Picking up the phone, dialling a number and hearing a voice on the other end is a tried, tested and familiar means of business communication. Telephony, however, is also one of the trickiest technologies for an IT team to manage.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the business world to adopt technologies such as instant messaging over Slack and video conferencing over Zoom, but finding an easy, secure and professional way to handle phone calls was a much harder problem.
And that’s not the fault of the IT team.
“Maybe 25 years ago you had an IT team and a telecom team, but now they’ve merged and there’s no such thing as a telecom team. If you’re going to unify your communications strategies now, that task is difficult for the typical IT organization. Plumbing your phone network into your technology system is a specific skillset. It requires specific infrastructure and an ability to operate it in a way that causes no harm,” explained Ash Brar, director of production and solution engineering for Beanfield.
“It requires a telco. And it requires UCaaS.”
The concept of unified communications (UCaaS) is simple. It means having a single platform for telephony, messaging and meetings, plus integrated collaboration and storage spaces. That is the “unified communications” part.
An outside service provider manages the uptime reliability, quality of service, security, service integration and technical support. That’s the “as a service” part of the name.
In theory, any IT integration or service shop can say it offers UCaaS. In practice, however, a telco has the specialized expertise working with phone systems and networks.
Telcos have experience installing and maintaining traditional PBX (public branch exchange) phone systems. They understand how businesses use voice mail, caller queues, extension dialling, conference calls, business-hour settings and other telephonic services and telcos can map those functions onto the UCaaS’s voice-over-IP (VoIP) system that is built into the UCaaS.
Under a unified system, voice-based communications are easier to share. For example, voicemail doesn’t just sit waiting to be heard; it can be transcribed and displayed in the messaging system. The message—or its transcription—can also be forwarded to other departments or passed along to individual colleagues.
UCaaS gives distributed and hybrid teams more ways to connect with coworkers, customers and suppliers while making it easy to project a professional image. With UCaaS, it’s always the company phone number that is displayed on call logs, even when employees are working from home or using their cell phones while on the road.
A properly designed UCaaS system works to keep data private and networks secure. It also acts as a link to traditional business software such as Microsoft Office and Office 365.
While there is a large number of unified communications platforms available, solutions from trusted vendors such as Microsoft and Cisco work well with already established networks and systems. Plus, if employees are already used to using Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex, it makes sense to add voice calling to those platforms.
“It’s very difficult to convince employees to displace an existing app that they’re comfortable using. If a business is deeply integrated with Microsoft, for example, I do not recommend a displacement. Just enable calling into the same app and make your transition as seamless as possible,” said Brar.
The ongoing need for telephony
Even if some start-ups prefer to be contacted through messaging or email, telephones and voice calling aren’t going away any time soon.
“It’s going to take years, decades, for everyone to go that way,” said Brar, adding that sometimes a company’s phone number is part of its identity.
Sometimes, business use local phone numbers to advertise themselves in specific cities or provinces. Some business leaders believe having a human receptionist answer the phone shows they offer personalized services. Corporations that run call-centres or customer-support lines still need voice calling.
Phones also tend to keep working during emergencies (such as power outages) or in remote locations
Since telephony is here to stay for the foreseeable future, it makes sense to integrate calling into every communications platform.
The service advantage
Historically, businesses have purchased their PBX technology outright, but that approach is worth reconsidering for a few reasons.
First, if the pandemic has proven anything, it’s that companies need to be flexible and balance staffing level with business demands. This is true for large businesses, but it’s a game-changer for small ones. With UCaaS, it’s easy to adjust platform capacity as staffing changes and to not overpay for systems that aren’t needed.
“It’s especially important for small business to really be wise with how they use their capital, because right now, no one’s got an extra $5,000 laying around to be dumped into a phone system—$5,000 you can’t use for running your business. UCaaS is use for what you pay. If you have two employees today but you grow to 10 next week, you pay for 10. The cost is relative to how your business is growing or shrinking—hopefully not shrinking—so that’s an advantage. Plus, you’re not having to pay upfront to buy a PBX and have it installed,” said Brar.
He added that it’s always a good idea to consider both CapEx and OpEx costs when contemplating any technology implementation, including UCaaS.
“You might be paying a monthly reoccurring cost that looks a little bit higher with UCaaS than you’d be paying for a traditional PBX with some phone lines plugged into it, but from a total-cost-of-ownership point-of-view, there are other fees that need to be factored in. When you own a PBX, there’s probably a yearly maintenance fee and there are move/add/change fees every time you add more phones or need to make changes. You probably have a systems integrator who you purchased the PBX from, and you likely pay them for a maintenance contract.
“It has been proven many times over, that companies prefer the OpEx model. They can justify a total-cost-of-ownership savings over a given period of time when they look at all of their associated costs, even though on a simplified monthly basis, it might look like they are paying more for a service model.”
Beanfield should be your UCaaS partner and provider.
We’re a trusted Cisco technology partner. We were just named as a Microsoft Operator Connect Partner. These partnerships mean that some of the biggest technology companies in the world have looked at us, examined our technology and our business practices and said that we measure up to their incredibly high standards for service and quality.
We are a telecom company. Our roots in the telecom industry are deep. We’re a CLEC. Yes, that’s an old term, but it just proves our telecom credentials. Competitive Local Exchange Carriers (CLECs) must meet Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) standards before being able to offer local telephone voice services. We’re also regulated by the CRTC.
As a CLEC, we host our own infrastructure. We’re integrated into the traditional public switched telephone network (PSTN), just like all traditional telcos are. We operate carrier-grade telecom voice backbone networks in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver and we provide native last-mile fibre. We can even provide private dedicated fiber explicitly for the use of voice calling to the customer’s premises.
As part of our business-mapping process, we sit down and evaluate how your company uses your phone system today. Then, we transition the same features you rely on, including interactive voice response (IVR), or hunt groups, into the UCaaS platform.
We encrypt traffic from end to end. You’re not downloading a generic VOIP app and configuring credentials on it. You’re on an integrated platform so your voice calls are encrypted, your messaging is encrypted and your web conferences are encrypted.
Our platform works seamlessly with major cloud-storage providers and platforms including AWS S3. And since we have both Microsoft and Cisco credentials, our solution intersects smoothly with Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex.
We have solutions for businesses of all sizes from small to medium to large to enterprise. Give us a call and let us show you the possibilities of UCaaS and how it can make your company more efficient, more secure and more connected.