There was a time when work typically meant going to an office, so it’s not surprising that traditional business phone systems were built around a single, static location. Depending on size, a facility could install a premise-based key system or PBX or could choose central office-based Centrex. Either of the on-site options typically involved a capital expenditure, took up space, anything from a closet to a room. It entailed maintenance, repair, and general "care and feeding” of the system, so the user either had to hire a telecom manager to handle moves, changes, and software updates or pay a contractor for support.
The Centrex alternative freed up capital and real estate but could still entail delay and “nickel-and-dime” charges for features, moves, adds, or changes. In-house systems had size limitations and could require costly, disruptive equipment swaps when those thresholds were reached. And as systems aged, components for repair or expansion would get harder to find and eventually disappear completely. And even if all those problems could be overcome, today’s businesses now function far away from the office—at home, in the car, or on the road—beyond the easy reach of those premise-based or CO-based systems.
Fortunately there is a modern alternative ideally suited to today’s business needs. A Unified Communications (UC) solution utilizes the vast reach of the Internet to provide feature-rich phone service wherever your business goes. Powerful office phones connect to cloud-based switching systems using IP (Internet Protocol), but the system can just as easily route calls to or from cellphones as easily as to a desk phone.
Conservative estimates show the per-employee time savings over traditional systems at about 30 minutes a day or 7800 minutes (16 work days) a year. At an average wage of $24.52 per hour, that works out to over $3000 per year per employee.
Voice over IP (VoIP) is suitable for any size operation and delivers telephony as a Unified Communications service. Because it requires no on-site switching equipment, there is no capital outlay. You don’t have to tie up office space to house the system. Because you don’t own the system, you don’t have to manage it, upgrade software, or pay for repairs. And upgrades are handled by the service provider. This kind of resource shift can help realize greater efficiency within your team.
Besides being convenient, flexible, and cost-effective, hosted voice is extremely reliable, using redundant systems located in hardened sites. These systems are at least as well equipped and protected as traditional phone company central office systems and better equipped than most user sites to stay operational in a disaster situation. In fact, when disasters have completely shut down the offices of hosted voice customers, they’ve been able to move to remote facilities and continue operations uninterrupted, routing calls to cell phones or other offices.
Security is also a concern with a premise-based system as it is accessible to people that may want to do your business harm. One disgruntled employee can take down your entire system. With Unified Communications your service is safe and redundant. The Technology Resource Center of America found in a study that “45% of businesses have had a major communications disaster”. With hosted and managed Unified Communications solution you’ll have greater peace of mind.
Unified Communications solutions can deliver the same quality of service as traditional phone network with quality of service (QoS) guaranteed under contract with the provider. A UC solution also includes a higher quality voice experience with HD voice. Such a guarantee, of course, depends on the quality of Internet service to your facility, since “cut-rate” Internet connectivity can allow latency—millisecond delays in signal transmission—that are perfectly acceptable when sending data; voice, however, requires real-time connectivity. If voice and Internet connectivity are provided by different vendors, it may be difficult to assign responsibility if there are voice quality problems, so the easy way to ensure voice quality connectivity is to let a single vendor provide unified communication service including both voice and data connectivity.
In short, UC is rapidly displacing on premise and Centrex telephony systems, and for good reason. It frees up on-site real estate and eliminates up-front capital cost. It provides near-perfect reliability, even in the event of disaster and, with proper Internet connectivity, ensures voice quality equal to that of the best traditional systems or even better with HD voice. Unified Communication systems are massively scalable, eliminating barriers to growth, and they come complete with the day-to-day support that would normally require a full-, part-time, or contract telecom manager. Best of all, they improve employee productivity and allow for better customer engagement. UC provides capabilities that traditional systems can’t match, e.g., the ability to fully integrate mobile devices into the organization’s phone system, creating a system that fits the way we do business today. And UC is just the beginning. A vendor providing both cloud-based voice and data services can provide economies of scale, a single point of contact, and room to grow both in size and capabilities for truly individualized, unified communications.