September 1, 2013 Budgeting & Reducing Costs Whether we realize it or not, most of us are conditioned to keeping our cell phone “healthy”. Whether it’s upgrading to the newest, hippest devices, using a protective case, or even keeping up with the latest software upgrades, we all regularly take measures to ensure our cell phone is up to date and continues to work at optimal performance. Let’s face it; your cell phone is one of the most important devices in your life. It’s no surprise that consumers take so many measures to ensure that they are constantly keeping it up and running. This became even more apparent last week with all of the hype surrounding Apple’s newest software upgrade, iOS7. Consumers are easily intrigued by having the “latest and greatest.” In this case, millions of us became obsessed with a software upgrade that brings a new appearance and a multitasking functionality unlike anything Apple has ever produced before. However, what many companies don’t realize is that their business communications platform is as important to their company’s success as their cell phone is in their personal lives. Just like cell phones, your business communications platform requires ongoing maintenance and care for both its hardware and software to ensure it continues to run at peak performance while keeping your organization up to date with the latest communication and collaboration technology. While you may have never considered this comparison before, it’s an important thing to realize. Your business communication platform is the lifeline that keeps you connected to your company’s employees, customers, business partners, and vendors. For this reason, system health checks should be implemented into your technology strategy on an ongoing basis. By identifying the hardware and software that your business is currently using, you can begin to consider some best practices for your system’s health. The first thing to consider is the hardware maintenance of your business communications platform. Without some sort of maintenance program, how is your business currently dealing with unpredictable outages and surprise costs? For some, dealing with an outage is comparable to an awful nightmare where a technician doesn’t show up for days and then proceeds to charge you outrageous amounts for parts and labor when they do. Luckily, hardware issues don’t have to always be a nightmare. Just like purchasing insurance for your cell phone, having a hardware maintenance program in place brings a sense of security to you and your business. Good maintenance programs, such as the one that ETA has in place, provide beginning-to-end, ongoing support for your business communications platform. For on-premise systems, a good maintenance program will provide unlimited help desk support, quick response times, expedited replacement parts, and a knowledgeable technician team all for one low, predictable price. Ongoing daily maintenance for your voice and data systems results in maximized longevity and effectiveness for your business communications platform. For Cloud-based systems, hardware maintenance works a bit differently, mainly because your server is controlled and maintained at an outside location. While you may not have to support your server in the Cloud-based world, the industry standard is that you still need to purchase maintenance warranties for the phones and other on-premise equipment. Now that you’ve ensured ongoing maintenance for your hardware, what’s next? You have to find a way to leverage the full capabilities your business communications platform provides. This is only possible by having the most current and up-to-date software upgrades. This might seem obvious, but we’ve found that the majority of businesses are actually not utilizing the latest software updates that are made available to them. A software upgrade is completed in order to replace existing software with a version that creates a more user-friendly experience, while also fixing glitches that may have existed in previous releases. This can include functionality improvements or efficiency enhancements for applications, such as unified communications, contact center solutions, and teleworking tools. With so many business communication technologies being software-dependent today, it’s important that your business takes the time to understand the capabilities that these new updates may provide. In the Cloud-based world, software updates are applied to the phone system server by the provider at their discretion. Because Cloud-based systems function on a shared consumption model, meaning one server may be utilized by many different clients, some providers will even remain on older software versions long after new versions have been released to ensure upgrades to not negatively effect masses of customers at once. Even after software versions have been updated in the Cloud. Whether or not subscribers actually utilize upgraded software’s new features is completely up to them. A premise-based system gives the business more control and flexibility in regard to taking advantage of new software releases. In many cases, it’s not that a business doesn’t want to take advantage of upgrades for their system, it’s simply that users are unaware of what’s available to them and also assume that these upgrades have underlying prohibitive costs. That’s why most providers offer “software maintenance” plans like the Software Assurance program ETA provides for our Mitel on-premise systems. When purchasing software maintenance for your business communications platform in the premise-based world, you do not have to worry about unpredictable costs when it comes to software upgrades. For one low annual fee, software assurance enables you to take advantage of any software upgrades that are offered for your base system within the term of your agreement. By providing customers with life-cycle cost certainty, we have given businesses free reign to leverage the newest technology and functionality as soon as it’s available. While the Mitel 6.0 upgrade may not be as flashy or sexy as the iOS7 release, it’s just as critical for your voice and data systems. By implementing both hardware maintenance and regular software upgrades as a part of your ongoing system health checks, you’re ensuring that your business communications platform is not only “healthy,” but also being utilized to its full capacity.