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Is a Cloud-Based Phone Solution Right for You?

“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.

Source: https://medium.com/@doodle1171/technology-adoption-curve-c2b7f108e922

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.

Read more:
What is WebEx Calling?
Experiencing Poor Network Performance?

Case Study: Video Conferencing at Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office

About the Client

Name
Stanislaus County Sheriff's Office

Location
Stanislaus County

Industry
Government

Number of Employees
800

Main Outcomes

Easy-to-use video conferencing platform to facilitate multi-site briefings

Solution

WebEx Room Kits
Cisco Expressway

The Problem

Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office provides public safety services for cities and towns within Stanislaus County that do not have their own locally-funded police departments. The Sheriff’s Office has about 10 sites throughout the county to provide local dispatch as needed. Pulling all of the officers and commanders from these sites to one facility for daily briefings would be time-consuming. Over the last several years, the Sheriff’s Office has used audio conferencing to bridge this gap, but even that has been inefficient due to the need to share and review files, photos, and documents.

The Challenge

The initial challenge was having an infrastructure that could support high-definition video feeds from multiple locations. This has recently become less of an issue as bandwidth gets cheaper and metro ethernet solutions are more readily available, allowing for 100meg connections between sites at a reasonable cost. Internet bandwidth was also upgraded making it easier to support a cloud-based solution instead of an on-premise solution. 
 
The next challenge was finding a solution that would be simple to use. The Sheriff’s Office needed technology that would allow a user to walk into a conference room and already have the screens in the room joined into the meeting without any interaction between users. This would keep training at a minimum, which was crucial with different people using these resources at different sites.  

The Solution

Because the Sheriff’s Office was already standardized on Cisco technology—including data center, networking, security, and voice—we recommended they expand their existing Cisco voice system (which supports 800 phones) to include collaboration features like video conferencing and Webex Meeting rooms. Webex Room Kits were purchased for each site and conference room. These Room Kits worked with existing displays and allowed each conference room to be cloud-connected to a Webex Meeting room. Cisco Expressway software was deployed to bridge the connection between the cloud and on-premise. 

All of this resulted in a solution that enabled all conference rooms to be connected into a Webex cloud meeting room—on-demand or at scheduled times—and allowed the people in these rooms to have interactive conversations and share documents as needed. 

[Download a PDF version of this case study]

Read more:
7 Tips to Keep Your Cisco WebEx Meetings Secure
Case Study: Distance Learning at Patterson Unified School District

Hungry, Humble, Smart: Part 2

In this series we’re talking about the three traits every person on your team should possess, according to The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni.

The traits are:
1. Hungry
2. Humble
3. People smart

At Telcion we adopted these as ideal qualities we would look for in every person we hired. This “hungry, humble, smart” filter has helped us improve the quality of our team and our ability to hire well.

Not to be confused with core values, which vary by organization, “hungry, humble, smart” are universal and should apply to people on any team. They are also most powerful when combined together. Individuals who have all three are the coveted team players we seek to find.

If you missed the first post you can find it here.

Today we’re discussing the second trait—humble.

My History with Humility... or Lack Thereof

Being humble is crucial to being a good team player. I have a lot of experience with not being humble early in my career, so to illustrate the importance of this trait, I’ll share some of my story…

I’ve been in the technology business my entire life. When I was 8 years old I bought my first computer, and when I was 12 years old I bought an IBM PC. Growing up, I mowed lawns year round to support my computer habit.

I was fortunate to have parents who allowed me to develop computer skills at such a young age. I spent dozens of hours a week in my room, tinkering with my computer, learning everything I could. By the time I graduated high school, I had invested significant time in computers.

You may have heard the common theory that if you want to be an expert at something, you need to spend 10,000 hours at it? I may not have had quite that many hours, but I was quickly approaching it.

The problem is that my personality has a natural inclination towards self-confidence. Nobody has ever told me that I lack it. Combine that with my father’s proclivity towards encouragement, and all I heard growing up was how good I was and how I could do anything I set my mind to.

I look back at how I was then and laugh. I can’t even believe how arrogant I was—I mean, it was really bad. I used to walk around and tell people, “I AM AWESOME!” I still have a t-shirt someone gave me that has those words emblazoned on the front, not realizing at the time that they were making fun of me.

At my 18th birthday party, one of my older friends—a musician—told me he wanted to play a song for me in my honor. Of course I thought that would be great. Little did I know, this birthday party was about to turn into more of a roast!

The song he played is called “Lord It’s Hard to Be Humble,” by Mac Davis. The chorus goes like this:

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble
When you're perfect in every way
I can't wait to look in the mirror
I get better looking each day
To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of a man
Oh Lord it's hard to be humble
We're doing the best that we can

Needless to say, all my friends and family had a great laugh at my expense. I didn’t understand yet what it meant to not be humble and how that impacted people around me. In time, I would learn.

After high school I went to work at a local computer company—doing what I loved and getting paid for it. Does it get any better than that?

But it was at this job that I started to see how my lack of humility affected others. Everything was great from my perspective, but over time I began to realize that my coworkers secretly hated me. They couldn’t handle my outsized ego and were routinely trying to find ways to bring me back down to size. I can’t blame them; I was an ass. Always trying to take credit, never giving credit to anyone else. I did everything I could to make others look bad so I could look smarter.

As I got older, I started learning that I really didn’t know everything.

When a client hires you to upgrade their computer and you lose all their data in the process, it’s not a good feeling. Do that on a network server that contains an entire organization’s data and it really sucks. Especially when you tell the client that you only need a 1-hour maintenance window and instead spend the next 3 days trying to piece together old backups and restore the system.

Dozens of humbling experiences later, I began to see that I wasn’t God’s gift to the computer world. And in fact, there were many people around me who were much smarter.

Nobody Likes a Know-It-All

So here’s the deal: humility enables a far richer and rewarding life experience.

Nobody likes the guy who thinks he knows it all. Or the girl who never shares credit with the rest of the team. Or the person who always boasts about their accomplishments and makes everything about them. Or the person who is only concerned about their status at the company.

When a person like this is on a team, everyone else will look for ways to avoid working with them. Who wants to be around someone who always thinks they are right or have the best idea.

It’s often difficult to remove these folks from a team, because in most cases they are very good at what they do. Leaders like to have people on the team who are highly skilled and confident in what they know. But the bottom line is that no one can know everything. And often, the best ideas surface when the team works together.

How to Spot a Humble Person

What does a humble team player look like?

  • They lack excessive ego
  • They aren’t concerned about status—titles and position don’t matter
  • They are quick to point out the contributions of others
  • They are slow to seek attention for their own efforts
  • They share credit
  • They emphasize team over self
  • They define success as a team rather than as an individual

Often, people’s lack of humility stems from an insecurity. To compensate for a perceived deficiency, they behave arrogantly—beyond just self-confidence.

Prideful people have outsized egos that don’t allow for the idea that they could be wrong about something. They want all the credit, constantly promote themselves and their latest achievements, are generally self-centered, and don’t care about how their actions impact the larger team. It’s all about “me.”

False humility is also unhealthy. This is the person who lacks self confidence but comes across as very generous and positive with others. They tend to discount their own skills and abilities, so others see them as humble. But they really aren’t. Though they aren’t arrogant, they lack an understanding of their own self-worth. This is a violation of humility. Truly humble people don’t see themselves as better than they are, nor less than they are—they don’t discount their talents and contributions.

I love this quote by C.S. Lewis: “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

Why is a person who doesn’t value their self-worth bad for the team? Because they don’t advocate for their own ideas or call out problems when they see them. Both versions of this lack of humility are rooted in a sense of insecurity. This makes some people over confident and some people under confident. Both diminish the results of the team.

You Can Get Better

So how did my story end up? Well, 30 years later I wish I could say I had this “humble” thing nailed. It’s a lot better, but it’s not perfect. I work at it every day. I’m very aware of my tendency to lack humility, and I understand the detriment it can be to my team.

One of the things I had to learn is that my lack of humility derived from my own insecurity—a desire for others to see me as the smartest person in the room. Once I realized my behaviors stemmed from this it became easier to deal with my flaws and behave in a better way.

What I can tell you is that if you have this character flaw too, you can get better and become the kind of teammate everyone wants to work with and be around. The results you will see from the team will be far greater than anything you can do by yourself, and far more rewarding.

I’ve really enjoyed being part of a team and working together to build a great business. I can tell you this for certain—I won’t get to the end of my life and wish I had been less humble!

[This article was contributed by Lance Reid, Telcion's CEO.]

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