Whether it’s your sales team making follow up on a lead, or customer service updating a customer on their query, having communication systems that works well is very important for any business that seeks to meet its strategic goals. And for CIO’s, the digital era has brought new opportunities as well as challenges with regard to the array of solutions on offer as well as decisions on hosting options. Since the boom of the internet, traditional telephone exchanges have virtually been wiped out and now VoIP solutions are the standard when it comes to telephony systems.
VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. VoIP services can be deployed over the Internet or private IP networks, which carry data and voice on the same pipes, bringing about the term unified communications. In terms of solutions, VoIP services are no longer about voice calls only, but have evolved to bring in messaging, conferencing, presence, client and process solutions, hence the term unified communications. In my experience, I foresee a significant convergence of UCaaS technologies with most enterprise business applications in the near future.
So who’s in the VoIP market?
In 2015, IDC MarketScape: Worldwide Unified Communications and Collaboration 2015 Vendor Analysis report listed Cisco, Microsoft, and Avaya as “Leaders” in the UC&C market. While the unified communications sector already known to be mature, because of the significant disparities in vendor strengths, market focus and product capabilities, I am certain there remains room for advancement.
It is estimated that the global voice over IP (VoIP) service market totaled $73 billion in 2015 according to IHS Technology with strong growth expected to continue in the near term. With regard to product capabilities, the major characteristics for VoIP products include user experience, mobility, interoperability, cloud and hybrid, broad solution appeal and developer network. These are the main drivers that will influence businesses to choose one vendor over the other.
A self-hosted VoIP system brings to the table benefits of control since all the infrastructure sits in the organization’s offices or data center. This means that when it comes to configuration and quality, you have everything you need to give the best to the business users. In addition, for older organizations that still have legacy telephony systems whether it is cabling or PSTN services, integration is managed from within giving a further adage of control. I am also convinced that a self-hosted VoIP system has a better chance of getting full value from the various communication features on offer.
Hosting within the premises also gives an aspect of assurance in terms of security as many organizations do not want to have their calls heard by unwitting third parties. And a hosted VoIP system is not subject to internet downtime which can cripple a business whose voice and data connections are on the same line. While the benefits are evident, these solutions come with significant capital costs as well as administrative overheads in terms of in house skills required and limited options for scaling up in case of rapid business expansion.
Cloud hosted VoIP
A cloud hosted solution obviously gives a cost advantage in terms of upfront capital requirements. This means that for small and medium businesses, this is an easy option to consider when deploying a new office or branch. In addition, a cloud VoIP solution is in the hands of a managed service provider, who will take care of the headache of configuration and management. Other benefits include scalability, mobility and speed of deployment which have a massive impact on business. And the cloud continues to provide much higher levels of availability as compared to on-premise solutions.
On the downside, the IT organization loses out on insight and control. Integration with existing systems remains a challenge, particularly legacy ones. Quality concerns are another huge factor when calls are routed over the internet, and I always shudder when an endless blame game arises between an internet service provider and a VoIP service provider on where the buck stops with regard to QoS on VoIP.
Making the right choice
Between different vendors and different hosting solutions, CIOs still have to bite the bullet and make the tough choices. A lot of times, decisions are driven by existing vendor relationships and cost can play a key role here. Functionality comes next, but in a mature market, it is obvious that the top players have covered the key requirements around conferencing, IVRs, messaging and queuing features. In my opinion, integration with existing enterprise solutions will continue to become an even more significant driver in the decision of which provider and which technology to adopt.
QoS will continue to persist as an important determinant of UCaaS solutions as it is reflective of any company’s image. And while it isn’t easy to control quality outside an organization’s IT networks, it is very easy to blame them even if the source might be the outside caller’s service provider or a third party providing connectivity. So while a corporation will spend significant sums on a VoIP solution, in my experience it is crucial that they supplement their UCaaS offering with a robust broadband service from a provider who can give them visible QoS particularly towards other third party internet service providers.
Where do we go from here?
Any organization making investments into a unified communication platform wants to ensure they can get value from whatever offering they choose. Value for them is defined in terms of increased productivity, reduced IT costs and of course good communication. When it comes to VoIP solutions, whether on-site or cloud hosted, you need a managed service provider who understands exactly what is needed to have a best in class solution. So talk to us at NIC, our hosted server and hosted disaster recovery server solutions are the best in breed to support your organization in getting the best value from the decisions taken. Contact us and let us help you get the most out of your unified communication solutions.