How Unified Communications Improves Business. Managed VoIP Services and Unified Communications Designed for Small and Medium Businesses

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1 How Unified Communications Improves Business Managed VoIP Services and Unified Communications Designed for Small and Medium Businesses

2 Executive Summary Change Re-defines Communications Demand for increased worker flexibility is redefining communications. Gone are the days when every worker had a landline phone. Technology has spurred new devices that have renovated the desktop. Rather than automatically assign every employee a landline phone, today s infrastructure and operations managers must now consider what is the right device based on the worker s job responsibilities. In particular, today s new communication systems need to be unified in a way that improves business. It needs to help employees serve customers better and faster than the competition. For small and medium businesses (SMBs) access to robust communication capabilities that are easy to use, scalable and cost-effective were unattainable until the advent of IP Telephony and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) using broadband, DSL connections, or fiber. Now SMBs face the challenge of selecting the right communication solution to meet their business needs. Many companies still rely on carrier-hosted IP Centrex services, which can be limited in features, lacking adequate support, and hard to scale as a company grows and needs more capability. A majority of these companies are settling for the limitation of IP Centrex services because they believe they can t afford the cost and hassle of maintaining a more capable voice communication system. Even in the VoIP world, premises-based IP-PBX services can lead to high ongoing costs. Where traditional PBX providers have merely scaled down their large enterprise solutions in order to enter the SMB market. These products tend to be expensive to purchase and operate, may require ongoing, fee-based technical support, and are still reliant on traditional network services like T1, PRI and MPLS. What SMBs need is a Unified Communication (UC) solution that helps solve business problems, not create them. They need an affordable, holistic solution that allows them to get up and running quickly and speed communication among their employees, customers and suppliers. Solutions that will help them improve their business and rapidly adapt to dynamic market changes. They need the low cost of VoIP, with the advanced features of Unified Communication solutions, managed by professional staff, delivering consistent call quality at a regular monthly cost. VoIP: The Price of Adoption As businesses recognize the benefits of implementing voice services using Internet telephony, they need to understand their options for procuring and deploying VoIP solutions, including each method s relative strengths. Companies have four basic options to choose from: Purchased IP-PBX, which involves buying all the equipment and software and managing the system on its own; Managed IP-PBX, where the company purchases the equipment but hires an outside firm to manage it for them; Hosted IP-PBX, where the company pays an outside firm to host their services; and, Managed Service, where features, service and network are managed end-to-end by a single vendor for a flat monthly fee. According to research by Gartner analyst Rich Costello, more than half of companies will opt for an outside firm to at least manage their VoIP systems, and by 2011, Gartner believes that 40 percent of companies will purchase and manage their own VoIP systems, while 40 percent will purchase their own but hire someone else to manage the system for them. The remaining 20 percent of companies will hire an outside firm to host and manage their IP telephony services. This managed services option is 2 Whaleback Systems: Unified Communications Designed for Small and Medium Businesses November 2010

3 an appealing alternative for those companies who want robust voice functionality and comprehensive management services that include network access and call quality management. In a recent survey conducted by market research group Forrester, the numbers of SMBs in North America and Europe moving to adopt VoIP is even higher. Adoption of Unified Communications Solutions Technologies, Capabilities and Features Are you interested in adopting or already using the following voice over IP technologies and applications? Purchased (or leased) IP-PBX systems allow companies to acquire an IP PBX from a one vendor, and choose voice and Internet services from another. Procuring equipment including the PBX, IP handsets, and telephony and Internet access services separately allows the company to shop for the best price. There are, however, ongoing costs for PBX maintenance fees and software updates. On the negative side, dealing with multiple vendors may complicate support and maintenance. Other issues to consider: a customer-owned and operated system may present a single point of failure. Also, an IP PBX is a swiftly depreciating asset, which may add to the total cost of ownership Hiring an outside firm to manage an IP PBX allows companies to utilize the skill set from a service provider in the form of managed or hosted services. In this scenario, a company would lease equipment for a monthly fee rather than the standard lease-buy-maintenance program and voice and Internet services may or may not be bundled in. Managed IP-PBXs may make more sense for large, single-location businesses with hundreds or thousands of employees. However, they are susceptible to the same problems of a standard premises-based (purchased) IP PBX including power or if the T1 line outages which could prevent making phone calls or accessing voice mail. In a recent Gartner analysis, a small business with 50 employees can expect to pay about $50,000 to purchase its own IP-PBX system not including Internet access and a local and long distance plans which can run an additional $2,000 per month. Add to that the cost of employing staff or hiring a consultant who knows the system whenever they need something changed or improved. Hosted IP-PBX solutions are good for small sites that don t have an existing phone system, require advanced communication features, and don t have the in-house technical staff to support an IP phone system. With a hosted service, the provider owns the equipment that supports the system and the equipment resides with the service provider, not on company premises. The hosted-service provider is responsible for the services delivered to a business over an IP network, such as broadband or DSL. The hosted provider is typically not responsible for equipment at your company site or any internal network troubleshooting. Because the service provider delivers the same services to multiple customers at once, there is a benefit from the economies of scale. And, there are limited capital expenses. In addition support and maintenance 3 Whaleback Systems: Unified Communications Designed for Small and Medium Businesses November 2010

4 are typically included. Because the IP solution is located offsite business continuity or disaster recovery planning is dependent on the service provider. Hosted-service providers typically deploy top-notch system security, as well. In addition, there are uptime benefits. Unlike the purchased and managed IP PBX scenarios where if a line goes down, employees can t make calls or even get voice mail, with hosted IP telephony, it s in the network, not on the premise. And, there is only one provider to deal with. While there are many advantages to hosted IP services. There are also numerous drawbacks including; voice quality due to bandwidth sharing with data, on-site service and troubleshooting, and call handling limitations. Remote offices may or may not be supported and are subject to the quality of broadband connection in their area. Finally, the Managed Services option is worthwhile to companies because the equipment that supports it resides on premises and is managed end-to-end by a single vendor eliminating the need for in-house expertise. Like an in-house IP-PBX, the managed service provider will include an edge device or IP-PBX that is installed in a customer s office and can be monitored and remotely programmed with advanced features, such as contact centers. Unlike hosted IP-PBXs, Managed Services can ensure superior call quality by provisioning a dedicated broadband network connection exclusively for voice traffic and manage the quality of service from end to end. They provide a high level of business continuity and disaster recovery planning due to their ability reroute IP addresses and automatically fail-over to alternate end-points. And, like a hosted solution, these Managed Service voice systems typically provide unlimited nationwide calling for a fixed, planned monthly fee. Because these systems are fully managed, the provider handles all the design, installation, system configuration, training, network provisioning, number porting, and service activation. Once the service is up and running, the provider manages the call quality, equipment maintenance, software updates, moves, adds and changes and provides the support help desk for end users. One of the greatest advantages to these systems is that a company can pick and choose what options best suit the needs of their particular business for a predictable monthly price. For many SMBs, with a small or non-existent IT staff, the choice comes down to a decision between a Hosted or Managed System. Even though many IP phone systems are designed and priced for small businesses, the combination of capital expenditure, and lack of in-house technical expertise to manage an IP phone system, is time consuming. With either a Hosted or Managed solutions however, a company can take advantage of features without in-house expertise or great expense. It all depends on need. Unifying Communications with Cloud-Based Services Although currently an emerging market, VoIP offers greater accessibility to Unified Communication (UC) applications and services. Network service providers are now offering communication and collaboration solutions to companies as a fee-based service offering. These service offerings will continue grow as more SMBs successfully implement these low-cost, high-value services, especially as the benefits of UC take hold. In their 2010 survey of North American and European-based SMBs, Forrester found the early adopters of UC have seen significant increases in overall productivity with improved collaboration being the most important. However, the combination of presence with voice, video, , and instant messaging presence core UC features all add to streamlining a companies business by making it easier to contact employees, customers, and suppliers through the most appropriate path for the task. Firms report that UC features help them capture new revenue streams, reduce cycle time, and increase customer satisfaction. 4 Whaleback Systems: Unified Communications Designed for Small and Medium Businesses November 2010

5 Improved Collaboration and Decision-Making Top the List of UC Benefits What has been your firm s overall experience using UC? With Unified Communications, companies can take VoIP solutions a step further with technologies, such as presence - the ability to determine the best way to contact others within a company, including voice, or IM - as well as mobility solutions. A unified communications system helps organize and simplify all forms of communication, regardless of location, time or device making it possible for one to retrieve all faxes, s, texts and voic s from one inbox thus improving and speeding all communication. What Combining VoIP and Unified Communications Means Improved efficiency As the lines between network equipment, communication applications, and collaboration diminish, advanced collaboration tools such as shared workspace, calendar coordination, and rich presence will support many business processes. Improved usability for collaboration applications makes it easier to share information across a business and reach decisions more quickly. Collaboration applications create an informed and connected workplace. Examples of how collaboration is evolving include: Extended collaborative workspaces. Work teams can easily share information with co-workers for real-time decision-making within a collaborative workplace infrastructure. Team members can share and modify documents online and quickly deliver content to users based on their identities and favored form of communication; Improved interoperability. It becomes easier to coordinate with partners and remote locations using software applications based on open standards (like IP). This reduces high costs for system upgrades to a single vendor s proprietary solution; Multimodal collaboration. Ad hoc meetings can be quickly set up for conferences using mobile devices or PCs to include workers anywhere. Secure collaboration can extend beyond the firewalls to business partners and suppliers. Updates can be quickly documented and shared through blogs. With these collaboration tools, companies can reduce their real estate costs by providing a greater virtual work environment. By supporting workers anywhere, and delivering individual workers more freedom within their jobs, companies can also optimize their staff levels. However, telecommuters and those 5 Whaleback Systems: Unified Communications Designed for Small and Medium Businesses November 2010

6 supported in a flexible work environment do require advanced productivity tools to manage their work and need to quickly access advanced communication and collaboration applications from their desktop. Through the merged world of voice and data via VoIP, and unified communications tools, It s all possible. Companies can now be far more flexible, efficient and productive than ever. After evaluating its options, Rose Mortgage opted for a Voice over IP (VoIP) solution. According to Tom Rose, President of Rose Mortgage. It was clear that VoIP offered major economic and productivity advantages, but we also needed business-quality phone service and access to important features such as call transfers, call forwarding and Internet-based faxing. Rose chose an IP Telephony offering from Whaleback Systems. We have never had any outages, and employees can transfer calls within the company. Our voice mail is automatically delivered to our inboxes, and we can easily forward calls. In fact, I can work out of my house and transparently receive inbound calls. The call handling features are a tremendous advantage, and we can teach them to new employees in minutes. Employees take advantage of a wide range of business-class phone features, including caller ID, conference calling and call forwarding. All inbound calls to the main number are routed through the auto-attendant feature and each employee has a Direct Inward Dial (DID) number. The mortgage business is paper-intensive, and the company has automated inbound and outbound faxing by selecting Whaleback s OrcaFax service. We send and receive hundreds of faxes each week, and many of them we do not even need to print, said Rose. We can send faxes directly from the desktop without the need for an employee to print a document and wait by a fax machine while it is being transmitted, and we receive faxes directly into our inboxes. OrcaFax avoids long-distance charges for faxes sent throughout the county and allows us to automate our fax workflows so employees can be more productive. I d heartily recommend CrystalBlue so companies can take advantage of the productivity and financial advantages of a managed VoIP service designed for small and medium businesses. Reduced Communication Latency Forrester s Right-Time Communications survey indicated that 25 percent of the time business processes halt until key decision-makers become involved. When a communication solution reduces the time required to get messages or live communications to the right decision-maker, there is a direct and positive impact on a business. With the widespread adoption of diverse communication devices, making those connections in a timely manner can be quite difficult. The resulting communication latency lengthens the amount of time required to make and execute critical business decisions. Incidences of telephone tag and unanswered or text messages are far more detrimental than annoying inconveniences they impact an organizations ability to compete. Organizations facing intense competitive pressures, or providing mission-critical support, are increasingly finding that traditional methods of communication are no longer effective in enabling the fast response and coordination necessary to reduce communication latency. These legacy solutions lack interoperability and add to system administration burdens. The result is a growing demand for more efficient and effective tools that unify and simplify communications, enhance collaboration, and streamline administration. 6 Whaleback Systems: Unified Communications Designed for Small and Medium Businesses November 2010

7 Unified Communications Components The Northern Maine Development Commission (NMDC) is a membership organization comprised of participating communities and counties that provides federal and state services at the regional and local levels. It focuses on serving northern Maine with effective regional community planning and economic development, and needed a reliable, stable and high-quality VoIP service to connect its remote offices and communicate with its members. NMDC has also deployed Whaleback s OrcaMeeting to minimize travel time and increase employee productivity. We needed the ability to have interactive meetings with remote workers and with our members who are located in rural communities throughout northern Maine, said Clark. OrcaMeeting allows us to easily conduct web-based meetings. NMDC runs four different corporations and several corporate committees, so desktop and application sharing is a critical requirement, particularly since we support such a large, rural service area. We also use OrcaMeeting for phone conferences, and web conferencing and audio conferencing can be easily setup by any employee via an easy-to-use web- based online scheduler. said NMDC Executive Director Robert P. Clark. Migrating to the CrystalBlue Voice Service has provided NMDC with dramatic productivity enhancements. Employees can easily leverage powerful call management features such as call forwarding, conferencing, desktop faxing and unified messaging. NMDC was previously paying a network integrator and two other carriers each month, and now receives a single invoice from Whaleback Systems for all telephony costs. A flat-rate pricing plan makes monthly telephony costs predictable. Improved Mobility Following the trend of cell phones becoming smart computers, mobile devices for business require advanced business functions to enable the non-stationary worker to conduct business regardless of location. Reaching employees wherever they are at their desk, on the go, or across the ocean requires, at a minimum, a unified communication solution that supports presence, teleconferencing, and mobility. Moving forward, knowledge management and application integration will be essential for effective UC. 7 Whaleback Systems: Unified Communications Designed for Small and Medium Businesses November 2010

8 Forrester s Business Data Services research shows that SMBs are already moving to the future. Thirty-six percent of SMBs in North America and Europe are interested in deploying, or have already deployed, mobile applications software. In addition to this mobility, VoIP has the flexibility to integrate with other Internet-based services in ways a traditional telephone cannot. These include telephony during Web conferencing presentations, calendaring, or data file exchange. The Troy Dolan Group is a management consulting firm specializing in Customer Experience Management (CEM). In today s marketplace most services have become commodities, said Tim Rooney, President of The Troy Dolan Group. The only way to differentiate yourself from your competitors is by delivering a superior and memorable customer experience. To support its mobile workers, the company added IP softphones for their employees who regularly need remote access. With Whaleback s Road Warrior remote worker feature, businesses can seamlessly extend their office communications to employees that are on the road or working from home irrespective of their location. A user can now make or receive calls and take full advantage of the Whaleback CrystalBlue voice service, with a software application installed on their laptop, wherever broadband connections are available. As we hire workers in other parts of the country, they ll work out of their home offices and plug a Whaleback phone into their broadband cable or DSL connection. Each remote worker will have a direct dial phone and fax number, and we ll be able to call them by merely dialing a three-digit extension, said Rooney. As we hire workers in other parts of the country, they ll work out of their home offices and plug a Whaleback phone into their broadband cable or DSL connection. Each remote worker will have a direct dial phone and fax number, and we ll be able to call them by merely dialing a three-digit extension, said Rooney. As a result of this connectivity The Troy Dolan Group will be able to create virtual work teams to support client engagements without regard to where employees are located. Reduced Support and Management Costs According to Gartner research, 60 percent of companies will outsource management of their systems to an outside firm. Solution components sourced from different vendors will connect a call, however, they may not work together across multiple applications or multiple sites. The simplicity, ease of installation, and reliability offered by single-vendor solutions make an easy decision for SMBs. In a managed IP PBX scenario, a company can lease equipment for a monthly fee for an on-site PBX and handsets from a service provider rather than the standard lease/buy/maintenance option found with the Hosted scenario. Haneke Design, for instance, is a multidisciplinary design firm focused on delivering graphic and interactive solutions for businesses. The firm conducts most of its business by phone requiring a high-quality telephony service for communicating with customers and prospects. When the company moved to a larger location, management evaluated several VoIP solutions and selected the CrystalBlue Voice Service from Whaleback Systems and implemented by Kablelink, a Whaleback partner. The implementation went very well, and Kablelink made the service activation as seamless as possible, said Haneke. Whaleback ported our phone numbers and setup a toll-free number for us, and Kablelink showed our employees how to easily use the advanced features of CrystalBlue Voice. Whaleback provisioned a voice-only cable access connection from Bright House Networks, and Kablelink installed a Whaleback PBX and Polycom VoIP phones at Haneke Design s new location. Whaleback and Kablelink exceed expectations when it comes to service and support, and the call quality and reliability of this managed service are far superior to other solutions we had reviewed, said Haneke. 8 Whaleback Systems: Unified Communications Designed for Small and Medium Businesses November 2010

9 CrystalBlue Voice is a highly reliable solution for small businesses that need efficient and effective voice communications. We rely on our phones for talking to our customers every day, and Whaleback manages our services, updates our technology and ensures that we receive the reliability we need to service our clients. Unlike the hosted VoIP service, Whaleback provides managed Quality of Service (QoS) by proactively managing end-to-end connections across the public Internet. They can rapidly detect degradation and take proactive steps to ensure call quality. Whaleback can also identify potential congestion points and reroute calls accordingly while providing easy-to-reach customer service and help desk operations to swiftly address any call quality issues and maximize the consistent delivery of high-quality calls over the Internet. Whaleback also provides central configuration control and management through their Managed Services Center, and automatically updates IP PBXs and handsets to take advantage of the latest software releases. Reduced Operating Costs Beyond its superior flexibility, VoIP saves businesses money by eliminating paying for both broadband and telephone services - and significantly scaling back telephone bills. Some VoIP long-distance or international calls carry minimal charges, however. In addition, many VoIP providers, unlike the local phone company, offer three-way calling, call forwarding, auto redial, and caller ID without any additional charges. CrystalBlue Voice is a highly reliable solution for small businesses that need efficient and effective voice communications. We rely on our phones for talking to our customers every day, and Whaleback manages our services, updates our technology and ensures that we receive the reliability we need to service our clients. According to Gartner, for a small business with 50 employees to buy its own PBX, the cost would be about $50,000. Internet and local and long distance rates are an additional $2,000 per month. Add to that the cost of employing staff or hiring a consultant who knows the system whenever they need something changed or improved. In this model, companies end up paying a lot of people on an ongoing basis. However, Gartner research shows that a large portion of hosted IP PBX systems will be sold to SMBs that don t want to spend $50,000 on a new phone system. Hosted systems enable SMBs to augment their staff with the expertise of the service provider, and get the benefits of the technology and the service provider s expertise without having to buy and physically maintain the infrastructure. With a hosted system, the service provider includes all those services and the physical systems for one price. Companies would have one provider to deal with, and less equipment on site. Advantages to hosted IP services also include predictable monthly hardware and service fees, capital expense avoidance, limited local hardware and points of failure, and fewer demands on already taxed, or non-existent, IT staff. Telecommunication charges can be a growing expense for many manufacturing and distribution companies in particular, those that conduct the primary portions of their business by phone, Kid Galaxy sought to reduce its monthly phone bills. According to Lisa Couture, National Account Manager for Kid Galaxy, We call all over the United States and Canada from our office, and our monthly bills from the phone company were getting expensive so we evaluated alternatives. Kid Galaxy had been using a Centrex service from a major carrier, and initially selected a hosted Voice over IP (VoIP) service to reduce monthly bandwidth charges. But the company immediately ran into major problems with call quality and reliability and found a better alternative for its telecommunications requirements and selected the CrystalBlue Voice Service from Whaleback Systems. Kid Galaxy replaced its hosted VoIP service with CrystalBlue and dramatically improved call quality while benefiting from a managed service, national flat-rate calling, predictable monthly telecommunications fees and easy-to-use phone features that employees learned in minutes. We are a small company without any IT staff, and we didn t want to buy and manage a PBX or go back to the high costs and low functionality of a Centrex service. But continuing to suffer through the many 9 Whaleback Systems: Unified Communications Designed for Small and Medium Businesses November 2010

10 problems we encountered with the hosted VoIP service we originally selected was not an option. Whaleback provided a managed service that allows us to focus on meeting the needs of our customers without the distraction of managing our phones and without the costs of circuit-switched phone services, explained Couture. While other SMBs manage the spiraling costs and limited functionality of carrier-hosted Centrex services or incur the capital and operating expenses of deploying and managing a PBX Kid Galaxy focuses its efforts on selling its products and serving its customers. Each company has unique requirements that they may also need to take into account before deciding how to implement IP telephony, using these points as a guide. Organizations should only consider service providers that can demonstrate a clearly defined product, technology and support road map for IP telephony. Conclusion Expect a Managed Service Solution with Unified Communications to: Improve business productivity. The adoption of integrated applications allows employees to use advanced applications and will support a connected but distributed workforce and reduce business delays due to existing limitation of current applications; Create borderless outreach to others. Employees can quickly launch conferencing and collaboration sessions with other workers, partners, and customers and accelerate decision- making. This reduces time delays in setting up conference calls, which allows employees to reach others more quickly for matters that require immediate attention; Reduce costs for purchasing premises solutions. VoIP eliminates the need for acquiring and operating on-premises telephone equipment and eliminates the need to train and staff on the implementation and management of voice applications; Simplify UC environment. Rather than overinvest, companies can add communication applications as needed from the cloud providers and pay for only what is actually used. Pay for only what s needed. Modular applications enable you to pay for only those applications needed for their business. These on-demand services allow you to better manage their costs by not requiring licenses for features not needed. We are a small company without any IT staff, and we didn t want to buy and manage a PBX or go back to the high costs and low functionality of a Centrex service. But continuing to suffer through the many problems we encountered with the hosted VoIP service we originally selected was not an option. Whaleback provided a managed service that allows us to focus on meeting the needs of our customers without the distraction of managing our phones and without the costs of circuitswitched phone services, explained Couture. Unified Communications and managed VoIP services can deliver demonstrable business value to corporations of all types and sizes. Benefits include lowering costs, improving productivity, and strengthening customer relationships. Working with experienced services professionals enables the implementation of a plan that maps to a business strategic vision. ABOUT WHALEBACK SYSTEMS Whaleback Systems is the award-winning pioneer of the first managed VOIP business phone solution developed from the ground up to deliver enterprise-class features to SMBs. It includes an array of features that deliver business productivity along with affordable and predictable monthly phone charges. 2007, Forrester Research, Inc., April 17, 2007 Predictions 2009: What s in Store for Unified Communications? Forrester Research, Inc., January 20, , Forrester Research, Inc. Reproduction Prohibited March 9, 2010 Whaleback Systems, Road Warrior Functionality and CrystalBlue Voice Service are trademarks of Whaleback Systems; other trademarks are the properties of their respective owners. 10 Whaleback Systems: Unified Communications Designed for Small and Medium Businesses November 2010

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