July 1, 2013 Hosted Systems, Network Connections, Phone Systems, The Cloud Over the past few years, “The Cloud” has revolutionized the business communications marketplace. While many businesses once avoided Cloud-based VoIP due to concerns about reliability, call quality and functionality limitations, it has now become the delivery model many organizations view as their first choice when evaluating a new solution. However, though Cloud-Based VoIP has matured into a highly dependable, feature-rich, versatile business VoIP delivery model, there are still many critical considerations to evaluate when choosing whether to go “Cloud” vs. “Campus” (in other words, an on-premise communications platform). Unfortunately, many Cloud-based VoIP providers overlook several, if not all, of these critical factors due to their “plug and play” approach. Often times these providers simply plug in the number of phones you need into a proposal generator and churn out a quote, without so much as even seeing your building or asking about your voice & data contracts. Obviously, this approach is fatally flawed. Business-grade VoIP, whether hosted in the Cloud or residing in a physical server on your “campus” or in a company data center, is a mission-critical technology that needs to be engineered and is highly reliant on the type, speed, and quality of your Internet connection to function as intended. To help you further understand what key factors to examine when evaluating whether Cloud-based VoIP or on-premise VoIP is a better fit for your organization, we’ve included a few issues to consider below. Technology / Infrastructure Considerations: Perhaps the most important, yet overlooked factor to consider is your company’s physical and IT infrastructure. Since Cloud-based systems are completely reliant on Internet connectivity to function, proper cabling and wiring throughout your facility is critical. As a general rule, you must have a minimum of Category 5 (CAT5) cabling run throughout your facility, although this is not the only wiring issue to consider. The best way to determine whether or not your business is properly wired and cabled is to have a professional site survey done. Another major consideration is whether your business relies heavily on analog devices such as analog phones, fax machines, or credit card machines. These devices will not work properly with a Cloud-based platform, and must remain on analog lines to guarantee full functionality. For this reason, companies that rely heavily on analog devices to properly run their business are often best served by on-premise systems, which can easily and seamlessly integrate an analog infrastructure. These are just two of the most common issues to consider when evaluating cloud vs. on-premise, but there are still many other critical infrastructure factors to consider as well. Carrier Services: It’s not just about bandwidth. There are many critical carrier services factors to consider when implementing business VoIP, not the least of which is the status of your existing carrier services contracts. Depending on the type of existing service that you have, and your contractual obligation, Cloud-based VoIP may prove cost prohibitive. That being said, ensuring you have enough high-speed bandwidth (such as Ethernet or broadband connectivity) is critical to the success of a Cloud-based VoIP platform. In fact, we recommend that companies have one primary high speed connection, such as Ethernet over Fiber, that is backed up by a broadband service such as high speed cable Internet, to help ensure redundancy and continuous operation of your system. Carrier services designs and contracts can be extremely complex, however. It’s best to leave a thorough analysis to experts within the industry who thoroughly understand the intricacies of carrier providers and technologies. Business/Application Needs: Features and functions, not to mention technical capabilities, still vary widely between Cloud and on-premise platforms. Sometimes, it’s the seemingly smallest things that are most important for your end users. Whether it’s how your receptionist answers calls, how your auto attendants are set up, or even the way you page people throughout your organization, it’s crucial to make sure all of your end users’ critical needs are met by the new platform. Although Cloud-based VoIP platforms have evolved and matured significantly over the past few years, there are still many subtle differences in how they operate from most on-premise systems. This is because most on-premise communications platform providers have decades of engineering and user feedback built into their programming. In addition, most “advanced” functionality has not yet evolved to the refined levels of most on-premise platforms. In a general sense, this includes things like leveraging Outlook to manage email, voice mail and faxes, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) capabilities, and deep CRM/ERP integration. That’s why you need to perform a thorough, in-depth analysis of your business needs and requirements and decide what you can and can’t live without. Cloud-based VoIP is a great fit for many organizations, but for some, it still doesn’t fit the bill. Choosing a VoIP communications platform, especially in today’s increasingly connected and collaborative world, is a critical decision for your business – One you can’t afford to “mess up.” Your decision to go with a Cloud-based platform or on-premise should be based on a thorough analysis of your technology and infrastructure, carrier services, and business and application needs. At ETA, we work as our customers’ advocate by providing access to both of these delivery models, as well as over 50 carrier services providers. Please feel free to contact us using the “contact us” button on the side of our Website. We look forward to speaking with you.