5 Signs It’s Time to Upgrade to a Cloud Phone Technology

As a consequence of the pandemic, many businesses have moved to a Work from Home and remote access basis.  The way they do business, the way they interact with customers and customers interact with them has radically changed.

This has meant a sea-change in internal corporate structures.  New Internal and external corporate communications have placed intense pressure on IT as they implement VoIP or Cloud Phone systems on a restricted budget.

Companies that have implemented VoIP Phone Systems have seen the financial and operational benefits of VoIP Phones, but have also seen the downside reducing the cost savings.  High maintenance costs, unstable internet connections, and poor quality connections are common issues.  

There is also the question of multiple software platforms to support different internal and external communications needs – phone calls, video conferencing, instant messaging, and conference calls for example.
Sure, there are immediate fixes like implementing Quality of Service, increasing available bandwidth and upgrading the VoIP hardware. These fixes however can be temporary, as communications issues like security and software upgrades need more and more resources.

Problems with In-House Legacy and VoIP systems

VoIP problens

The issues with legacy PSTN systems are the reason why many companies moved to VoIP in the first place.  They are inflexible, need physical equipment, their own cabling system, and resources to manage and support them.  Finally, they are expensive in capital and operational expenditure.

In today’s world, they just cannot easily and economically support remote and WFH environments, if at all.  They cannot support Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).

VoIP systems address most of these issues and provide enhanced software support for enhanced services such as automatic forwarding, hunting groups, call-waiting messages and music (If that is a benefit!) and auto attendants.

However, in-house VoIP systems can suffer from inadequate bandwidth, and jitter and latency.  External communications will be unavailable if the internet connection is lost for any reason.   As with legacy PSTN systems, they need continuous care and maintenance, implying resource costs.

A Solution

Solution

The current buzz is to move to UcaaS and move to the Cloud.  With this approach companies gather all their requirements onto a single platform, supporting phone calls, video conferencing, instant messaging, conference calls, and file sharing.  The first step is to move the VoIP service to the Cloud.

One option worth looking at is moving to a Managed Service Provider (“MSP”) hosting your online systems.  That will move Capital Expenditure to Operational expenditure, financed from ongoing revenues. 

Moving to an MSP also offers the advantage of continuing with your current systems while the new UcaaS and Cloud Phone systems are developed.   It is also likely to be much quicker.

Here are five signs that it is time for change – the move to a Cloud Phone environment.

  1. WFH and Remote Access

    WFH and Remote Access

    Your organisation is moving to a digital environment, perhaps e-commerce, but certainly is experiencing an increased use of Work from Home.  You also need to provide customer access to some operational systems.

    Your current network implementation is resource-heavy and expensive to operate. 

  2. Costly Equipment Upgrades are needed

    Equipment Upgrades

    New and upgraded security software and hardware to police the WFH and remote access connections are urgently needed.  Perhaps your corporate website needs a make-over to enhance the company presence on the web.  Both have financial and resource implications.

    Using an MSP will pass the equipment and software costs over to them, and their assistance will be very valuable when planning for the move to the Cloud.  

  3. Support resources are needed elsewhere

    Support resources

    You need resources to rework the website and support the implementation of the new CaaS environment.  They could be made available in-house, but are currently supporting the legacy VoIP and applications environment. 

    Using an MSP to either manage the existing systems during the implementation of the new Cloud Phone systems or using the MSP to implement new UcaaS systems on their site provides an opportunity to use existing staff in that journey, and provide them with experience and training.

    If you choose to implement your new CaaS systems with an MSP, then you can carry out the implementation with minimum disruption to your existing operations.

  4. Updated Disaster Planning

    Disaster Planning

    The reliance on e-commerce and online communications implies a very high risk to business stability and indeed business survival if the online systems fail for any reason or you lose the Internet connection to them.   A move to the Cloud implies at least 99.99% uptime.  An updated Disaster Plan is an absolute necessity, as are backup connections to your MSP.

  5. Future-Proofing

    Future-Proofing

    The move to an online existence is perhaps only the first stage in a series of business changes that will happen in the next few years.  AI and robotics, collectively IoT,  will radically change the face of commerce and industry, particularly manufacturing.  It will probably affect the domestic environment as well.  Quantum computing will drive major changes in research and development, and perhaps also in other areas of business.  Blockchain and cryptocurrency will affect how businesses operate and dramatically reduce the costs of international currency transfers.

    Moving to the Cloud now will help you address those future challenges without major changes in your in-house environment.

    Moving to VoIP in the first place has significant Capex and Opex benefits.  The next step, a move to the Cloud, perhaps with an MSP providing the software and infrastructure is the next logical step.

The one linkage between all these potential drivers of change is the Cloud.  A prudent business needs to continually review its IT Strategy to be able to remain sufficiently flexible to react to these changes.

How Cloud Computing Make Your Business More Secure

Cloud Computing has rapidly moved to the forefront of IT Developments over the last few years. The trend has accelerated with the seismic changes in business strategies following the pandemic and the move to home and remote working.

Many organisations, faced with the need to move to an e-commerce platform, have chosen to implement it on a Cloud Computing platform, usually supplied and managed by a Managed Service Provider (“MSP”). The rationale is that they can continue with business as usual as normal while implementing the new e-commerce platform quickly during the migration to the Cloud.

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

As with many IT concepts, there are several definitions of Cloud Computing. A simple definition from IBM defines it as on-demand access to computing resources via the Internet.

For our purposes, on-demand access includes access to physical resources like servers and applications and data resources held on storage devices provided by an MSP.

The Cloud can be in one physical location, for example, an in-house data centre or over several hosted locations.  

Cloud deployment models include private, public and hybrid clouds. Private clouds are cloud infrastructures operated only by a single organisation, usually in an in house data centre; public clouds are those delivered by MSPs over the public Internet; and hybrid clouds, obviously, are a bit of both.

Cloud Computing provides benefits including:

  • Lower IT costs. The costs of supplying and managing infrastructure are passed over to the MSP;
  • Quicker Deployment. Systems can be deployed much more rapidly, especially for pre-loaded systems already installed at an ISP; and  
  • More effective scaling. Basically, you pay for what you use. What you pay will follow your resource usage. Use fewer resources, you pay less, use more, the MSP provides the additional resources and you pay more, but only for the time you need the additional resources. You won’t be paying for idle excess capacity purchased to cover peak usage times.

One major concern has been the security of access to systems and data held in public and hybrid clouds, especially client financial information. Paradoxically, moving to the Cloud can make your business more secure, and here’s why.

Access to Systems and Data

Access to Systems and Data

One of the duties of an IT Head is to create an environment where access to systems and critical data is kept safe and secure from loss or theft. The majority of IT professionals consider security as their major concern when moving to public and hybrid Cloud Computing platforms.  Hacking is one way to lose data, but there are other ways, loss or theft of a smart device like a cellphone or laptop, hardware failure or end-users taking it away on portable storage devices.

This concern is heightened when the Cloud runs on public infrastructure hosted by one or more MSPs.

Cloud Computing provides the opportunity to address these concerns.

Your MSP has a deeply vested interest in providing a demonstrably secure environment. Their business depends on it. You can take advantage of the large sums the MSP has spent on security hardware and software by tying your applications and data into their security environment. In some cases, you will find that they insist you do.

Information can be locked down and encrypted, application systems can be compartmentalised, perhaps with different functional areas held on different servers with different security levels.

Remote access and working from home increases the potential for unauthorised access to your systems. Cloud-based authentication, perhaps based on authenticated VPN access can reduce that threat while maintaining the ability to support remote access and working from home.

Other applications, such as remote access controls, management of the VoIP environment and control of incoming and outgoing data transfers can be included in the overall security environment. Add email security, and it’s virtually the full set.

One other point to consider is maintenance and updates. MSPs usually allow software suppliers to remotely update their security systems, typically malware signatures and detection algorithms, even blacklists of suspected websites infected with malware.

Backup and Restore

Backup and Restore

Again, it is in the interests of the MSP to ensure that you have continuous access to your systems, at least 99.999% availability. If you are running an e-commerce system, this is critical to your business since downtime means lost sales.

You should ensure that your MSP has a complete backup regime, where, in the case of a loss of service, perhaps hardware failure or systems downtime for whatever reason, your systems and data can be brought back into operation as soon as possible. It isn’t always the case, but you may find that the MSP has a better backup and recovery regime than your own in house team.

Regulatory Compliance

Regulatory Compliance

Most countries operate in a strict regulatory environment around the storage and management of data. Over and above the general laws and regulations, some industries, for example, healthcare and, to an extent, finance have further compliance conditions.

For example, both the EU and the US have strict regulations and laws on data privacy, covering the dissemination, loss, destruction and theft of personal data.

Compliance can be a costly and complicated exercise for organisations. Once more it is in the interest of the MSP to ensure that they comply with all the relevant laws and regulations of their country of residence, and in some cases, those of their and their client’s customers.

If you are contemplating a move to the cloud and are worried about security, Cloud Computing can, in most cases, be more secure than your current environment.