Melissa Swartz | Sprint Business | January 26, 2017
Developing an effective Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) solution can be complex and challenging. UCaaS solutions vary significantly in architecture and services. There are hundreds of choices and it can be overwhelming to sort through the options.
If you will soon be moving your network to an as-a-service model, there are three major considerations to help you through the process. First, understand and document your requirements. Second, determine your preference in a cloud architecture. And third, consider the customer service aspects of your provider.
What do you need?
As you ponder your requirements, there are key considerations that you need to think through and questions that you need to ask yourself. They are:
- Features and capabilities: What capabilities are needed by various types of users (heavy phone users, mobile users, remote users, etc.)? These needs go beyond phone features and can involve collaboration tools and mobile capabilities. You may need to record calls or have other special requirements. Once you have determined what your organization needs, it will be much easier to match them to vendor offerings and evaluate their ability to meet your needs.
- Integration with other applications: Do you want screen pops or the ability to dial phone numbers from your contact list? What about existing audio or video conferencing systems? Do you use CRM tools such as Salesforce that can be enhanced by embedding call capability within the application?
- Trunking configuration: Do you prefer to have your incoming calls over a separate connection such as MPLS where Quality of Service (QoS) is available, or is it acceptable to bring calls in over an internet connection without QoS? Not all providers offer both options.
- Reliability: Most providers have at least two data centers for failover purposes. However, not all data centers are equal in the level of redundancy they offer. Do they have power from two different feeds, a backup cooling system, physical security procedures, etc.? Some augment these capabilities with carrier redundancy, so that if there is a failure by one carrier, they are able to route calls over other carriers and maintain service.
- Support levels: Do you expect ongoing monitoring of your services? Proactive notification of problems? Replacement of phones or edge devices?
- Administrative capabilities: How much do you want to be able to do yourself? Add and delete users? Monitor call quality? Track usage trends? Get reports on calls made and received?
It’s important to determine whether you have a preference in cloud architecture. At the 30,000-foot view, there are really only a couple of options: premises-first services that are essentially hosted versions of on-premises products, or services designed specifically for the cloud.
Each of these options has pros and cons. Which one will be the better fit for your company? It really depends on the way your users work.
How important is customer service?
You need to determine the level of assistance that you will want from your service provider. UCaaS services, by definition, are not provided locally. With that in mind, will you want someone on-site during your conversion to the new services? How about on-site training, or will web-based training be acceptable?
You may want help in configuring the new system or adding new capabilities. And consider customization – do you have existing applications that you want to integrate with calls? Offers vary significantly in this area, so it is wise to evaluate a potential partner’s ability to provide what you need and be sure to check references.
A good indicator of customer satisfaction is a provider’s churn rate (the number of customers that leave the provider, typically measured on a monthly basis). A provider’s churn rate of two percent per month may sound acceptable, but keep in mind that over a year that adds up 24 percent, which essentially means one-fourth of their customers left during that period.
Finding the right UCaaS partner is not an easy task. The best place to start is to determine what you need in a UCaaS solution, then look for a provider that best meets those needs.
In part 2 of this series, we cover issues that can occur with configuration and failover of SIP trunking.
A deeper dive into factors around facilities, configuration, and failover that can complicate a move to SIP trunks.
User organizations often require help when implementing cloud services – a gap begging to be filled.
We would be well-served to learn from lessons of the past and include an evaluation of a provider's financial stability during the buying process for hosted services.