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Know the Difference: On-Premise vs. Hybrid vs. Cloud Hosted
The overwhelming majority of enterprise VoIP providers are cloud-based. Also called “hosted,” it means that the provider has their own data center, which they maintain and upgrade. They provide services to thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, of businesses, and have the advantages of scale. When it comes to security, redundancy, and energy efficiency, it’s always a good idea to have a team of dedicated professionals working 24/7 for you.
You’re already familiar with hosted services; any time you’ve checked your email, you’ve used a hosted service. Just like Gmail is hosted on Google’s worldwide network of server farms, VoIP providers have their own servers, which connect via switches to the public Internet and traditional phone network. Your VoIP phone will be able to call every land-line, cell phone, and VoIP provider in the world, just like any other phone.
On-premise is, as the name implies, on property that you own. You might have a room or even an entire floor dedicated to running servers in your office building. With an on-premise IP PBX, you have to purchase your own equipment. A major advantage is that you will have lower operating costs once you buy the equipment. Another advantage is that because you have your own team managing it, you have full control over maintaining and securing it, so that work is always done by people that you trust.
When you have your own IP-PBX on-premise, your service is for the SIP trunks, which is the total capacity to connect to outside calls. You can add and change users by purchasing new IP phones, and you don’t have to pay more for the service if you aren’t making more calls. VoIP providers give you the option of “burst pricing,” so if you need to make a high volume of calls suddenly, you can still make those calls and be charged more for it, rather than not be able to make the calls at all. You can be more economical with your plan because you don’t need to plan for that kind of unexpected demand.
A hybrid system is a mix of the two. It’s designed for businesses that have existing TDM infrastructure that still has a lot of value. The existing analog lines will be integrated into a VoIP system, while new buildings and mobile phones will be able to access the cloud.
This is best suited for older buildings that do not have Ethernet plugs available in every office, or a business so large it isn’t practical to replace every phone with an IP phone. One favorite application is to have internal communications in an office continue to use the existing legacy PBX, but connect the different sites via IP. A company with established offices in many different countries would benefit most from this type of solution.
Questions to ask a Prospective Enterprise VoIP Service Provider:
- Why Your Company and Not Another?
For about 90-99% of the service, one VoIP provider is about the same as another. You can expect most of the same features, a similar price point, and hopefully you’ll never need to talk to customer service for any length of time once you get up and running. But the small percent can make a big difference. One provider might have exclusive features, or a special graphic user interface, or a type of app that no one else has. Ask what makes them stand out.
- What Will My First Two Weeks of Enterprise VoIP Look Like?
When you get a new service, you might have so many new features that you’ll get overwhelmed. Focus more on the basics in the first month or two, then look into their web site or YouTube channel to learn more advanced features. You’ll have to set up things like voicemail and the auto-attendant right out of the gate, so make sure you can handle how these features work, because they might be different than the system you’re used to.
- What New Enterprise-Class Features Should I Learn About?
Once things are humming along, you’ll need to learn about the more advanced features. It might integrate with a popular CRM, work with social media, have a conference call feature, there’s too many to list. So be ready for round two.
- How Reliable is the Service, and What Recovery Plans Do You Have in Place?
Your VoIP provider of choice should have redundant backups, and be able to handle a situation without loss of service. Natural disasters and directed attacks against a provider can cripple a data center. Ask what measures they have to handle these unforeseen circumstances. You can also look on social media to see if, and then how, they had to deal with previous outages.
- What Will I Have to Live Without Once I Make The Switch to VoIP?
Once you migrate to enterprise VoIP, it may be curtains for some of your existing equipment and some services may not be compatible without an adapter. Fax machines are a casualty, but you might have to reconfigure your alarm systems or your overhead paging system. Find out what works and what doesn’t, and if you need to keep using the equipment you have, see how you can adapt it to your new system.
Key Benefits and Features of Enterprise VoIP Phone Systems:
- Real-time Scaling
Enterprise VoIP is ready when you are. If you have a hiring frenzy or a huge layoff period, VoIP can scale up or down in on-demand with a click of a button. You never have to worry about paying for a service you won’t use or being unprepared for a spike in demand.
- Empowering and Managing a Remote Workforce
Both apps and IP phones can connect to enterprise phone systems and get all the services you use at your desk. You’ll even have the same outbound caller ID. Features like Find Me/Follow Me ensure that no matter where you are, or which device, you’re never out of touch.
- Advanced Call Routing
On the other hand, if you are in a position where you don’t want to be interrupted, enterprise VoIP has a host of features that let you concentrate on what’s in front of you. You can manually set a phone to “Do Not Disturb” mode, or you can set custom hours and rules for calls. You can set some calls to go to another colleague, and others to go straight to voicemail, and some can always get through no matter what.
- Integration with Salesforce and Other CRM Providers
With VoIP, because you’re already using the Internet, you can integrate and sync with other cloud-based services. To name a few, that includes CRM services, social media, collaboration apps, recruitment, accounting, and email.
Handy Enterprise VoIP Terms to Know:
- Concurrent: At the same time. How many phone calls you can make at once is the number of concurrent calls, and is also referred to as “concurrent channels.” If you have ten phones and you only use one at a time, you need one channel.
- ISP: Internet Service Provider. This is usually your cable, phone company, or any other network service.
- Upstream: How fast data can go from the client (that’s you!) to the server.
- Downstream: How fast data can be downloaded or streamed to your computer. Streaming video services require a lot of download speed.
- Symmetric/Asymmetric: Whether download speed and upload speed are the same, or one is faster than the other. For proper two-way communications with either video or audio only, you need symmetric speeds.
- IVR or Auto-Attendant: Called a phone tree by laypersons, this is the computerized guide that routes inbound calls to the right agent.
- Redundancy: Also known as a backup by laypersons, this refers to having more than one copy of a file or more than one data center. Bi-coastal redundancy means that there are two server farms, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast.
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