Is Your Business at Risk Running an Outdated Communications System?

(Editor’s Note: This is an update to an article originally posted June 2, 2014.)

You know your communications system is way past its prime, and economic pressures have led you to delay its upgrade or replacement.

But there comes a point in time when it no longer makes sense to put off replacing your communications assets—from both a financial perspective and a business/productivity perspective. Retaining outdated equipment can essentially increase your IT costs and prevent your users from utilizing communications tools that help your business processes.

Plus, keep in mind; the greatest risk to your business if your communications go down is your business shuts down. This can lead to huge losses for your business, including customer dissatisfaction, customer loss, damaged reputation and costs related to regaining your reputation. These all can greatly affect your business and result in huge losses.

Phone systems are one of the assets that many companies take for granted as long as they have dial-tone. They don’t think much about it and will definitely spend their budget elsewhere if they can. As a result, many of these organizations are sitting on archaic (or end-of-life) equipment that is no longer efficiently supporting their business while possibly putting it a risk.

Yet for some, the prevailing practice is to continue operating the existing system well past its useful life and beyond the end-of-support – not realizing the potential costs and the risk they are putting their business in.

We often hear the following reasons to avoid upgrading:

  • We don’t have the budget, or there is a higher priority budgetary request.
  • The lifespan on the last communications system was too short.
  • We’re afraid that if we upgrade tomorrow, something better will come out next week (a.k.a. the cycle of obsolescence).
  • We’re unclear on our unified communications plans and how our phone system should fit in with UC.
  • Newer phone systems are becoming too complex to use.
  • The buying cycle is too long, and we will have to get too many people involved who will all have different opinions.
  • We don’t know which approach to take—i.e. premises, hybrid, or cloud-based.

There’s a chance that the phones you think are supporting your business aren’t. While the value of your older technology may not have appeared to change—for example, the phones still work, and you can still make calls—the outdated system may be hurting your business.

Free White Paper:  Time to Replace that Old PBX

We know the decision to move to a new telephony system is sometimes a difficult one to make. That’s why we’ve created the following list of 3 of the benefits of a modern unified communications system over an outdated phone system.

1. System Stabilization

If you are a business owner or decision maker, you have probably thought, “We save money keeping the old system. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Every day your business uses an analog, TDM, or older VoIP phone system that has reached end-of-life, you run the risk of having your phone system fail without access to support. If that happens, revenue will likely be lost as a result. How much? Well, you could lose what equates to hours, days, or even weeks of revenue—depending on the amount of time it takes to quickly repair or worst case find and install a new system. Not to mention what was previously stated about customer dissatisfaction and loss.

And hurrying to find a new system isn’t ideal. If your system fails, it could mean you are forced to make a quick replacement decision. Companies that don’t have the time or don’t take the time to research properly before purchase usually discover they’ve spent too much money or are unhappy with their purchase after it is too late to change it. Taking the time to find the right IP Telephony solution or Unified Communications solution will improve your business processes and efficiencies without over-extending your budget.

2. Improved Operational Costs

Maintaining separate systems like directories, conferencing software, voicemail, and telephony is expensive and time consuming for IT departments to sustain. In fact, it can be so time-consuming that the IT department spends the majority of their day keeping these systems functional—time that can be better spent on more strategic IT projects.

The older the system, the higher the operational cost is when you don’t upgrade. Some of the costs businesses accrue using older systems include:

  • Proprietary hardware at each location (equipment, phones, PBX)
  • Installation
  • Licensing
  • Maintenance, repairs and upgrades
  • Additional services
    • Fax
    • Business SMS
    • HD video meetings
    • Audio conferencing

When you factor the lost IT time spent maintaining each separate communications system with the opportunity cost of not having the advanced applications and features that modern unified communications provides, you end up with a total cost that is just too high for most businesses to ignore.

3. Competitive Advantage

Have you stopped to think about whether your competitors are taking advantage of modern communications software? If they are and you’re not, then chances are they are able to work smarter, faster, and more efficiently. Working smarter gives them an edge by increasing their productivity and creating a competitive advantage.

Your competitors that are working with updated communications systems, most likely have these advanced features at their disposal:

  • Audio/video/web collaboration, white boarding and document sharing
  • Support for the mobile workforce with a consistent user experience across smartphones and tablets
  • UC clients that provide status, presence, call history, call control plus more
  • Integrated vertical applications through standard and open services

While the cost of upgrading may seem high, the advanced applications and features associated with modern communications systems will help re-gain lost competitive edge and offer companies an opportunity to better serve their customers.

Unified communications can help businesses re-gain competitive advantage in two ways:

First, a new system can help you increase your revenue by providing your business with the communications applications needed to be more productive and efficient. You could gain better advantages and increased competitive edge by choosing a modern solution with a lower total cost of ownership and features that enable collaboration across your business, improving the speed of your communications.

Secondly, UC provides communications software that makes enterprise-level communications applications available on an ad-hoc basis. This either gives you access to applications that you might not have previously been able to budget for, or, saves your organization money as you no longer have to pay the fees required to utilize multiple services. Replacing hosted web, audio or video conferencing services is a perfect example. The accrued savings can boost the return on your unified communications investment, and expand your competitive edge through re-investment into other IT projects that help your business grow.

Increased Productivity

If you fear that your new technology will become obsolescent and use that as an excuse to avoid upgrading, you shouldn’t. Look for vendors that offer software assurances and extended warranties for hardware that will provide your business with more security and less risk in the long run.

With a modern communications solution, you ensure that your system has the flexibility to handle rapid growth, giving you the ability to provide support to your increasingly mobile and distributed workforce. Your IT team will re-gain some of their time, allowing them to focus on other strategic IT initiatives. And, your employees will re-coup benefits that improve the speed of communication from access to applications that positively impact your daily business—whether it’s through more efficient collaboration with colleagues, or improving customer response times.

Options Available to Your Business

Ultimately there is a high cost, in terms of inefficiencies and operational cost, when you continue to operate an outdated or end-of-life phone system.

Some organizations struggle with selecting the best model (premises, hybrid, or cloud-based) to meet long-term communication needs. Ultimately you’ll look for the platform and vendor that has the flexibility to customize the right solution to meet your specific needs.

Smart Enterprise

Free White Paper
Time to Replace that Old PBX

To learn more about the risks associated with running an outdated communications system and the steps you should take in purchasing a new system, fill out the form to download the white paper written by Dave Michels, principal analyst at TalkPointz.

 
 
 
 
 



Why Make SIP A Customer Priority?

How prepared are you for what’s ahead and the technologies that will be the drivers of change in 2016?

Simply put, Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and SIP Trunking can smartly transform your customers’ communications infrastructure for the better.Why Make SIP A Customer Priority?It can be done rapidly and cost effectively while seamlessly providing access to highly scalable unified communications so their employees and customers can benefit from faster responses enabled by anytime, anywhere availability on any device. Also by enabling ready access to feature-rich collaborative tools, your accounts could experience an increase in workforce productivity and cooperation.

Begin learning today why SIP is a smart technology investment. Get started with a free ebook courtesy of NEC.

Download Success with SIP 2.0 a 52-page ebook by Gary Audin, President of Delphi, Inc., to share a comprehensive assessment of SIP including:

  • SIP and related protocols
  • Session border controllers
  • SIP trunk values, benefits, and economics
  • SIP phones
  • Interoperability with SIP trunks
  • SIP trunk problems (IP PBX, SBC, trunk provider)and their resolution
  • Bandwidth calculations for VoIP and SIP trunks
  • Delivering a successful SIP implementation project

 

Free Ebook: Succhess with SIP 2.0

Free Ebook:

Success with SIP 2.0

Learning the value and operation of SIP is now important to anyone working in the field of communications and collaboration. Understanding what SIP does and does not support helps you to grasp the implementation issues involved.

 

 



Is Your Business at Risk Running an Outdated PBX

nec-risk-of-outdated-pbx-benefits-of-ucYou know your PBX is way past its prime, and economic pressures have lead you to delay its upgrade or replacement.

But there comes a point in time when continuing to sweat your communications  assets no longer makes sense—from both a financial perspective and a business/productivity perspective. Retaining outdated equipment can essentially increase your IT costs and prevent your users from utilizing communications tools that help your business processes.

Phone systems are one of the assets that many companies sweat for too long, and, as a result, many of these organizations are sitting on archaic (or end-of-life) equipment that is no longer efficiently supporting their business while possibly putting it a risk.

Yet for some, the prevailing practice is to continue operating the existing system well past its useful life and beyond the end-of-support.

We often hear the following reasons to avoid upgrading:

  • We don’t have the budget, or there is a higher priority budgetary request.
  • The lifespan on the last PBX was too short.
  • We’re afraid that if we upgrade tomorrow, something better will come out next week (a.k.a. the cycle of obsolescence).
  • We’re unclear on our unified communications plans and how our phone system should fit in with UC.
  • Newer phone systems are becoming too complex to use.
  • The buying cycle is too long, and we will have to get too many people involved who will all have different opinions.
  • We don’t know which approach to take—i.e. premises, hybrid, or cloud-based.

There’s a chance that the phones you think are supporting your business aren’t. While the value of your older technology may not have appeared to change—for example, the phones still work, and you can still make calls—the outdated system may be hurting your business.

We know the decision to move to a new telephony system is sometimes a difficult one to make. That’s why we’ve created the following list of 3 of the benefits of a modern unified communications system over an outdated phone system.

1. System Stabilization

If you are a business owner or decision maker, you have probably thought, “We save money keeping the old system. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Every day your business uses an analog, TDM, or older VoIP phone system that has reached end-of-life, you run the risk of having your phone system fail without access to support. If that happens, revenue will likely be lost as a result. How much? Well, you could lose what equates to hours, days, or even weeks of revenue—depending on the amount of time it takes to quickly repair or worst case find and install a new system.

And hurrying to find a new system isn’t ideal. If your system fails, it could mean you are forced to make a quick replacement decision. Companies that don’t have the time or don’t take the time to research properly before purchase usually discover they’ve spent too much money or are unhappy with their purchase after it is too late to change it. Taking the time to find the right IP Telephony solution or Unified Communications solution will improve your business processes and efficiencies without over-extending your budget.

2. Improved Operational Costs

Maintaining separate systems like directories, conferencing software, voicemail, and telephony is expensive and time consuming for IT departments to sustain. In fact, it can be so time consuming that the IT department spends the majority of their day keeping these systems functional—time that can be better spent on more strategic IT projects.

The older the system, the higher the operational cost is when you don’t upgrade. Some of the costs businesses accrue using older systems include:

  • Proprietary hardware at each location (equipment, phones, PBX)
  • Installation
  • Licensing
  • Maintenance, repairs and upgrades
  • Additional services
    • Fax
    • Business SMS
    • HD video meetings
    • Audio conferencing

When you factor the lost IT time spent maintaining each separate communications system  with the opportunity cost of not having the advanced applications and features that modern unified communications provides, you end up with a total cost that is just too high for most businesses to ignore.

3. Competitive Advantage

Have you stopped to think about whether your competitors are taking advantage of modern communications software? If they are and you’re not, then chances are they are able to work smarter, faster, and more efficiently. Working smarter gives them an edge by increasing their productivity and creating a competitive advantage.

Your competitors that are working with updated communications systems, most likely have these advanced features at their disposal:

  • Audio/video/web collaboration, white boarding and document sharing
  • Support for the mobile workforce with a consistent user experience across smartphones and tablets
  • UC clients that provide status, presence, call history
  • Integrated vertical applications through standards and open services

 

While the cost of upgrading may seem high, the advanced applications and features associated with modern communications systems will help re-gain lost competitive edge and offer companies an opportunity to better serve their customers.

Unified communications can help businesses regain competitive advantage in two ways.

First, a new system can help you increase your revenue by providing your business with the communications applications needed to be more productive and efficient. You could gain better advantages and increased competitive edge by choosing a modern solution with a lower total cost of ownership and features that enable collaboration across your business, improving the speed of your communications.

Secondly, UC provides communications software that makes enterprise-level communications applications available on an ad-hoc basis. This either gives you access to applications that you might not have previously been able to budget for, or, saves your organization money as you no longer have to pay the fees required to utilize multiple services. Replacing hosted web, audio or video conferencing services is a perfect example. The accrued savings can boost the return on your unified communications investment, and expand your competitive edge through re-investment into other IT projects that help your business grow.

Increased Productivity

If you fear that your new technology will become obsolescent and use that as an excuse to avoid upgrading, you shouldn’t.  Look for vendors that offer software assurances and extended warranties for hardware that will provide your business with more security and less risk in the long run.

With a modern communications solution, you ensure that your system has the flexibility to handle rapid growth, giving you the ability to provide support to your increasingly mobile and distributed workforce. Your IT team will re-gain some of their time, allowing them to focus on other strategic IT initiatives. And, your employees will re-coup benefits that improve the speed of communication from access to applications that positively impact your daily business—whether it’s through more efficient collaboration with colleagues, or improving customer response times.

Options Available to Your Business

Ultimately there is a high cost, in terms of inefficiencies and operational cost, when you continue to operate an outdated or end-of-life phone system.

Some organizations struggle with selecting the best model (premises, hybrid, or cloud-based) to meet long-term communication needs. Check out the infographic below to learn more about the advantages of each option. Ultimately you’ll look for the platform and vendor that has the flexibility to customize the right solution to meet your specific needs.

NEC-Unified-Communications-Your-Way-Infographic-hi

Success with SIP (Part 2)

nec-sip-trunks-uc-project-plan1The benefits of SIP trunking go beyond cheaper connectivity in the form of simplified architecture, redundancy, scalability, and other benefits for your business. In our last post we focused on SIP devices, end points, and applications. In this post, we’ll continue the conversation with the advantages you can gain with a successful deployment of SIP trunks.

Architecture

The right design can amplify your savings and benefits, especially in highly distributed environments. With a well thought out design, you can centralize SIP trunks into a few key points of concentration in your network. By utilizing a combination of SIP trunks, you can maximize your on-net traffic to reduce or eliminate carrier toll charges between sites. A centralized design can also optimize your off-net traffic and, with the use of multiple SIP services providers, can increase your leverage in negotiations and overall flexibility. When you centralize SIP trunks, versus delivering dedicated lines to each site, you create a cost-effective form of redundancy that can benefit your disaster recovery and business continuity plans. An optimized architecture that standardizes and centralizes voice traffic over SIP trunks can save you as much as 50% compared to ISDN PRIs.

Scalability

SIP trunks offer a level of scalability and flexibility that was previously not available.  It enables organizations to easily and quickly adjust for traffic requirements. A seasonal business, for example, can easily increase capacity as demand grows and then can adjust downward as the business returns to normal. The white paper below walks you through the calculations to determine the right bandwidth for your organization. It is important to optimize your bandwidth because too much capacity is wasted money and too little capacity will result in blocked calls.

While voice over IP (VoIP) is not required to take advantage of SIP trunks, it can complement your VoIP deployment by increasing efficiency by sharing voice capacity on your network. SIP can play a key role in your Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) strategy. One consideration in your planning is to take advantage of SIP trunking to migrate conferencing traffic on net as an additional cost savings measure. In some cases, the savings gained by eliminating hosted audio, video and web collaboration services provides the necessary justification and ROI of Unified Communications (UC). SIP trunks enable the benefits of UC to expand across the WAN. UC features such as voice, video, presence, IM, and web collaboration are enhanced by the on net flow of data. This adds to the network effect and accelerates UC adoption.

Selecting a SIP Service Provider

Not all SIP service providers offer the same trunk services. Ideally, you’d prefer a provider with an IP core that can offer MPLS throughout their core network. Some carriers have to convert traffic to legacy transport technology. You should try to avoid this scenario because the translation of your voice packets and SIP signaling can impact your Quality of Service (QoS). It’s also a bad idea to put voice or SIP traffic on the open internet. This will not only present QoS problems, but will also add security concerns. The right provider, or combination of providers, will be able to deliver the WAN coverage you need, but it’s also important to verify they offer the local coverage and features you’ll need.

Reluctance and concerns

I know, the last thing you need right now is another project, so reluctance and concerns are to be expected. In a recent Infonetics survey, only 38% of respondents stated they are currently using SIP trunks today. That number is expected to grow to 58% by 2015 as more organizations adopt the technology. It shows that, as of today, some folks are still reluctant to take the plunge. We briefly touched on QoS and security concerns and the Success with SIP white paper below discusses survey results that list the most common problems organizations experience after deploying SIP trunks. The largest number of reported issues related to the service provider, followed by edge devices, and then internal configurations. The paper highlights the specific issues and also how to avoid them.

Another concern that causes IT departments to hesitate relates to E911 and emergency services. This is obviously an area that requires serious planning and attention. The majority of service providers out there offer an E911 solution, but some smaller providers buy the service from other providers. So it’s critical to determine who is actually providing the service. The security of SIP trunks is an additional source of reluctance and concern. With any IP connection, there is a security risk that needs to be managed. The border between your network and the SIP trunk provider is an important security boundary and where your Session Boarder Controller (SBC) will guard against malicious attacks, toll fraud and encrypt signaling and media traffic.

Next steps

So what’s next? Planning and testing. As Gary Audin points out in his Success with SIP white paper, planning and testing are two of the most critical elements in your SIP project plan. Using the survey results in the report, you can better define objectives for your organization. It’s also important not to rush into production without serious testing first. Finally, allow some extra time for the installation and unanticipated issues.

For the full list of Gary’s best practices for a successful SIP trunking project, check out the white paper below.

NEC-Success-With-SIP-White-Paper-cta

Photo credit: UNM_IT

Success with SIP

nec-success-with-sip-white-paperWe often hear about the cost saving aspects of Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) as a way to reduce costs. This post and the white paper below will look at additional benefits of SIP, provide implementation best practices, and additional educational resources. We cover the basics to get everyone on the same page and then get into the challenges, calculations, and steps required for a successful project.

Gary Audin, president of Delphi, Inc. has authored a white paper on some of the most common applications of SIP – from SIP Trunking to SIP phones. There are other SIP implementations not quite as well known that support a range of devices and interfaces beyond SIP trunks and phones.

In addition to providing a link to Audin’s white paper, we summarized his findings to help you understand what SIP does and does not support in order to help you grasp the implementation issues involved with SIP.

For starters, let’s answer the question “what is SIP?” In a nutshell, SIP supports session signaling and session control. It is not specific to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and can be used to establish and control voice, video, Instant Messaging (IM), file transfer, games, and other media sessions. Be clear that SIP does not define a phone call. The Session Description Protocol (SDP) defines the media carried over the SIP session.

The primary job of SIP is to control user sessions, but to grasp a greater understanding of how SIP is able to perform various session-related tasks, take a look at the following five key functions of SIP:

  1. Device Type/Location: SIP can locate the user and determine what end system will be used in the proposed session. This is particularly useful since Unified Communications (UC) deployments often involve multiple networks. As a result, it is important that SIP has the capability to determine the end user’s geographical location and to know which systems will be in use during the session.
  2. Device Presence: This function helps to determine user availability. The end user is able to tell the system whether or not they are available to talk or if they wish not to be disturbed.
  3. Device Capabilities: SIP can determine the capabilities that are available at the user’s end system for the session. For example, a computer has capabilities that a phone does not. The device capabilities function allows SIP to make a determination of the media being used.
  4. Establish Connectivity: This SIP function is to establish the session, or connect the call. It is also responsible for establishing session parameters for both the caller and the call recipient.
  5. Manage Communications: SIP manages the session such as call termination, call transfer, or changing the session parameters during the call.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology and software is nothing new to the industry. While mostly proprietary, many access and signaling protocols have been developed for VoIP. You may be wondering what this has to do with SIP. The development of the SIP standard has introduced standardization to VoIP. In addition, SIP can also support video, Instant Messaging (IM), and many other forms of media. Learning the value and operation of SIP is no longer an option; it has become essential to anyone working in the field of communications and collaboration.

Multiple elements in the SIP path must each be successfully interoperable with each other. However, when implementing SIP trunking, the enterprise can encounter a number of issues. In our next post, we will get into SIP Trunking, how to choose the best service provider and how SIP trunking can both cause you problems and save you money. In the meantime, click below to download Gary Audin’s white paper for a deeper look into the functions of SIP.

NEC-Success-With-SIP-White-Paper-cta