According to Gartner, there has been a 6.6% decline in premises-based revenue over the last five years. Rather than simply replacing aging premise-based phone systems with newer ones, B2B businesses have been steadily adopting unified communications (UC) and the migration to the cloud. These businesses are looking for mobility, flexibility and more efficient ways to collaborate and work. Cloud-based UC systems integrate traditional telephony solutions with other communication and productivity applications on an internet protocol (IP) network, and are better equipped to meet the growing demands of the modern workforce by enabling a myriad of capabilities, including audio, web and a video conferencing, company-wide chat, presence, email, file sharing and integrations with leading CRM solutions.
Cloud-based solutions are a growing and tremendously competitive market. With so many vendors and service providers to choose from, businesses need to do their due-diligence to understand what capabilities are most important to their operational needs. Asking the following questions is a good starting point to help differentiate potential UC providers.
Is in-house technical expertise needed during and after deployment and implementation?
Premises-based telephony systems can be time-consuming, complex and costly to maintain, requiring dedicated IT staff to manage the systems and servers for even the most basic of changes. Unlike equipment that just depreciates, the cloud offers simplicity and automatic updates since software is managed and updated off site. Therefore updating a system is not a hassle. Intuitive web portals give online management to IT staff and end-users. A centralized administrator can easily add or remove users, features and phone lines instantly versus days, by using online administrative controls – no need for the hassle or fees for initial configuration and installation or sunk costs in hardware.
Is post-deployment support provided to help IT staff and employees as they learn to use the system?
The best cloud-based UC solutions are intuitive systems that require little explanation. However, offering optional training sessions and plenty of resources is key to ensuring that employees feel prepared to make the transition. Businesses should develop material that clearly outlines the process and explains the benefits of transition, emphasizing the ease-of-use afforded by cloud technology. In order to address unexpected user questions or challenges, the full IT team should be on standby to assist and explain where needed. Additionally, businesses should look for a provider that offers an online community as a resource center for employees and IT teams alike to receive instant assistance and live conversation.
Is the solution user-centric so that employees can immediately begin using the features?
Ease of use should be a priority when selecting a solution. If features are complicated or counter-intuitive, then moving to UC will be a wasted effort, creating a solution no better than the legacy system. A 100 percent cloud-based UC solution offers universal access and true mobility, a necessity for the modern user. Solutions with one centralized dashboard give users control of their personal preferences and profiles from anywhere. For example, employees can set Auto Attendants, or Digital Receptionists, to reduce the number of routine calls that have to be answered and ensuring incoming calls are all answered and directed to the appropriate employee, without contacting IT staff. This flexible, streamlined self-management reduces hassle, increases productivity and boosts ROI. Employees who are able to easily access and make changes to their work preferences in real time can eliminate the need for technical support, returning valuable time to workflow.
What security measures does the provider take to secure data in their cloud?
Premises-based systems don’t offer much in the area of security, with equipment and critical data all stored on site. Cloud-based UC systems on the other hand, especially those that utilize the cloud for 100 percent of its storage and processing are hosted on the provider’s servers and accessible through an encrypted web browser, ensuring that nothing is left on-site where it could be vulnerable to hacking, theft or damage. The best cloud UC providers even guarantee calls using the public internet are encrypted from the handset into a secure network, ensuring call data remains protected and confidential. An added assurance is offered by the most secure UC providers encrypt calls, messages and recordings with Transport Layer Security (TLS), cryptographic protocols that provide communications security over a provider’s network, and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), a symmetric encryption algorithm. Some cloud-based UC systems even allow internal IT staff to change user settings through flexible web portals that work across multiple devices. Offering these additional internal abilities, like controlling who is permitted to forward voicemail, further safeguards private information.
B2B businesses today are becoming more strategic with their communications investments. In addition to the desire for enhanced capabilities and collaboration features to improve employee productivity and customer service, they are also looking for solutions that are future-proof, secure and allow for growth and expansion. This extreme market shift and steady rise in cloud adoption and UC is an indication that businesses are seeking a more holistic communication solution that extends well beyond voice communications.
Feature image source: Harrivick Narajah
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