1 Boost Workforce Mobility and Productivity with Unified Communications Seven Essential Considerations for a Complete Hosted VoIP, Video and Collaboration Solution
2 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Traditionally, communications systems have been part of an enterprise s broader IT infrastructure, consisting of on-site hardware and software managed by the IT department. In return for higher cost and complexity, enterprises that built and managed their own on-site communications could be reasonably assured of a reliable, best-of-breed system that met their standards for quality, reliability, security and, most importantly, flexibility. Today, however, more enterprises are moving their communications systems out of their own networks and into hosted environments (i.e., the Cloud). A recent Infonetics report notes that Hosted VoIP services have hit their stride, experiencing broad adoption among small, medium and large enterprises. [Source: Business Cloud VoIP and UC Services Report, Infonetics Research, August 014] In 013, according to the same report, hosted VoIP seats grew by more than 0% from the previous year. What s driving this trend toward hosted communications? Ironically, the same things that drove enterprises to build their own systems in the first place: flexibility, quality, reliability, and security. Companies that provide hosted VoIP and Unified Communications (UC) services can deliver on these core communications requirements today because of the recent strides in Cloud technology, virtualization and IP-based communications. Voice, video, instant messaging, desktop sharing and Web-based collaboration services are now available to enterprises via a hosted environment at a much lower total cost of ownership as much as 40% less than traditional premise-based systems through a pay-as-you-grow, operational-based cost model. But before you replace your PBXs and servers and push everything into the Cloud, you should know that not every hosted provider can offer the same level of services, quality and reliability. Choosing the right provider and following best practices for hosted communications will go a long way toward ensuring that your enterprise sees real value from its hosted solution and that employees receive the mission-critical infrastructure and services they need 4/7/365. This white paper outlines the best practices and key considerations when choosing a hosted VoIP/UC service provider to help your business make the right choices for right now and down the road. THE CLOUD IS A GAME-CHANGER FOR COMMUNICATIONS Hosted communications is a disruptive idea. It disrupts the notion that IT departments need to spend a good chunk of their time and budget managing communications devices such as PBXs and paying never-ending maintenance fees on their legacy equipment. In addition it disrupts the conventional wisdom that says it is okay for employees to spend up to 30% of their time managing personal communications such as voic , and mobile applications. The reality is that IT departments are getting out of the business of managing hardware and software. The emergence of Cloud technology gives them a newfound freedom to use technology to solve business problems and generate revenue, instead of maintaining hardware and software simply to support day-to-day operations. Over the years, IT systems have become much harder to manage as mobility plays a larger role in enterprise 1 1
3 communications. The days when a CIO needed to control every purchase decision, from laptops to desk phones, are gone. Today, employees make their own decisions about the devices they want to use (aka BYOD or Bring Your Own Device) and their business apps; studies show that more than half of enterprises offer some kind of BYOD policy for employees today. Businesses recognize that employee mobility and flexibility lead to higher productivity; a Stanford University study found that telecommuting alone led to a 13.5% increase in worker productivity. And applications such as Salesforce, Microsoft 365, Lync and SharePoint have shown that Cloud-based solutions can be robust enough for enterprises. This confluence of enterprise-class Cloud solutions and the rising importance of enterprise mobility is driving the adoption of hosted communications services. Of course, another contributing factor is the constant emphasis on cost reduction: hosted services are typically more cost effective to operate and easier to manage than a premise-based system, especially as that system scales upward in the number of users and location MAKING THE BUSINESS CASE FOR HOSTED VoIP SERVICES Hosted VoIP services can reduce your total communications costs by as much as 40%. This savings occurs in large part by eliminating capital expenses such as on-site PBXs and turning those costs into a fixed, monthly operational expense. But there are other cost-saving features to hosted VoIP services as well. Because VoIP systems use IP technology, enterprises can save a significant amount on long-distance voice charges by routing calls over the Internet. For example, in the case of an enterprise with offices in San Francisco and Washington, DC, calls between the two offices would no longer be billed as a long-distance call but as a VoIP call over the same network. Most service providers use IP technology in their networks to save money; with a hosted VoIP service, businesses can too. Another reason that enterprises choose a hosted service provider is for simplicity. Managing multiple PBXs including moves, adds and changes can be time-consuming for an IT department. By shifting voice systems to a managed service, enterprises can add and modify users more quickly and cost-efficiently through a centrally managed solution. This frees up the IT department to focus on other mission critical initiatives rather than maintaining phone systems, which often lies outside of the traditional IT skill set. Furthermore, Cloud-based communications systems offer disaster recovery features not available with traditional landlines, ensuring that enterprise communications stay up even when the local phone network goes down. Finally, hosted VoIP is shown to improve employee productivity. Many hosted VoIP services offer a more robust set of features than a traditional PBX-based system, including Web-based self-provisioning for features such as call forwarding, unified voic / messaging, call recording and audio conferencing services. These features support the any device, anywhere access that today s employees demand, allowing them to simply turn on their devices and connect over any network. LOOKING BEYOND VOICE: UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS Unified Communications the convergence of communications applications including voice, audio/videoconferencing, , instant messaging and collaboration tools across a single solution platform is
4 one of the most important IT trends of the last few years. Over the next five years, analysts expect the multibillion-dollar Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) market to double as more enterprises look for experienced partners that can help them integrate UC more effectively across their entire organization. Not surprisingly, many providers today offer Cloud-based UC services in some form or another, although not all can support the requirements of enterprise-class reliability and broad integration across business applications. Because UC represents a variety of different communications elements (voice, videoconferencing, , etc.), enterprises may wish to implement a hosted UC solution in phases. For many enterprises, hosted VoIP service is a logical first step into Cloud-based communications. Most enterprises already trust their long-distance, wireless and audio conferencing services to various providers, so bringing these under a single, hosted provider delivers immediate benefits in terms of simplicity (one bill, one point of contact for support) and cost. When the time comes to extend other communications into the Cloud, these enterprises should look for a provider that can deliver a complete, best-of-breed communications experience and integrate it with the enterprise s existing legacy systems where needed. If the enterprise can find a hosted VoIP provider that can seamlessly migrate them to a hosted UC solution at that time, the result will often be less disruption and carry a lower risk. SEVEN KEY CRITERIA FOR SELECTING A HOSTED COMMUNICATIONS PROVIDER Choosing a hosted communications provider is one of the most important IT decisions that an enterprise will make. Communications are what connect a company to its customers and connect employees to each other. When evaluating hosted providers, enterprises should look closely at these seven key criteria for best-in-class communications services. #1 QUALITY While VoIP technology has evolved much over the last few years, providing voice quality that meets and even exceeds the gold standard of the PSTN (Public Switched Telephony Network), not all VoIP providers can deliver the same quality levels consistently. Enterprises should never feel as though they re sacrificing quality for cost with a hosted service. Look for a provider that will stand behind its network s quality in its service level agreement and make sure they support the latest technologies such as high-definition voice and video especially if you plan to run your contact center through the service provider. # SECURITY Security is a top priority for enterprises, particularly in regulated industries such as finance and healthcare where information and communications must meet high standards of security. Enterprises should choose a hosted service provider with a secure network that protects voice and data communications to meet the highest industry standards and an enterprise s own security policies. Ask your provider if they offer private Cloud platforms, IP security tunnels, SSL certificates and a secure data center that is SOC, HIPPA and FINRA compliant. As part of that security, hosted providers should also have a disaster recovery strategy in place to ensure 99.9% or higher availability at all times. The security of data is important to an enterprise, it should be equally important to the service provider.
5 #3 SIMPLICITY In order to deliver true value to the enterprise, hosted communications must be easy to use. Employees should be able to access their desktop and applications from any device, retrieve /voic from any location, launch audio and videoconferences at the click of a button, and manage their communications services through an intuitive Web-based screen. Hosted communications should also be simple for IT departments to manage by consolidating communications (voice, audio/videoconferencing, , mobility, Internet services), training and tech support under one partner, through one U.S.-based dedicated account manager, on one bill. #4 COST IT is shifting away from the traditional hardware/software infrastructure largely because of cost considerations; it s simply cheaper to do many things in the Cloud. By moving communications into the Cloud, enterprises can save money on expensive, premise-based PBXs, reduce their long-distance charges and eliminate almost 70% of their desktop costs. When evaluating the cost of a hosted service, businesses should remember that the more services they move into the Cloud, the more they save in short-term capital costs and long-term maintenance/upgrade costs. #5 MOBILITY Beyond cost, mobility is one of the driving forces behind Cloud adoption. There are a variety of applications that enterprises can move into the Cloud to support mobile productivity, from collaboration tools (e.g., Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Lync, BroadSoft BroadCloud to virtual desktops. The more mobile applications a hosted provider offers, the greater the productivity gains an enterprise can realize from the Cloud. Mobility also allows enterprises to offer their employees flexible work schedules, which has been shown to be highly effective in helping companies retain top talent. #6 TRUST As we mentioned at the outset of this paper, there are many hosted communications providers on the market today, with services (and service levels) that vary widely from provider to provider. Some communications service providers have simply retrofit their traditional offerings to create cookie cutter Cloud services. Others have strategically chosen to provide the least level of service for the cheapest price. This can present service problems down the road, as hosted communications require a managed services mindset from the beginning to be truly effective. Therefore, enterprises should look for a hosted provider whose primary delivery model is the Cloud, who built their infrastructure from the ground up, with a track record of success delivering tailored, managed services proven by a strong customer base. Also key here are technology partner certifications that show the provider understands the underlying technology behind their offering. #7 SCALABILITY One of the key drivers behind the movement to Cloud-based communications is the ability to control the solution without owning the problem (i.e., buying and managing the hardware and software). Hosted VoIP/UC providers should allow enterprises to customize the solution to their needs, scale up or down seamlessly as demand increases/decreases and receive responsive, professional service and support 4x7x
6 icore NETWORKS: THE NEXT GENERATION OF COMMUNICATIONS Since 001, icore Networks has helped businesses of all sizes unchain their communications and reduce costs through hosted VoIP, collaboration and business services. Today, we offer customers a best-in-class communications experience that Gartner recently recognized in its 014 Magic Quadrant report on Unified Communications providers, with a best-of-breed network featuring the latest communications and collaboration products and services from Microsoft, Broadsoft, Nutanix, VMware, Polycom, Cisco and many others. Businesses choose icore as their Cloud communications provider because we offer the quality, reliability, security and flexibility they need to succeed, including: A rich set of robust, carrier-class voice features delivered over a secure Voice over Private Internet (VoPI) network; Cloud-based Unified Communications solutions featuring industry-leading platforms such as Microsoft Lync and BroadSoft BroadWorks; Hosted Microsoft Exchange services for enterprise and collaboration applications; Virtual Desktop Infrastructure solutions featuring premier virtualization hardware and software from VMware and Nutanix ; Hosted business applications including Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft Lync; Integration with third-party applications and CRM systems including Salesforce and Microsoft CRM; Partner certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, Juniper,, VMware and others; A broad range of managed IT services delivered by experienced professionals including legacy systems integration, desktop virtualization, customized UC applications, troubleshooting and training; A secure Cloud platform hosted in award renown data center, Equinix, the same platform that hosts 80% of all Internet services on the East Coast with 4 hour biometric security, built-in electrical N+I redundancy for every power system to guarantee continuous operation Round-the-clock 4x7x365 support from our U.S.-based technical support team; A proven Cloud communications platform that successfully supports millions of mission-critical audio, video, , and collaboration communications every day. About icore Founded in 001, icore is leading the revolution as the first provider to bring customized Unified Communications and Cloud services together for an all-in-one experience that accepts no limitations. Our network completely replaces outdated PBX systems and eliminates all capital costs. That means more agility and less time, money and manpower wasted on disparate providers and cumbersome tools. It also means your team will create, collaborate and share on a whole new level, anywhere, anytime. icore s customer support team is available 4/7/365 and we are 100% dedicated to keeping your system running at full capacity, so you can focus on what s important to you: growing your business. As your company grows, we ll adapt to your needs. As technology advances, we ll bring you up to speed. We are nimble, capable and always working in your best interest so your business can operate like you never thought possible. To learn more about icore Networks and Cloud-hosted communications, contact icore at (866) or visit us at. 4 4
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