Unified Communications (UC) is the integration of an organization's communication services into a single, user-friendly interface across multiple types of devices. The benefits of UC deployments can help your employees stay connected and available from anywhere, with lots of device options, and successfully communicate with both clients and remote coworkers. Nowadays, a company’s UC build can have an employee link their desk phone, laptop, smart phone, and tablet together from anywhere they need to be; at home, in the office, or at a client’s site. Employees can call, text, chat, video chat, screen share and collaborate easily. These types of solutions have many different set ups “behind the curtain” depending on an organization's requirements. Now let’s discuss what happens behind the scenes to make all that magic happen.
Type of Endpoints
Before choosing an On Premise or cloud solution, take into consideration what type of phone endpoint your company wants to utilize. Most still think of an endpoint as a desk phone or piece of hardware sitting on your desk. That is still the case for some companies, but others have made the switch to “soft phones.” A soft phone is a piece of software that can be installed on your computer and displays an interface similar to what you’d see on a desk phone. You can plug a USB or auxiliary headset into your computer and now you have a crystal clear Voice over IP (VoIP) phone installed on your computer. This also allows for an integrated use of other UC features like chat, video chat, screen sharing, and other collaboration tools. It truly gives you a multi-faceted “tool belt” of communications options.
On premise deployments happen when a company brings in their connection via a Primary Rate Interface (PRI) line, or a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP). A PRI is a dedicated VoIP line that only handles telecommunications, while SIP is a VoIP that shares a connection with a regular data line. In both cases, all the gear such as routers, switches, and security appliances will be housed in the company’s data center. It will be up to the company to either staff the proper IT engineers or maintain a managed services contract to handle problems, upgrades, reconfigurations, and scheduled maintenance of the infrastructure. An on premise solution is still a good solution for any company with one or many locations. If you have five branch offices and one headquarters, a company can build one unified communications infrastructure at their HQ’s datacenter and connect the other locations through their HQ Private Branch Exchange (PBX). A PBX is another name for the controlling infrastructure of your UC system.
The advantages to an on premise solution are that one is able to make changes quickly instead of worrying about slow help desk trouble tickets, long Service Level Agreement (SLA) times, and having to depend on technicians who are not intimately familiar with how you operate. In addition, the company will usually own the equipment and be able to move and change it according to their latest business strategies and requirements.
The limitations of an on premise solution are the risk associated with owning all the equipment and being responsible for fixing and replacing it. Additionally, employing a large and capable IT staff to handle the network is another added expense. These are considerations to take into account when making the decision to go with an on premise solution.
With the exponential growth of cloud platforms, hosting your PBX in a cloud environment is definitely possible. Companies have been able to maintain lean IT staffs and cut costs by moving their UC infrastructure to the cloud. Basically you just need an endpoint, like a phone that connects to the internet. All the other equipment needed to run a PBX is hosted, maintained, and owned by the company that is providing you cloud services. With this model, a company can be hands off and leave what’s behind the curtain to their provider. The company maintains the endpoints and any small amount of hardware used to connect the phones to the internet and that is it. They can keep a leaner IT staff, pay a single line item subscription per month, and leave it to the services provider to fix any issues that arise.
The last point can often be looked at as a negative due to the fact that you are at your service provider’s mercy. It is important to carefully vet your service provider and ensure that they can provide all of the features that your organizations requires from a UC solution.
Whether you have a “beefed” up IT staff or you are running “lean,” there is an option for your company to have an incredible unified communications solution for all of your employees. Your company also has the option to not even purchase a physical phone, but rather use a soft phone that has the same features of a physical device. Here’s to staying connected wherever you are with whatever device you’d like to use.