March 2018
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Unifying communications and IT in the cloud can produce great benefits, but take care when sourcing suppliers

Joseph Blass, CEO, WorkPlaceLive

By Joseph Blass, CEO, WorkPlaceLive

Voice over IP, often known as VoIP, may no longer be a new story. Pioneered nearly 20 years ago and made famous by Skype, there are now many providers of this service which allows you to “speak over the internet”, with the quality of the calls and pricing packages making it a real contender for organisation-wide telecom solutions.

VoIP is a cornerstone of cloud-based Unified Communications [UC] which is changing how we work – and even holiday, for those who need to stay in touch when on a break. Many of us do. We also need to work away from the office at times; i.e. not just when on holiday.

UC is a descriptive term for integrated enterprise communication services: VoIP telephony, email, call control, instant messaging/chat and conferencing.

UC really scores when it’s combined with IT, especially when accessed via common hosted desktops. What this means in practice is that employees can work regardless of where they are based. All they require is an internet connection and access device [tablet, laptop, smartphone etc].

In the public sector, a solution like UC combined with IT should be at the centre of all processes, bringing together teams, enabling collaboration and offering scalability and integration with existing systems. In this sector, where procedure and process is necessarily stringent and time consuming – and price paramount – getting it right, including being able to work with trusted suppliers, is key.

The first step is to work with a UC provider who can offer you the best solution for your organisation’s needs and not just the solution that they can provide.

Bespoke services like VoIP can be designed to a precise need, but changes in IT can feel like a daunting move, in part because of the immense possibilities offered. So, when considering a move from the more traditional landline-based communcations services provider, how can you differentiate between the competitors in front of you?

The answer to this is two-fold.

First, you can look at how a “standard” package compares from one supplier to another. One supplier’s “Standard” may not be the same as that of another.  Consider the service, particularly functionality at basic package level, support, call quality and price. Can you get a testimonial from a current customer? Has the provider achieved accreditations to prove service standards? These headline questions will help you to whittle down your first tranche of possibilities.

Secondly though, what can really make a provider different from its competitors is when it can not only solve your telecom requirements but potentially unify all of your business IT, allowing an experience greatly superior to your current arrangements.

An enterprise solution will increase available functionality and combine all the benefits of a traditional system as well as all the benefits of a cloud-based phone and IT service.

Most organisations have dipped their proverbial toes into the cloud-based IT waters but what comes next is increasing the efficiencies they have already began to discover by allowing them to connect and integrate.

A great VoIP provider will enable your organisation to unify your IT system alongside your cloud-based phone service thus unlocking the benefits, functionality and efficiencies available from integrating those services. They will see past the standalone positives of VoIP and offer access to increased positives by allowing the solutions to work together for the benefit of your staff and working environment.

Hosted desktops (aka virtual desktops/Desktops as a Service) take your usual desktop experience into the cloud and allow your organisation flexible, secure access to all of its usual office data and software. “Working from anywhere” becomes a possibility. When you bring VoIP into the equation, employees, contractors or volunteers can login to their desktop and, using either a physical handset or “soft phone”, continue using their telephony in the same way, regardless of their location.

An extension number will connect to your mobile and follow you around without the caller needing to know you are not at your usual office location. User to user calling becomes free. One click calling via the desktop comes into play. The VoIP solution is a flexible reply to a need to work in a more flexible way than traditional services have allowed or, a sophisticated handset at your desk in the office, as you wish.

The insinuation here is that you should never be away from your day job. However, where you don’t want to incur roaming costs while abroad, or a contact to know that you are out of the office, the flexibility offered is clear.

Here’s how it can work

Consider you wanted to talk to a caller whilst away from your usual office desk. VoIP will allow you to take the call as if you were. Then, if your caller has questions about a specific subject, your hosted desktop will allow you to access all relevant spreadsheets, CRM or existing files without the need for apologies or excuses. Essentially, the unified communications will offer you a choice, never available with your previous non-hosted solutions.

This second comparison measurement, a step forward from the basic “cost” questions, is where you can truly identify whether you can go forward with VoIP or unified communications; where all your efficiencies are heightened.

The plethora of VoIP providers in the system (or on your shortlist) can be further reduced when you assess their capacity to answer just one of the possibilities available by internet telecoms or the complete range. It is worth considering whether a move to VoIP is good enough when technology has already moved past that and can offer so much more, and where VoIP is a cornerstone, not just a standalone.

That’s where UC, combined with IT in the cloud, comes into its own.

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