“Why should I move to a cloud-based phone solution?"
This is a common question we get asked by clients. And since you're reading this post, you might be asking it too.
In this blog post, we’ll help you determine if this kind of solution is right for you.
We'll look at the history of cloud-based phone solutions and give you some things to consider as you make your decision.
This is the second post in a series on WebEx Calling. You can find the first post here.
The Technology Adoption Curve
Every technology transition comes with pros and cons. In the early 2000s, you could see the writing on the wall with traditional PBX systems. They just didn’t make sense anymore.
But Voice Over IP (VOIP) was new. It still had some bugs and reliability problems. Networks weren’t architected to support it. Cabling plants couldn’t support power over ethernet. Many common features—such as music on hold—weren’t yet available.
While cloud telephony solutions aren’t yet as feature-rich as on-premise solutions, they’re advancing quickly. Most people will migrate to a cloud solution eventually. It’s just a question of timing.
Will you be on the front end—the emerging technology side of the curve with the early adopters? Will you be in the middle—with the majority? Or will you be at the back side of the curve with the late adopters?
The History of Cloud-Based Phone Solutions
Cloud-based phone solutions like RingCentral, Mitel, and Avaya have been around for several years in their most basic form.
WebEx’s popular components—messaging, meetings, content sharing, and video calling—are well-established tools. The calling component, which enables phone calls in and out of your organization, is new. This new feature puts WebEx Calling on the early adopter side of the technology curve.
New features are constantly being released—recent examples include call recording and call queuing. This is an advantage of cloud-based solutions. The backend can be quickly updated. Even though a feature may not be available today, it could be available in the next quarter thanks to a fast development cycle.
Ready to Make the Switch? Here's What to Consider
How long have you had your existing system?
A big part of the decision will be considering where you are currently at in the ownership cycle of your existing system. If you just bought a phone solution in the last 3-5 years, you likely aren’t ready to buy a new one quite yet.
Our clients tend to re-evaluate their phone solution every 7-10 years. For the in-between years, it is more cost effective to upgrade to newer server hardware (for both resiliency and the latest software support) and keep your existing phone handsets.
At the end of your ownership cycle you can determine if you are willing to jump to the next technology platform or stay with the tried-and-true technology.
Can the latest technology meet your needs?
When you’re ready to make another major investment, ask yourself:
Will the latest technology meet my needs?
Or will it meet them soon enough in the development cycle to make trying something new worth the risk?
For example, if music on hold is critical to your business but isn’t available on the latest platform, you may have to wait.
However, if it’s just a nice feature that you could live without for a while, it might be worth getting in on the next technology shift. You must look at all the features you use today and determine what’s critical.
Pros & Cons of Cloud-Based Solutions
WebEx Calling has many of the basic features you would expect from a phone solution.
Let’s talk about reasons to switch to a cloud-based solution, as well as potential drawbacks to consider.
Some common reasons to move to a cloud-based solution are:
1. No more on-premise server hardware to support the system
2. No more software upgrades
3. If you aren’t already on a SIP-type PSTN service, a new solution will force this move. Porting numbers to the cloud eliminates doing it again later.
4. Faster software development cycle
5. No VPN required for remote users
6. Supports hard and soft phones—in the office or at home
7. Apps for your mobile devices without any on-premise hardware or software solution
8. Integration of on-premise video systems with the cloud
9. Significantly cheaper integration costs
10. Low up-front capital costs with monthly subscriptions
Potential drawbacks to cloud-based solutions:
1. Completely reliant on a fast internet pipe. It the internet goes down, so do the local phones. However, a secondary internet connection will reduce this risk. (And we recommend having one regardless with so many critical cloud apps in use.) The mobile app will also still work using your data plan.
2. If there are any issues with the cloud service, you will have to wait for Cisco to resolve it. While that sounds dramatic, the reality is that there is risk with on-premise solutions as well. Nothing is bulletproof. (Though on-premise solutions have more resiliency options if you do need to ensure zero downtime.)
3. Voice calls traverse the internet, so voice quality can’t be guaranteed. With typical internet speeds, this is rarely a problem anymore.
4. Faxing is not supported. If this is something you need, there are alternate solutions such as keeping some local phone lines for fax machines or migrating to a cloud-based fax service.
5. Potential lack of advanced features. As mentioned before, features are being added constantly. It’s important to know which ones are critical for you and will determine the success of your project.
Up next in this series: we’ll talk about the monthly costs of WebEx Calling.