How Cloud Telephony makes consolidation easier

06 November 2018

How Cloud Telephony makes consolidation easier.

 

Organisations are now adopting the latest technology to streamline a range of business administration and processes, one of the latest being Cloud Telephony. Cloud-based Telephony comes with many benefits over the more traditional on-premise solutions which you can find listed out neatly across nearly every telecoms website. However one of the benefits rarely touched upon is the ability to ease day to day administration and consolidate a geographically and technologically diverse estate. A system is only as strong as its weakest link and business phone systems have a whole lot of links—from users to administrators and other systems.

Allow me to describe a fictional but common scenario that IT managers face:

Imagine that you’ve just been part of a dream merger in which you have acquired a firm that is going to add both value to how you operate and your company as a whole. The plan is to absorb the new business under the existing brand whilst allowing it to continue to trade. As well as merging the companies, you need to merge all that comes with it including the phone systems and communications.

You go about getting it all set up but discover that their in-house PBX is a different brand to yours. Do you leave them as separate entities and operations? You start to look into integrating the two together but find that to do this you need to spend a lot on new hardware. This then begins to get time-consuming.

So what are your options? Managing communications for a business is challenging enough at one location, but more challenging with multiple locations. This is especially true as with the above example of acquisitive organisations that have inherited multiple phone systems over a number of years, and are now charged with their maintenance and integration across the estate. For some companies, the acquisitions happened years ago and the enterprise has been living with the pain and expense of a tangle of diverse systems for a long time.

Companies that are looking after multiple locations with on-premises PBX’s have to contend with the fact that different locations could be running disconnected systems of different ages with different capabilities. Systems may not even be from the same vendor. Capabilities may be lost to interoperability problems. Productivity may be lost to inefficient communications. Getting every location onto a single standard may look close to an impossible task, but this is where cloud-based telephony really begins to shine.

Cloud telephony allows the consolidation of equipment and allows IT managers to benefit from standardised capabilities and total interoperability across locations. When upgrades happen, they happen everywhere simultaneously, maintenance is outsourced to the hosted PBX provider and fewer resources are required to understand and use systems across the business. Processes can also be standardised for greater efficiency and in most cases and you are able to reuse Cloud ready hardware to reduce costs. Simply put, for businesses who want phone systems working together across multiple locations, cloud hosted PBX systems present a much simpler and cheaper option to implement and maintain.

Now imagine the same scenario, only you have decided to implement a Cloud Telephony platform instead. You had heard that Cloud Telephony would make consolidation and onboarding of new sites easy and to your delight, it’s true. Cloud Telephony systems allow you to add extra phones to the system easily and bring the newly merged sites into one managed solution. Calls flow as you want and collaboration within the firm means the merger starts bearing fruits instantly.

It’s not always a necessity to replace the hardware. If its ‘Cloud ready’ you can simply introduce a form of Cloud to keep costs down. This means gaining all the benefits of Cloud and making those new locations an integrated part of your footprint.

Consolidation and acquisitions are not something that companies have to worry about every day, but when it is a worry, it can amount to a lot of stress.

The benefits of Cloud Telephony when it comes to consolidation include:

  • No limits to adding new users
  • Low cost adding new users
  • Ease of integrating with an existing infrastructure
  • Remote management across all sites
  • Vastly reduced admin resources
  • Complete transparency

If your estate is large or complex, making it hard to warrant an immediate switchover, you can take a staged approach. You are able to start with a cloud-based system at one location as part of a larger hybrid Cloud communications system and move other locations over as their on-premises PBX systems reach end-of-life. This is a clever phased approach to phone system migration that’s gaining more steam among businesses that don’t want to rip-and-replace all at once.

Still, some IT managers feel safer maintaining hardware that’s nearby, with the belief that the system may be pretty robust. It’s easy to run down the hall to a server closet if something goes wrong, right? But on-premises PBX systems are also dependent on forces outside a company’s control, an electrical grid outage, an Internet outage, a fire, burglary or severe flooding. Things like dual-powered cooling equipment, multiple independent distribution paths or fault-tolerant site infrastructure all will greatly reduce your exposure and increase resiliency, in short your phone system should stand up to a myriad of potential threats.

For the companies that don’t currently have this on site, Cloud telephony delivers a level of reliability and redundancy that’s difficult and expensive to achieve at facility level with an on-premise PBX. With a Cloud phone system, that reliability is built in. However you decide to approach the issue of consolidation, one thing is clear, hosted communication is rapidly becoming the norm for businesses regardless of size, vertical or site complexity and shows no sign of slowing down.

If you have any questions about your current telephony system please contact our Cloud Telephony Specialists for more information on how we can help take your telephony system into the Cloud.

02 August 2018

Disaster recovery and business have continuously become hot topics, however much of the focus is on protecting data and the systems surrounding it. The IT industry tends to fixate on things like phishing scams, cryptolockers, and data leaks; and as a business, you want to protect your staff and systems.

What about the phones?

In this blog, I will discuss the importance and best practice of disaster recovery in relation to your telephony system. As a telecoms consultant, the most prominent feature that I get asked about is the ability to have a reliable and effective disaster recovery solution in place, to which I always recommend moving to a fully hosted VoIP system. For those not familiar with this, VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol – also referred to as broadband phone service, IP telephony, or voice over broadband – and offers telephone communications delivered over the Internet. It’s a unified communication package, which combines phone calls, faxes, email, voicemail, and Web and video conferences.

With this in mind, the aim of this blog is to highlight why I would recommend a hosted telephony system over a traditional on-premise, and to discuss the many ways that companies can ensure that they protect themselves and their customers.

Hosted Cloud Telephony vs Traditional PBX (Private Branch Exchange)

Businesses often do not realise the importance of a disaster recovery plan until it is too late as such it’s not hard to understand why businesses forget about their telephony. Traditionally, the phone company was in charge of business phones, as long as the ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) lines were functioning, you had service. If the lines went down you were left with nothing; the most you could do was request a forward to an external number that usually took between 1 – 2 hours to set up. However, in today’s modern workplace, with ever-increasing demands, that’s not good enough. This is where Hosted telephony really shines through.

By moving the PBX to the cloud, you are removing the operational risk associated with on-premise equipment and physical ISDN lines. Here are some of the advantages a cloud-based PBX has over legacy ISDN connections:

  • The disaster recovery functionality ensures that employee productivity will not become stagnant due to a lack of access to information,
  • Communication is made easy in the recovery process thanks to features like advanced call routing,
  • Voicemail, Contacts, Fax and Call Information are all safe when the VoIP system is using the Cloud,
  • Recovering your information can be done with ease from any device,
  • Employees will be able to take advantage of seamless mobile working.

If the worst should happen…

We all know that a business can be affected by a variety of disasters such as fire, network failure, weather-related incidents or malware attacks. When companies purchase a hosted phone system they are taking a step in the right direction by having a fully redundant solution. Features like call routing, video and web conferencing and configuration are always available. No matter the circumstance a Hosted system keeps your employees in-touch and ready to work from anywhere.

How cloud can help to protect you in a disaster:

  • In the event of a disaster, a traditional PBX system doesn’t allow employees to access their phones and information the way a Hosted VoIP system does.
  • A traditional PBX system may not have a dial tone in the event of a large storm or power outage, while a Hosted VoIP system will be operating to its full capabilities.
  • During a catastrophe, a Hosted VoIP system gives the option to employees to work from where they are safe.
  • The abilities of Hosted VoIP systems are possible by the diverse locations of servers, allowing for the system to always be operational, no matter where a disruption may occur.

Additional measures

Of course, no system is 100% bulletproof and the same goes for hosted VoIP. The best disaster recovery solution is to take a proactive approach. As a business, you may have taken the biggest step you can by moving to the cloud; but there are other factors to consider when looking at the entire DR picture. These additional layers are optional and considered best practice; they focus on prevention and monitoring and will add protection and redundancy to your existing systems.

Backup Internet Connectivity

VoIP phones require the Internet to work so any DR plan should account for the loss of connectivity. Do you have a second line to switch over if the primary one fails? What happens if your ISP goes down? Some organisations prefer to have a second line from a different provider for this exact scenario. Your business should be able to carry on working if your primary Internet went down.

VoIP Monitoring Systems

One of the crucial elements of disaster recovery is notification. How do you know when to kick your backup plans into action? VoIP monitoring systems help with that. This is something not offered by traditional PBX platforms, that will actively monitor and report on the state and quality of the calls within the platform and report directly back to the user.  Even a few minutes of downtime can be costly to a business and being forward-thinking will help you recover faster.

Automatic Failover

Reputed VoIP service providers will offer automatic failover protection. This means if calls cannot be completed, the system will roll over to an alternate solution. If you don’t use hosted services, you might need to create your own failsafe systems.

Do you automatically forward calls to your employees’ mobile devices? Not everyone likes to get business calls on their personal phones. Will you allow your staff to use their personal VoIP services instead? If yes, you will have to reimburse them for business calls. You may have to create DR plans in conjunction with other policies such as BYOD (bring your own device), corporate expense reimbursement, and storm evacuation.

What DR Plans does your Provider have?

Just because you use cloud VoIP services doesn’t mean you’re off the hook when it comes to disaster recovery planning. You should talk to your vendor and see what plans they have to recover from a disaster. After all, you’re depending on their ability to provide phone services to get you through a crisis. Suppose your vendor has 4 data centers. Are they all in the same location/region? Some disasters can strike a large area, so this might actually be a risk.

What happens if one of the data centers loses power? Are calls automatically re-routed? How quickly can they notify you when something goes wrong? Not all vendors know how to manage disaster recovery properly and you need to make sure your provider is prepared as well as you are!

Summary

The age of the on-premise ISDN based PBX is drawing to a close. This is confirmed by BTs’ decision to begin the staged phase-out of all ISDN lines starting in 2020, essentially speeding up cloud telephony adoptions for business.*

Traditional telephony is unable to provide an adequate solution to this demand and as such we are seeing the adoption of cloud telephony become more popular. Cloud-based telephony is no longer the domain of SMBs and early adopters, it has now matured to the point that it is adopted by some of the largest global brands. They recognise the advantages it brings from a piece of mind point of view when it comes to redundancy and recovery, and that it offers unparalleled flexibility. Now all that remains is for other companies to take the next step for themselves.

 

If your interested in finding out more about cloud telephony please contact us for more information. 

 

* https://www.intouchcomms.co.uk/blog/bt-isdn-switch-off.html