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Posted on: November 4, 2019 By: Sage Tourigny

Choosing a communications partner can be stressful. With so many companies offering communications services, each with their own messaging, the decision can overwhelm even the most seasoned IT professional—let alone a business owner who’s just trying to get the best price for the most speed. So how do you help your customers make the right decisions?

Unlike other providers, WOW! Business takes the time to understand your customers’ communication needs before designing, or even suggesting, a solution. Our goal is for you to succeed and ensure your customers do, too. To help, we’ve created 10 questions they should keep in mind as they work with you to evaluate potential carriers.

1. How hard is it to increase our level of service when we need it?

As your business grows, the last thing you want is to be limited by the capabilities of your ISP. Having a fast, reliable Internet connection is a good start. But if you want to continue to streamline and scale your capabilities, you’ll need to make sure your provider has solutions beyond just Internet connectivity.

2. How long should I expect my contract to last?

Contract terms typically involve a minimum commitment of 12 months, which gives your service provider a chance to recover the initial cost of delivering services.

3. How much will my solutions cost?

While you don’t want to overpay, you also don’t want to limit your bandwidth. If you don’t have enough it may cost more in loss of productivity and customers. Consider an option that allows you to scale up or down if necessary.

4. What if I don’t have the knowledge or resources to assess my network needs?

Make sure your provider works with you to understand your company’s specific use cases, rather than selling you products or speeds you don’t need.

5. How much bandwidth do we actually need, for now and for the future?

Emails, messaging apps, uploading or downloading files, and security cameras all depend on reliable WiFi. The amount of bandwidth can affect how well your employees work with each other and on their own. Determining how much you need using these three attributes:

  • Number of employees who need Internet access
  • Number of connected devices (tablets, smartphones, watches, etc.)
  • Number of applications each employee uses (streaming, online collaboration, email, etc.)

6. What download and upload speeds do I need?

This is a two-part question: What are my real data upload and download needs and what are the ISP capabilities at each location across their network? No business wants to be limited by data transfer speeds not up to the job.

7. Should we be looking at cloud? What can cloud specifically do for our company?

Cloud computing gives employees a central location to store and exchange files and more ways to collaborate and stay connected when workers are on the go.

Moving traditional software models to the cloud helps ensure employee access, while also helping you stay up to date with the latest versions.

8. Our computers are older. Should we consider fiber connectivity?

Even older networking computers and equipment can benefit from the speed upgrade you get with a fiber connection. It can also help you increase capabilities by enabling you to take advantage of cloud-based applications.

 9. How is reliable is the network I’m considering?

When your network goes down or is regionally slowed up for any reason, your business suffers. Think about how many of your daily operations depend on fast Internet and then ask what level of consistency you’ll be getting.

10. Will a service change impact our WiFi connectivity?

If you’re going to make a change, make sure your provider offers quick setup. The fastest solution in the world won’t do you much good if you’re not up and running after the transfer is complete.

For more information about selecting a communications provider, or to explore cutting-edge solutions backed by personalized local service, contact WOW! Business.

Posted on: October 25, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

Every customer’s experience with a business starts with some type of interaction, whether it be with a sales representative or IT, going above and beyond their expectations is vital to success. By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.


Is Your Contact Center Keeping Up? Watch “The Intelligent Contact Center” Now. >


Although 80 percent of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service, only eight percent of people think that these same companies deliver “superior” customer service.

How Are Companies Ensuring Positive Customer Engagement?

They’re investing in new technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, leveraging them to collect data, analyze usage and gain deep insight into how their customers are using their products and services. Contact centers are key to this transformation.

Contact centers are an important strategic asset. With 70 percent of customer journeys starting on a digital channel, it’s shocking to find that only one percent of digital customer data is used for effective engagement.

AI takes the data collected and the interactions we have with our customers to improve their experience by anticipating their needs.

Brands need to compete on their customer experience to stand apart now more than ever, with 59 percent of people willing to try a new brand or company for a better service experience. AI and machine learning are transforming contact centers into streamlined, self-service and smart CX platforms, working to improve the customer experience.

The future of the contact center world will involve optimization, assistance, discovery and recommendations, all given by AI. Your business will achieve a strategic advantage, operational excellence, and customer loyalty by investing in a contact center that saves time and money while ensuring that your customers are receiving the best service.

With enterprise-class performance and consumer-like ease of use, innovative companies rely on advanced cloud contact center solutions like MiCloud Connect CX to power their customer interactions. The power of AI is infused into every element of our contact center solution, to drive higher efficiency, cost reduction and allowing you to deliver personalized customer experiences. Integrating with your CRM system, Connect CX ensures that when a call comes in, you can immediately assess customer information, so that you can even personalize the conversation.

Focused on delivering personalized customer experiences with a cloud-native solution that combines enterprise-class modern cloud architecture with a consumer-like experience, MiCloud Connect CX can help your business make customer experience its competitive advantage. Bring all of your communications tools into one cloud and one application for a seamless experience on any device, anywhere in the world. Easily manage voice, email, and IM from a single screen to reduce management complexity and boost productivity.

Your team will exceed evolving customer expectations with a nimble platform, accelerating your customer experience with a contact center tool that’s easy to use and set up, intuitive for your team and never lets you down.

To learn more about how you can leverage intelligent contact centers to deliver the best customer experience possible, watch our webinar, The Intelligent Contact Center.

In this webinar, Head of AI and Data Science at Talkdesk, Jafar Adibi and Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Nichole Paschal of Mitel, cover how intelligent contact centers are helping to gain valuable insight into customer behavior.

In This Webinar You Will Learn How An Intelligent Contact Center Can:

  • Utilize IVR and CRM data to intelligently route incoming calls, offer predictive recommendations and drive up first call resolution
  • Save time and money by automating responses to common queries, improving resolution time and CSAT scores
  • Identify trends, monitor performance and unlock deep insights into agents and customers

Posted on: October 16, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

Before modern avionics, pilots set a fixed point on the horizon and flew their planes using a center stick and right and left rudder pedals.  These controls allowed the pilot to keep the airplane on course by controlling altitude and direction.  Likewise, call center KPIs and benchmarks act as controls to establish direction and to know whether the call center is on course.

You may be familiar with certain call center KPI’s but less familiar with benchmarks. Using our analogy, benchmarks are used to determine whether your call center is on course.  When you measure call center performance, benchmarks inform you whether your results are acceptable and can help you know whether you are on target or not.  So, how do you obtain KPI benchmarks?

A KPI Benchmark is a Comparative Metric.

Benchmarks can be based on business or call center goals.  For example, your call center may want to set a goal to increase reduce first call resolution.  That goal can be used as a benchmark.  Benchmarks can also be established by looking at other call centers like yours to determine what a standard is within an industry. For example, call centers that provide customer support for software companies may have an average first call resolution rate of say 60%.  If your call center also provides customer support for a software company, and if you want to be better than the industry standard, then you need to have a first call resolution rate that exceeds 60%. This kind of benchmark is also known as an external benchmark.

External benchmarks are useful because they help you align with standards considered typical for an industry.  This can help properly set targets and avoid overdelivering (or underdelivering) along with the associated financial costs.  But external benchmarks are also difficult to obtain.

Measuring call center KPIs and evaluating them against a benchmark is essential for continuous improvement.  When benchmarks reveal performance gaps, call center managers can look for causes and take corrective actions to change outcomes.  However, you won’t know whether a corrective action has the desired effect unless you remeasure and re-benchmark.  Which brings us back to our airplane analogy.  When you determine a performance gap and take a corrective action, you are in affect pulling or pushing the center stick or commanding the rudder all in order to keep you heading in the desired direction and altitude.

Learn More from the Premier Expert

Have you considered implementing KPI and benchmark reporting? If you would like to know more about how to implement the right KPIs and benchmarks for your call center, join KPI and Benchmarking expert, Bruce Belfiore , CEO and Senior Research Executive of Benchmark Portal  for an in-depth discussion covering:

  • How to determine the right essential KPIs to measure
  • How to find and use hard-to-find, external KPI benchmarks
  • How to understand gaps and steps to take to correct gaps

Bruce is a KPI and Benchmarking expert. He hosts an online radio program called “CallTalk ” and has lectured and consulted worldwide including teaching Call Center Management at Purdue University.  He is the author of the book Benchmarking At Its Best for Contact Centers.  Make plans to join Bruce for this insightful discussion on how to implement call center KPI benchmarking Oct 15 at 1 pm ET.

Posted on: October 15, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

The Benefits Of A Departmental Contact Center

Let’s be honest: The idea of opening a massive contact center probably isn’t all that appealing, especially if you are a startup or small to medium-sized business operating on a tight budget and trying to run an agile operation.

Related: Mobilize Your Business With UCaaS

Building a traditional contact center, after all, is no small ordeal. It requires a lot of space, hiring dedicated staff members, securing premium communications infrastructure, and so on. All things considered, a contact center can be one of the most resource-intensive departments in  company.

Related: How A Scalable VoIP Solution Can Help Your Business

Despite these challenges, contact centers are extremely important—more so, in fact, than ever before. In the age of the customer experience (CX), where expectations are through the roof, ensuring a seamless and helpful interaction with your brand has become one of the golden rules of doing business. According to Salesforce, 47 percent of customers claim they will stop buying from a company if they have a subpar experience; 76 percent of customers say it’s easier than ever to take their business elsewhere.

The Departmental Contact Center

Without the services of a contact center, it’s just about impossible to keep customers satisfied—putting business owners today in a tough predicament about how to proceed. As a workaround, many businesses are embracing the idea of informal, or departmental, contact centers.

Related: UCaaS As A Critical Customer Service Tool

A departmental contact center is one where non-traditional employees (like sales associates or IT personnel) are empowered to interact with customers over channels like voice, email, and live chat. It can reduce or eliminate the need to hire full-time customer service representatives.

Related: Why You Should Update Your Business Phone Service

Departmental contact centers typically leverage a cloud communications platform, which can be accessed securely from any location. All communication takes place over a centralized, cloud-based portal—in effect, enabling a borderless customer service department.

The Benefits Of Departmental Contact Centers

Some of the top benefits to using a departmental contact center include:

Reduced CAPEX & OPEX

By taking an informal, departmental approach, and leveraging cloud software, a business can provide strong customer service without having to spend enormous amounts of money on backend telephony infrastructure and agent-facing equipment. It will also eliminate all overhead that would otherwise have to be spent on a physical contact center (like floor space, seats, utilities, and so on).

Related: What All Multi Phone Systems Should Include

Keep Employees Connected

In a traditional contact center environment, dedicated agents handle most customer-facing interactions. Information is entered into a customer relationship management (CRM) portal, where it can then be exported to other teams like sales, marketing, and Research and Development. One of the downsides to this environment is that it creates a barrier—and a disconnection—between customers and employees. All too often, critical customer data simply goes unused. By allowing high-ranking team members to communicate directly with customers, it can serve as a valuable educational component that can lead to better products and services, and happier customers in the long run.

Related: The Future Of 5G

Improved Loyalty

Customers, of course, will appreciate connecting with experienced team members instead of part time call center agents. For example, imagine using a software as a service (SaaS) solution to run a business, running into a problem and contacting customer support—and instead of speaking with a regular agent, you connect with a lead developer who knows the ins and outs of the software better than anyone. This type of experience will foster feelings of strong brand loyalty—and it will reinforce the message that the company really cares about providing great support, to the point where workers will take time out of their busy day to help solve problems.

Posted on: By: Carolyn Kuczynski

Our bring your own network (BYON), access-agnostic solutions equip your customers to easily swap phone systems and migrate to the latest communications and networking technologies they need while keeping their underlying connectivity in place. Cloud-based Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), value-added SD-WAN and managed security services will improve customer engagement, employee productivity, network performance, service reliability and cyberthreat protection.

Featured BYON Windstream Enterprise solutions include:

  • SD-WAN – Choose the technology platform that is right for your business from two of the leading WAN edge infrastructure providers— VeloCloud or Fortinet—both options are recognized as leaders in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, provide PCI DSS compliance, and leverage our state-of-the-art partner portal
  • UCaaS – Our many “flavors” of Unified Communications as a Service offer a more connected, collaborative workforce, with instant messaging, chat, presence, mobility, conferencing and CRM integrations—all backed by a world-class network with 99.99% always-on reliability
  • Security and Compliance – Most experts agree that a security breach for most companies is no longer a question of if it will happen, but when it will happen. Our suite of Security Services includes Cloud and CPE Firewalls, SIEM and DDoS Mitigation to shield the most sophisticated threats.

Enjoy big payouts. In addition to our standard competitive residual monthly compensation, we’ll give you a 5% bonus residual and up to 4X accelerator for BYON services!

 Everything you need from a single source. If you’re also looking for network solutions, either as a replacement or for diversity, we can do it all—BYON, network solutions or both.

Want to Learn more? E-mail Windstream Enterprise

Posted on: October 14, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

Your contact center needs to strike a tricky balance. On one side, you need to provide excellent customer service to drive more revenue and retain current customers. On the other, you must ensure your team is servicing as many customers as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Most businesses are adopting Intelligent Automation, IVR & Self-Service applications to maintain this tricky balance.

Did you know?

30% of a customers’ interactions with a company’s contact center is with an I.V.R. Yet only about 7% of the companies surveyed offer customer solutions through the IVR experience than an agent can provide.
(Source J.D. Power)

The price of resolving a customer need on a call via the IVR versus an agent is a difference.
(source: Al Cook)

Almost one-third of a customer’s time is spent in the IVR.
(Source: Al Cook)

Many organizations want the flexibility to let their customers choose the level of self-service they want to address their inquiry or whether they purely want to speak with an agent. This becomes especially useful when the contact center is closed and customers can still get answers to their questions via automation. Not only will voice automation free up your agents to handle more complex cases, but customers can quickly solve basic issues like bill pay, account inquiries, and the many high-volume / low value transactions typically handled by an agent.

Evolve IP’s customers typically see a 20-30% completion rate in these low-value self-service transactions which frees up agents to handle higher level or more sophisticated functions.

For customers that do engage with self-service capabilities during business hours, many customers find that the customer still wants to speak with an agent but their question is more focused in nature reducing in shorter handle times. Typically, they’ve received some information from the automation and now have a follow-up question that requires the skillset of an agent to address.

Integrations Power Automation

Integration is the key to creating an IVR experience that leaves your customers feeling like the service was created just for them. When your IVR knows the entire customer journey, the products they’ve purchased, their financial status, etc. it can make a huge positive impact on the customer experience.

 Common scenarios include:

  • Self Service applications that empower customers
  • Intelligent / data-driven routing provides personalized routing and relevant prompts
  • Agents can be presented with key customer information along with the interaction
  • An integrated contact history at the agent’s fingertips
  • Last agent routing allows organizations to build rapport

Challenges & Considerations

  • Consider the “openness” of key business applications / CRM for integration: Integrations can be very easy or very tough depending on how open the underlying platform is to building such an integration. Most modern day applications have robust APIs that enable this type of integration. You will definitely need to take a look “under the covers” to confirm that your application is ready to integrate.
  • Ensure the availability of technical resources to participate: Of course, you are going to need help from the technology folks getting access to these functions and everybody has a large pile of technology wishlist items that needs to be sorted through to determine which projects actually see the light of day.
  • Start with high-volume / low-value requests for self-service: It’s always great to start with these high-volume interactions like a status request that consumes up valuable agent resources answering simple questions that just need access to the data to answer.
  • Create a simplified personalized experience with minimal prompts that are relevant to the caller: We’ve had great success simplifying the customer experience by personalizing it. Why ask the caller questions to which you already know the answer? Why offer prompts that aren’t relevant to that customer? Move away from the one-size fits all routing that we all dread.
  • Early in the process, design your consolidated reporting across the entire CX: You really want to think about the reporting up-front and not leave that for an after thought. Many times the design of the automation needs to be adjusted to meet the reporting needs. You’d rather get the reporting right the first time than having to go back to the technology well again.
  • Recognize the on-going need to optimize automation based upon results: The IVR is a critical moment of customer engagement, and yet it’s frequently left untouched by companies for years. How often have you heard, “Please listen carefully because the menu options have recently changed” and known that the menu actually hasn’t changed in a very long time? That’s because many organizations don’t take the time and energy to experiment, iterate, and improve the IVR.
  • Deliver multiple, smaller victories over a phased rollout: My personal philosophy is to have many, small victories instead of the big-bang approach which is always high risk. Iterating through multiple phases of deployments usually results in a better product that builds and learns from the earlier phases.

Evolve IP’s Cloud IVR provides call centers with a higher level of customer interactivity and data driven decision making. This enables call centers to deploy a wide range of self-service and outbound dialing features ultimately freeing up your agents to focus on more complex requests and customers requiring a higher touch.

Posted on: October 11, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

Yes! It’s a Match Made in Heaven!

SD-WAN has been a trending topic in the technology world for quite a while now, and long enough that it’s beginning to become commonplace in network discussions and more routine when it comes deployments.

Today, most SD-WAN deployments are managed by companies that exclusively handle  SD-WAN. So any voice provider that planned to sell SD-WAN as a part of their solution to a customer would essentially be relying on these third-parties or outsourcing to manage the SD-WAN service.

That’s why Momentum recently made headlines when they added SD-WAN to the company’s solution portfolio.

Although unique, a voice and communications provider offering a managed SD-WAN solution brings a number of advantages to every deployment. Here  are a few:

1) The Benefit of the UCaaS Experience

VoIP and unified communications are a few of the primary applications that use an SD-WAN connection. So while traditional SD-WAN providers may be concerned with general deployment, connection speeds, etc., voice and communications providers are able to approach SD-WAN configurations and designs with a firmer understanding of the application requirements and end goal.

This allows voice providers to optimize and lay out an SD-WAN blueprint and delivery plan for customers that ensures each and every deployment gets maximum results for their voice, UCaaS and all other applications.

2) Access to More Advanced Technology and Integrations

Because SD-WAN providers deal exclusively with that technology, they don’t always have the access or the capability of integrating into all the latest pieces of technology. This especially happens at the individual application level where you’ll see handshake deals or head nod agreements on how particular services and applications will perform on the connection.

Voice and communication providers have the experience, understanding and partnerships to combine cutting-edge branches of technology to deliver the absolute best delivery to work with applications

For instance, Momentum has designed a way to deploy SD-WAN in a way that builds on the technology’s enhanced availability, visibility and control without having to sacrifice security and reliability. One way this is accomplished is through the option of placing a virtual session border controller in Momentum’s data centers to ensure peak performance and quality.

Additionally, Momentum’s SD-WAN deployments can leverage both wired and wireless bandwidth. This is a game-changer because the expansion of available connection options allows for deployments to truly find and use the best available bandwidth. It also means the solution isn’t limited to locations with wired connections so it can be used almost anywhere.

3) Streamlined Experience

At the end of the day, one of the biggest benefits of having managed SD-WAN from a voice provider is the customer experience. You can see this in getting a single bill for multiple services, receiving access to savings through using multiple services and having main a single point of contact for questions and troubleshooting. Also, a voice and communication provider delivering SD-WAN can actually also provide even tighter protective security because all transmissions and signals remain in a single network.

SD-WAN from voice and communication providers delivers expertise,  enhanced technology, a better experience and move financial value to customers. And if the provider is like Momentum and provides a white-glove experience, having a single provider for voice, SD-WAN and even possibly other network services can give deliver additional meaningful value that simply can’t be ignored.

Posted on: October 10, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

Emails pile into your inbox by the dozens—or hundreds. Notifications pop up on your desktop computer and phone. So do text messages. And both your desk and mobile devices constantly ring.

Sound familiar? If it does, you’re not alone.

Sometimes we feel like we work for our communications devices, not the other way around. They pull us in all directions when we just want to get some work done. In today’s work environment, we’re challenged to be productive and effective, sometimes in spite of the technology we use.

But it doesn’t have to be like this. Unified communications (UC) combined with smart, intuitive collaboration tools (UC&C) makes work easier, connecting us more efficiently with colleagues, customers and partners, all from one platform that can be accessed from any device.

Improving The Customer Experience

With UC&C, employees can connect with customers through any channel, no matter where they’re located. Envision this scenario: A customer’s flight is delayed two hours, so she misses her connection. After speaking with the gate agent, she resignedly wanders off to get a bite to eat, five gates away. Why shouldn’t she? She knows it will be a while before she’s rebooked.

In the meantime, the gate agent finds an alternative flight. He brings up the customer’s information from her reservation, finds her mobile number and, with a click, the system dials her smartphone. She answers, thrilled when the agent shares details about her new flight. After agreeing to the rebooking, she sets off to the new gate.

Improving Team Productivity

Your creative team is hard at work developing a new client’s marketing campaign. But before they can proceed, you discover they need a critical piece of information from an internal subject matter expert. Despite leaving a voicemail and sending an email, you’ve received no response. Wouldn’t it be nice to know if your colleague is even on this continent, let alone available to conference with the team?

Presence technology lets you see if the SME is available and by which means: voice, text, video or not at all. The system automatically routes calls from one number to another. On top of that, your colleague can see all communications with UC&C’s unified messaging. Whether he’s in his office, in the car or working remotely, by signing on via a shared cloud platform he sees all messages, including texts, voicemails and emails. If he’s not available, the team sees this immediately and reaches out to another colleague for the information it needs.

Improving Community Communications

It’s not only businesses that benefit from UC&C. Staff and teachers in the Lovejoy Independent School District needed a way to communicate both internally and with parents. After UC&C was implemented, they gained a phone and voice mailbox in each classroom with conferencing capabilities. One feature, the Time of Day Call Restriction, allows teachers to put the classroom phone into “meeting mode” at scheduled intervals. That way, they’re not interrupted by calls during class time.

When class is out of session, teachers easily make calls from any device, either with a single click from their contact list or by entering a name. They can also easily join conference calls. That’s particularly handy when someone can’t make a parent-teacher conference in person.

Improving Partner Collaboration

In product development today, speed to market is essential. To achieve it, employees must work efficiently with partners, involving them as early as a product’s design phase.

Imagine you’re an engineer developing a new battery for a prototype automobile. You need to collaborate with the vendors supplying the necessary parts. UC&C provides tools that not only let you manage the project – setting tasks, scheduling meetings, sharing documents and virtual whiteboards – but enable you to invite external parties to participate via a secure, web-accessible interface.

It doesn’t matter which communications tool the vendor uses. UC&C can send messages across multiple providers. It even allows you to build a digital twin online so you can conduct a deep dive into the product’s requirements, working side-by-side.

UC&C Drives Results No Matter Where You Are

UC&C is bringing organizational communications into a new era. Now, colleagues, customers and communities can easily communicate across devices, geographies and across applications.

Discover How Hosted UC&C Makes Good Business Sense. >

Posted on: October 8, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

By Chris Betz, Chief Security Officer, CenturyLink

Let me put it another way: Security can be complex. The true art is making security easy to use.

As a Fortune 150 company and the second largest U.S. communications provider to global enterprise customers, we are responsible for securing our own operations through a suite of hybrid IT, cloud, networking and communications solutions — in addition to those of our customers. As CSO for this company, I can attest to the fact that the pressures security leaders face today are many.

On one hand, we have the explosion of network traffic spurred by video, 5G, IoT, connected devices and a mobile workforce; on the other, we have a justified and growing intolerance by users — both internal and external — for anything less than always-on, flawless performance. Couple this with the patchwork nature of many of today’s security solutions, which businesses are often left to stitch together on their own; the gap between security and engineering teams that often reflects security as an afterthought; and the shortage of qualified security professionals — and the picture can seem bleak.

But security can be simple: We believe that the inherent value of a security solutions provider should first and foremost be effective simplicity.

At CenturyLink, our security builds on two fundamental directives: to leverage our expansive global threat visibility and to act against the threats we see. Our unique and deep network-based threat intelligence makes our approach possible — and it is the foundation of Connected Security, our vision for seamless integration between security and the network to transform the communications of tomorrow.

The more we can do as a global security services provider to identify or impact malicious traffic before it hits our customers’ infrastructure, the better customers can focus and prioritize their resources elsewhere. This is the promise of Connected Security and the premise upon which we have transformed our network into a threat sensor and proactive defense platform.

Disrupting the security threats that we face today — and the threats we will face tomorrow — requires more than intelligence. It requires a collective commitment to share what we see and to act on what we know. We look forward to continuing to work together as we drive toward simplifying security.

Click here to view and download the full CenturyLink 2019 Threat Report: https://www.centurylink.com/asset/business/enterprise/report/2019-threat-research-report.pdf

 

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and as a CenturyLink Channel Partner, you have access to sell CenturyLink’s full suite of trusted Security Solutions. For more information, please contact your Channel Manager or Partners@CenturyLink.com.

 

Posted on: October 7, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

Choosing the right Unified Communications platform

A unified communications (UC) platform should be your ticket to easier team collaboration, with all workflows for instant messaging, video conferencing, screen sharing, VoIP telephony and more running through one streamlined application. Whether it actually becomes this ideal all-in-one hub will hinge on which solution and vendor you select.

What’s at stake when shopping for UC – and why you should explore cloud

When you choose a UC platform, you’re not just purchasing a product – you’re buying into a larger ecosystem, much like you do when you opt for iOS or Android. In addition to placing a bet on the solution’s underlying communications technology – i.e., its ability to handle calls, messages, and meetings – you are also trusting its vendor to support it and other vendors to allow it access to their APIs. That raises the stakes for making an informed decision, as the wrong choice can leave you with a UC solution that is as unreliable for end-users as it is difficult for you to integrate into your larger IT environment.

Making these sorts of high-stakes choices between seemingly similar – but actually quite different – collaboration tools is the enterprise equivalent of the format wars that once dominated consumer tech. For example, imagine being a movie buff circa 2006 and going all-in on the ill-fated HD-DVD instead of Blu-ray. The latter quickly drove the former out of the competition despite their comparable specs, leaving early adopters with an expensive player that studios had abandoned and which couldn’t even play Blu-ray discs – in other words, a major sunk cost.

When it comes to business communication tools, there’s a much wider range of competing solutions, from on-prem UC based on SIP trunking and an existing phone system to cloud-based implementations from vendors including Telesystem. Cloud-based UC, which is low-cost and continuously updated, is generally the most reliable platform for sustaining growth and ensuring real-time communications, not to mention eliminating the risk of ever being saddled with expensive, low-utility assets down the road.

That said, it’s important to scrutinize the features of any unified communications platform as well as the specific value the vendor can add to it. Let’s look at what you should prioritize during the selection process.

Deployment model: Cloud, hybrid or on-premises

All UC solutions are designed to perform the same basic task, namely to create a one-stop-shop for:

  • Voice calls.
  • HD video conferences.
  • Instant messages.
  • Virtual meetings.

At the same time, they differ in the specific infrastructure they harness to reach this goal. An on-prem unified communications platform is built on equipment the customer owns, operates and maintains. In contrast, cloud UC – or Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) – leverages the power of the provider’s data centers and hosted IT resources, and hybrid blends the two.

There are pros and cons to each approach. On-prem and hybrid afford a higher degree of control, at the cost of budgetary and operational flexibility. Cloud offers the latter two in spades but requires finding a trustworthy vendor. For now, cloud UC seems to be winning the race, with a Synergy Research report finding its adoption among enterprises increasing a staggering 57% year-over-year in 2018.

A UCaaS platform like UC-One from Telesystem can completely replace your existing PBX without requiring you to handle its maintenance or perform the complex operations for moving, adding or changing the system’s users. Cloud-based unified communications are highly scalable, flexible and cost-effective, as they are billed as periodic operating expenditures, not as steep upfront capital expenditures.

Features for calling, messaging and meetings

Any UC solution worth its weight will do much more than simply be a PBX-in-the-sky, though. It will support all of the key functions integral to modern teamwork and put them into context in one place, eliminating the need to waste so much time on app switching just to keep up with the many possible ways in which a team can interact.

Indeed, today’s workplaces are home to a plethora of collaboration tools, including persistent chat apps, VoIP and video services for real-time communications, online meeting spaces and old standbys such as email, PSTN calls and text messages. The latter remains particularly popular despite the rise of newer alternatives; a survey by Technalysis Research found that they accounted for 75% of all co-worker communication.

Unified communications platforms like UC-One effortlessly balance old and new modes of communication:

Calling

Need to make a quick phone call? Corporate directory lookup allows colleagues to be found within seconds. You can also set up a single number for all of your devices, use Wi-Fi calling for cheaper rates and make VoIP or conventional calls from your business number. HD video is available as well to enrich voice conversations.

Unified messaging

Business messaging has come a long way from the early days of IRC and SMS. Chatting within a UC suite is strengthened by features such as presence (to see who’s online at the moment), private and group chat, full chat history and easy access to all shared content such as emails and other files.

Meetings

Online meetings should be simple to join and participate in, but too often they throw a lot of roadblocks in front of their would-be participants. Dial-ins, PINs and complex user interfaces complicate the experience. Meeting functionality in a platform like UC-One is much more streamlined, with a simple invitation system that gets out of everyone’s way and allows participants to get right down to business via integrated video, messaging and screen sharing. You can even drag and drop a colleague’s icon into the meeting room or, if needed, dial-in.

Support for mobile workers

Since the 2000s, there has been a steady increase in the number of people telecommuting, in large part due to the evolution of mobile devices and wireless networks. More than 4 million individuals work from home at least half the time, according to Global Workplace Analytics. Half of the U.S. workforce holds a position that is compatible with telework arrangements and 80 to 90 percent of workers would like to telecommute at least some of the time.

Accordingly, mobile device support is a must-have in a UC solution. Specific features to look for include:

  • Android and iOS client apps for phones and tablets.
  • The ability to move calls from desktops to mobile devices.
  • Multiple call handling and merging.
  • Business phone number support across devices.
  • Wi-Fi calling with seamless handover between networks.

Integrations with other business communications apps

To return briefly to our earlier point about HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray, ecosystems matter. Cloud UC solutions without deep integrations and reliable vendor support are no better than fancy media formats that have no films or shows that anyone wants to watch.

The best UC platforms build context and support efficient workflows by integrating with everyday tools such as Microsoft Office 365, G Suite, Salesforce, Box and more. Plus, they can pull information and events from calendars and emails. The end result is one view within the UC app that provides a wealth of information about your calls, messages, files and co-worker statuses.

Should you invest in a UC platform?

Upgrading to a unified communications system is a big step, and one worth taking for many businesses. As PBXes age and become costlier to operate and maintain, transitioning to cloud UC, in particular, is often the rational move.

UC technology brings together the core functionality of your phone system with advanced features for messaging and meeting. It also goes beyond a traditional PBX by incorporating better support for mobile devices, which can easily use an existing workplace number to create a more professional impression, especially for small businesses.

Organizations of all sizes and across all verticals can potentially benefit from a UC implementation. Multi-location enterprises are perhaps best positioned since a UC platform provides a common way for geographically dispersed and frequently on-the-go employees to consistently stay in touch.

As an experienced national provider of services including hosted VoIP, network security and dedicated internet access, Telesystem offers a top-notch unified communications experience via the UC-One platform. It’s easy to get started by requesting a quote from our team. You can also contact us directly for additional information on UC-One or any of our other enterprise collaboration tools.

 

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