Cloudy with a chance of UC: 7 things to look for in a UCaaS provider

IT departments have considered moving software, infrastructure and storage to the cloud, so why not unified communications? Read this essential checklist before you buy anything

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With the recent hype about all things cloud-related, a lot of businesses are seriously considering cloud-based managed IP telephony and unified communications services.

According to Wainhouse Research, the global unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) market will grow to US$5.6 billion by 2014, driven by organizations across the spectrum looking to defer UC costs into a pure OPEX model, reduce IT support overhead, enhance scalability and improve resiliency.

In this post, I’ll outline a few important business and technical considerations companies should keep in mind when looking at provider UCaaS solutions.

  1. Feature parity with on-premises UC platforms – Your UCaaS provider should be able to reliably and securely deliver the same productivity-enhancing IP voice call control, unified messaging, mobility, conferencing and collaboration features and functionality as premises-based UC gear.
  2. On-site delivery and support – Since you’ll still need hardware to connect into the cloud, your provider should be able to locally deploy and service the variety of routers, gateways, switches, and IP endpoints (ranging from basic phones to advanced telepresence and mobile collaboration devices and software clients) your employees will need to use cloud UC services.
  3. Feature-rich portal – You should get 24×7 on-demand access to a secure portal, for self-administering moves, adds, changes and deletions (MACDs), seeing detailed service-level performance metrics and viewing bills.
  4. Robust cloud infrastructure – Whether the cloud model you are considering is private (hosted applications dedicated to your organization), public (hosted, shared with other companies) or hybrid (a mix of hosted and prem-based), your provider’s server, storage, virtualization and switching infrastructure underlying the UC applications should be highly available, scalable and securely hosted in hardened data center facilities.
  5. Connectivity  bundles – To get your UCaaS traffic into and out of the cloud, look for an offer that includes SIP trunks for PSTN access and MPLS or Internet data transport with the UC applications. Your provider should give you enough high bandwidth, low latency, low jitter connections for your employee base today and support flexible and rapid growth as your company adds users and sites. Ideally, the provider should be a one-stop shop for long distance, toll-free, E911 and number portability services.
  6. Integration of existing communications assets and BYOD support– look for adaptive delivery models that don’t strand your existing telecom investments and that allow you to migrate head office, branch and remote workers to the cloud when it makes sense and with minimum disruption to your business. To maximize your ROI, the service should allow you to reuse existing phones and endpoints. With the rise of BYOD (bring your own device), integration and support should extend to employee-owned smartphones and tablets connecting into the enterprise network.
  7. Service-level agreements you can trust – Make sure your service provider is willing to commit to the high availability, QoS and security of the entire solution on an end-to-end, 24×7 basis with qualified support personnel providing centralized proactive monitoring and management.

Learn more about the future of unified communications by joining us for a free Webinar on Sept. 25: SIP Trunking: Take Your UC to the Next Level

 

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