The hosted unified communications (UC), or Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), market continues to expand as the technology develops. Small and medium businesses (SMBs) are those most likely adopt this service. The desire to use UCaaS is logical for SMBs because of their need for mobility, as they often employ sales teams and other employees who spend a lot of time in the field.
At the same time, SMBs typically have smaller IT teams that may struggle to meet the technological needs of the company. In order to meet these demands, hosted cloud services are ideal. There are several benefits smaller enterprises experience when switching to UCaaS.
Increased Productivity and Technological Capabilities
One of the main advantages of UCaaS is the ability for SMBs to operate much like their larger, corporate competitors by using state-of-the-art technology that allows employees to easily connect with coworkers, customers, and business partners. UCaaS allows remote employees to conduct business as if they were operating out of a local office. Rather than waiting for email responses, instant messaging capabilities allow for real-time questions and updates. Many companies don’t even make phone calls anymore unless they absolutely have to, since UCaaS provides efficient communication methods that replace voice communications.
For businesses that do rely on voice communications, UC can include features such as “Find Me/Follow Me” that put calls through to multiple people until someone available can answer. A hosted UC solution can also transcribe voicemail messages and provide links to audio for employees’ convenience.
Streamlined Administration and Deployment
Another benefit of a hosted UC solution is increased efficiency of administration and deployment. If a company’s internal network is capable, businesses can make a full transition to hosted UC within weeks of implementation. Employees can download necessary apps on pre-programmed mobile devices, giving workforces all of the tools they need to run operations smoothly. Employees and employers can use a web portal to centralize administration operations, with custom profiles that make it easy for each person to use.
Hosted UC offers customers a simple, reasonable monthly OpEx charge and eliminates the costs of integrating the new Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunks, private branch exchange (PBX), and Session Border Controllers (SBCs) that are normally required. There’s no need for third party video conferencing or other solutions, because they’re included with UCaaS. A/V collaboration is also included in the final price, along with regular and long distance calling.
Improved Coworker and Customer Collaboration
Online collaboration is another element that’s simplified with UCaaS. People can communicate with each other from any location. If someone is traveling for a business meeting miles away from the office and needs more information from a certain department, he or she can simply use a private audio or video conferencing solution to bring the other, more knowledgeable colleague into the meeting instantly.
These are just several of the many benefits that make switching to UCaaS an invaluable decision for any business.
Thanks to technology, land lines have disappeared across much of America. This trend began in the residential space and was quickly followed by businesses abandoning their traditional telephone services. Voice over IP (VoIP) has swooped in as their state-of-the-art replacement, boasting customer relationship management (CRM) integration tools, automated routing, call handling, and sophisticated reporting and monitoring functions. Phone systems have come a long way, and they now serve many more purposes than just making calls. Before making the decision to abandon the company phone system, consider the following points.
Phone Systems and Customer Service
Thanks to the Internet, collaboration tools have never been more plentiful. Free conference calling, webinars, video chat, IM, and other online communications tools make the world a much smaller place and allow geographically dispersed teams to communicate as if they are only cubicles away.
Since there are so many available software options for communication, it’s easy to see how compatibility problems can arise. Utilizing different pieces of software may work for staff members, but that won’t always be the case when working with clients. Even for tech-savvy customers, it always seems like a plugin, system update, or forgotten password is in the way of getting urgent help. Less technically inclined customers may become so frustrated that they take their business elsewhere. In contrast, using a VoIP phone system is an easy way to support customers and provide them with the excellent service they demand.
The Benefits of an Inbound Phone Line
A business may not need to make outbound phone calls, but providing an inbound phone line can be useful in several ways.
- Customer service is enhanced by providing voice-to-voice contact (which is a luxury today).
- Listing a personal cell phone number to handle business calls is not always desirable.
- Having a professional business phone line generates trust and provides accessibility to quality customer service, which can be a differentiator in a congested marketplace.
Phone System ROI
One of the chief complaints about phone systems is the significant expense to acquire, maintain, and add to them. Fortunately, VoIP has made calling very inexpensive (down to a few pennies per minute), and plans can be tailored to a business’s expected volume. Whether personnel need to make one or one hundred calls per day, there is a plan on the market to fit that requirement. Many phone system plans also allow intracompany calling for free using Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking.
For a reasonable cost, a company can have a sophisticated phone system with many valuable problem-solving features. Even better, hosted systems may perform all functions through software, with no expensive phone equipment needed. With increased customer loyalty and company growth, the ROI could be exponential.
Forgoing a phone system may save money in the short term, but ultimately it can be an expensive decision. VoIP systems are a great way to provide the communications staple needed for customer convenience while keeping the bill and equipment affordable. Before walking away from a potentially effective solution, research the available plans. The affordability and flexibility of today’s options make them well worth consideration.
Traditional voice services have had their heyday. Today, developing technology trends are shaping a new future for business communications. Automation, the Internet, mobility, cloud, and more are triggering shifts in new services that meet changing customer demands. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) Trunking is emerging as not just an option but a compelling choice for the modern business.
Focusing on the benefits
Even as voice converges with text, image, video, desktop, mobility, and social media technologies, many network administrators still fear the unknown. Their priority is to maximize and protect their investment so it’s understandable that many proceed with caution. However, in order to steer their business forward, network managers should consider what could go right.
For instance, SIP Trunking has many benefits if best practices are observed.
- Savings. In an SIP environment, IT managers start realizing savings when they phase out costly infrastructure. SIP Trunking eliminates Primary Rate Interface (PRI) and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) rentals. Businesses can also save costs by using centralized public switched telephone network (PSTN) access. This can eliminate costs for maintenance, operations, and unused services.
- Scalability. SIP eliminates the problem of having too many channels when they are not needed and too few channels when more are needed. It can be scaled up or down on a per-channel basis to suit specific business needs. It also enables businesses to add trunks as demand dictates.
- Flexibility. As a Unified Communications (UC) package, SIP offers significant flexibility with an array of collaborative options. End-users can enjoy web, voice, video conferencing, instant messaging, chat, voice traffic re-routing, and mobility options.
- Reliable disaster recovery. Security and recovery can be major fears. SIP Trunking features reside in the IP provider’s network in multiple sites, not in the customer’s premises. Should a disaster occur, businesses are assured of timely disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity. This allows calls to be redirected to locations not affected by the disaster, ensuring a recipient for each incoming call.
Hurdling the obstacles
While SIP is a versatile technology, moving to an SIP model has its own challenges. The most common one is interoperability issues. Different vendors interpret SIP specifications differently. This can create complications when integrating legacy systems with the SIP provider network. A good provider should re-evaluate the customer’s existing architecture and suggest modifications that can support the new services.
Bandwidth capability is an important consideration for SIP connection. Bandwidth determines the quality of calls. The wrong amount of Internet bandwidth and such issues as latency, packet loss, and jitter can result in echoes, garbled messages, and call disruptions.
Connecting to the Internet exposes any network to security threats. Brute force and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks are common issues that can cause entire networks to crash. Solid firewalls, session border controllers, and other security devices can help ward off such attacks.
For IT executives, transitioning to SIP Trunking is a critical decision. Decision-makers should consider an SIP deployment that can support present business needs and easily adapt to unforeseen collaboration services well into the future.