexibility. Just remember, every expansion increases the complexity of your phone system, and with on-premise, you have to manage it yourself.
With on-premise phone systems, agencies complete control over every detail of their phone system. An easy-to-use solution with careful management will give you a solution that matches your needs better than anything else can.
On the flipside, though, all software updates and maintenance processes must either be done by internal IT staff or outsourced for completion.
Since hardware is housed and maintained on-site, you can ultimately do what you want with your equipment.
On the other hand, you may not have enough internal IT resources or the budget to make
complex, expensive, or highly customized changes.
Deployment time for on-premise phone systems may take longer than hosted phone systems. However, with on-premise phone systems, agencies will know their system’s capabilities since they manage their deployment.
A virtualized business phone system is basically an on-premise phone system, except instead of having one server for each technology used within a business, virtualization allows you to use one server with virtualization software that is capable of running multiple applications and operating systems at the same time on that one server.
Virtualization has traditionally only made sense for large businesses and corporations, but virtualization software like VMWare has made virtualization plausible for businesses and organizations of all sizes.
Agencies already invested in and maintaining a virtual server environment for their business tools.
One of the main benefits of virtualization is the amount of money it can save government agencies that are already maintaining a virtual environment as there is no need to purchase proprietary hardware and appliances.
An agency may have an individual server dedicated to call control, one for mobility, one for voicemail, and so on. These individual servers result in unnecessary cost, wasted space, and unused resources. Virtualization allows all these individual servers to be consolidated into one, saving significant amounts of money, resources, and complexity.
However, if an agency is not already maintaining a virtual server environment, a virtual phone system deployment will be the most costly option because it will require the purchase and implementation of virtual server equipment.
IT Simplicity and Flexibility
Another benefit to having a virtualized phone system is the reduced complexity and implementation time. As we’ve mentioned, having all of your business applications on one server saves you money, but it also simplifies your IT infrastructure. The result is less time spent maintaining and repairing IT hardware and more time doing what’s important in your business.
In a “non-virtual” setup, vendor-specific hardware is used with pre-tested limits on the number of calls and users. When you exceed those limits, you’ll have to upgrade to more capable hardware. Then, if for any reason you scale back down, you’ll be wasting resources with unnecessary hardware.
Virtualization enables government agencies to control their resources themselves by allowing them to distribute and adjust resources as necessary. That means you don’t have to worry about outgrowing your phone system or wasting money by paying for more than you need.
Power Savings (Going Green)
Another downside to having a traditional business phone system with multiple servers and excessive hardware is the excessive energy consumption that goes along with it. Since virtualization drastically decreases the amount of hardware on-site, it can also decrease energy consumption– sometimes by as much as 50-70%.
Improved Uptime and Disaster Recovery
Virtualization typically includes features such as live migration, high-availability, and storage migration, all of which keep applications running in the event of a hardware failure.
Virtualization also makes disaster recovery easier by enabling agencies to utilize off-site data centers in the event of an outage. This makes managing systems easier on your IT staff, as they can move them on and off-site as needed hassle-free.