Hosted and Cloud-Based Telephony – Ensuring Price and Features Benefits

Alex Holben, Associate Consultant at Alsbridge, says that while hosted and cloud-based telephony is a maturing market with the potential to drive cost reduction and flexibility, these benefits are not a given and require addressing a variety of considerations.

“Cost is always a priority, with cost avoidance typically a key driver, since cloud offers an alternative to investing in a major hardware upgrade to the existing PBX estate, or moving to an alternative on-premise solution that requires acquisition of new skill sets. Features and flexibility are key, but most solutions offer a comprehensive UC feature set that adds to the potential for cost reduction through consolidation of UC, audio and VC.

The as-a-service model aims to simplify management and offers a way to move technology risk outside of the organisation, thereby achieving additional cost savings/cost avoidance associated with skilled technical staff. For example, moving telephony services to the cloud reduces add/move/change activity and improves operational practices, enabling a reduction in headcount or allowing the existing team to focus on service development.

The connectivity issue, meanwhile, has not been resolved. All cloud-based solutions are constrained by the connectivity between end users and the hosting data centres. Most data centres are located in North America and Europe (regions with high-speed, low-cost and reliable telecoms infrastructure), so deploying a solution within these regions should yield a high-quality consistent service. A global company seeking to apply one solution to all its locations, meanwhile, will be constrained by the reliability and quality of your connection, and many regions are still challenged to maintain adequate Internet connectivity to support voice and video. This leads to a hybrid solution where large concentrations of users get cloud service and the more remote smaller user populations retain more traditional services with limited integration between the two.

Cloud and UC implementations also vary widely in terms of user experience. Effective solutions are characterised by federated business partners, PSTN integration and a proactive process to design the solution and prepare the environment. If these steps are taken, the result is a powerful tool delivering consistently good call quality, desktop sharing and seamless inclusion of additional attendees. Successful deployments become the only tool required, eliminating the need for desk phones, video conferencing or third-party solutions.

A failed cloud telephony initiative, meanwhile, lacks integration in terms of federation and PSTN connections and as a result become internal-use only tools that are simply purchased and handed over to users without any thought or design. If the environment isn’t prepared in terms of end points and networks call quality and user experiences are inconsistent. If the solution is unreliable, users will find a work-around, typically by continuing to use desk phones and third-party conference solutions.

In terms of reseller partnering, having multiple providers in the portfolio isn’t necessarily an issue, but implementing a mixed environment can be problematic. Mixing solutions from several providers typically doesn’t work well and sticking to one or the other is the best approach. However, applying specific design-to-fit add-ons from other vendors to a solution from a big player can also be viable.”

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine