It’s very easy to see the Cloud as the answer to all your business IT problems. After all, when it comes to business VoIP phone service and other hosted services, all of the heavy lifting is handled by the provider. As end users, your business gains a nice web portal to customize everything, loads of features, and even cost savings. But, at the end of the day, the Cloud might not be the be-all and end-all for every single situation.
Time and again, businesses pigeonhole themselves into many cloud pitfalls, resulting in more issues than solutions. Whether your business put all their eggs in one basket or made a hasty transition without properly planning, there are countless cloud mistakes that anyone can fall into. We wanted to help highlight some of those common mistakes, and how your business can work to avoid them. As an introduction, let’s focus on some of the more basic cloud mistakes often made during a business’ introduction to cloud solutions.
1. Assuming All Cloud Platforms Are The Same
Now, one of the most daunting aspects of a cloud transition boils down to the sheer volume of choices that exist. Focusing on simply business VoIP — a business can stay with an on-premises solution, adopt an exclusively cloud-hosted solution, or even build out a hybrid of the two. For each organizational option, there are even more options to choose from when it comes down to the provider. Even then, different providers will offer different levels of service with different limitations.
It would be easy to simply assume all cloud providers are the same — after all, they do generally offer the same features and types of service. But, as you can tell in some of our provider overviews and head-to-head comparisons, different providers offer vastly different platforms. This even extends beyond the simple feature lists or service limitations you’ll find at different price points. Providers will also differ on some very crucial aspects:
- Service availability — For VoIP specifically, this is crucial. Different providers can offer phone numbers from different locations, or extend service internationally. Others simply do not always have the same national or international reach. Local providers might be great for a local business, but not so great for out-of-state sales.
- Features and Limitations — Of course, one of the biggest differences is the pricing plans and tiers available. These tiers and plans generally incur different limitations. While one provider might allow unlimited toll-free minutes on their cheapest plan, others might require a business to upgrade their plan first. Simply assuming all providers offer the same service at the same price is an easy way to run into disappointment. For example, if you look at our list of Nextiva alternatives, you’ll notice that the different providers generally offer a different focus.
- Network Infrastructure — Similar to that of service availability is the network infrastructure on which a provider builds their platform. Generally most providers will at least support more than one data center for redundancy, but different locations can provide different levels of services. If your business is on the east coast, and all the provider’s servers are on the west coast, quality might suffer a bit.
- Customer Service — To some, the most crucial aspect is customer service. Some cloud providers are specifically known for their customer service and strive to offer the best service possible. US-based support reps are becoming more common, but still aren’t the standard. If your solution is hosted only, customer service is absolutely key. Things shouldn’t go wrong, but when they do, your business needs support they can rely on.
- The Platform Itself — Generally cloud-based solutions are built off of web browser applications. From here users can interact with the platform, utilize features, or customize and configure setups. The platform itself is what matters at the end of the day — if an app is confusing or difficult to use, or includes unnecessary features and a bloated interface, it will simply drain productivity and lead to more issues. Why pay for something no one will even use?
Whether you compare features, integrations supported, pricing plans, data center locations, global availability, or just plain old customer service, these platforms simply are not the same. In fact, this concept is why we put together our guide to a smooth Unified Communications cloud transition. Understanding what your business needs will help drive your decision towards a platform that works best for your business — not a disappointing and expensive mess of unused features.
2. Inadequate Testing
So let’s say your business already understands the difference between providers and has narrows their choices down to two or three different platforms. Recognizing the differences in these providers helps point out overt differences. For example, if one provider limits video conferencing to three users, but your business requires five users, you can cross that provider off your list. But the more nuanced differences aren’t obvious in surface comparisons.
During our head-to-head comparisons, we attempt to do more than list out different features. In the end, not all solutions compare apples to apples, and we tend to recommend different providers for different reasons. Our RingCentral vs. Vonage head-to-head comparison is a solid example of this: two otherwise comparable providers offer services that have drastically different focuses. When it comes to different chat apps, like the ever popular Slack, we dig very deep into the solutions and test out every little feature. This is a very important step in the cloud migration process that can often be overlooked. A business might see a provider as a perfect fit on paper, but in practice the solution just doesn’t quite work — and there’s only one true way to find out if the shoe fits. After all, we don’t purchase a car without going on a test drive.
When it comes to cloud platforms, most if not all providers will offer some form of a trial period. This could be a blatant 14 day trial, or a 30-day money back guarantee. We encourage your business to take full advantage of these opportunities. When running a trial period for a cloud platform, it would be a good idea to focus on a few points:
- Make note of every feature that your team used, and to what degree was it relied upon.
- What, or how many, features did your team end up ignoring?
- Was the user experience adequate, simple and seamless in order to improve efficiency? Or was it confusing and time consuming?
- Does the platform solve the issues your team was already experiencing before adopting a cloud solution?
These are questions you can only answer after actually using the platform. A big feature list can sound great on paper, but if your team is only using the platform to supplement one specific use case, then the investment just might not be worth it. Or, in some cases, forcing your employees to use a specific solution can even slow down work, requiring unnecessary steps in what could be an otherwise seamless process. Why would anyone bother to use video conferencing when they are all in the same office, for example?
3. Too Much, or Too Little, Customization
Everything in life is about balance, and this extends to your cloud platform as well. Part of the beauty of cloud solutions is that they allow for intense customization. With web apps and online portals, these platforms put all of the controls and customization at the fingertips of the business. Instead of calling a provider to come and install a new phone line, or establish a new SIP trunk, or turn on call recording, users can handle all of this right within the cloud platform itself.
For cloud contact center solutions, managers can generally configure their entire IVR and in-depth routing systems directly in the cloud app. This level of customization is absolutely great to have, but at the same time, it can also be a downfall for one main reason: a lack of balance. If your business just goes all out, and turns everything on, and establishes a confusing organization structure, well this can simply bog down users.
Unnecessary features, as mentioned above, can hurt the ROI of a solution, and even worse confuse those using the platform. Why purchase a Ferrari if all you do is drive your car to the train station every day? Too much customization can lead to feature overload, which would have an adverse impact.
On the other hand, too little customization can drastically hold back a business at the same time. Without any form of customization or configuration, your business could be missing out on the entire package as a whole. For example, a subscription to RingCentral business VoIP provides all users with access to their team collaboration software, Glip. But if your team doesn’t even turn on or use Glip at all, they are missing out on a massive aspect of the RingCentral platform, one that elevates it above other competition. In the end, both situations can even lead to the rise of Shadow IT, with teams adopting their own solutions to fill in gaps.
Plan Ahead To Avoid The Early Mistakes
You may have noticed one of the common themes among the discussion is to plan ahead. Educate yourself, and the decision makers in your business to arrive at the best possible solution. Arming your business with an understanding of what makes providers and platforms different, the knowledge of exactly what it is your team does and does not need, as well as how to leverage those features are crucial steps to finding the right solution.
Simply diving in head first, searching for the cheapest provider, signing up and running with it will generally lead to disappointment in the solution. Just like any purchase, one should be educated on what they are buying. Following a basic transition guide and gathering knowledge is the first step to avoiding any massive cloud mistakes or headaches that come with them. Switching to the cloud should be easy, and it will be with proper planning.