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John Guillaume

Vice President, Product Management & Strategy at Comcast Business

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A Perfect Mix: How a Multi-Solution Approach Can Ease the Transition to Next-Generation Phone Service—Part 1

March 02, 2016

With cutting-edge solutions, businesses can be more agile, increase their customers’ satisfaction, and gain a competitive edge.

This is part one of a three-part series highlighting the benefits of mixed voice solutions.

Today’s enterprises understand that the rules of business have changed – and so has the pace. They know that customers – armed with mobile devices and ubiquitous connectivity – expect the companies they interact with to be more accessible, and more responsive, than ever before. And they know that technology can help them meet that challenge. With cutting-edge solutions, businesses can be more agile, increase their customers’ satisfaction, and gain a competitive edge.

But migrating to the latest technology isn’t always as simple as ‘out with the old, in with the new.’ Indeed, many companies – larger enterprises, in particular – often have significant investments in existing infrastructure; equipment they plan to replace one day, but not quite today.

Complicating matters further, businesses will often have different locations at different points on their technology roadmap. Some sites may be ready for a full embrace of an all-new solution, while others may need a more gradual transition. For these multi-site, multi-requirement enterprises, a one-size-fits-all solution won’t work – because no one size will, in fact, fit. The question then is: what will?

It is a question that businesses are asking a lot these
days, especially when it comes to their phone service.
This is an area where the future is clear: Voice over IP technology (VoIP) – where calls run over the Internet or managed IP networks instead of dedicated voice circuits
– has transformed telephony, with significant benefits for businesses of all sizes. VoIP phone systems can mean lower capital investments, easy scalability, and simplified management. They also can bring a host of productivity- enhancing features that enable anywhere, anytime
access to calls and voicemail – empowering the mobile workers and telecommuters whose numbers, and role, are increasing each day. But what is often less clear is the path to that future.

Today, it’s common for an enterprise to have a site –
or more than one – that runs its own private branch exchange, or PBX. This hardware, which didn’t come cheap, switches calls between internal users and provides access to external phone lines. While some of these PBXs are aging, others have plenty of life left in them. Indeed, many companies have recently invested in – or are contemplating the purchase of – a new generation of IP- enabled PBXs. Yet whether a PBX is old or new, having the right connection to a VoIP network is the key to optimizing its capabilities.

Other sites, meanwhile, may not have legacy equipment, or have already reached the end of their PBX’s service life. That puts them in a good position to ‘take VoIP to the max,’ by reaping the extensive advantages of hosted, cloud- based phone service. Under this model, it is the provider – not the user – that owns, operates, and maintains the infrastructure.

Finally, many businesses have small offices with just a handful of employees. Or they may need phone lines to support fax machines, security systems, or point-of-sale terminals within any size office. In these cases, a more basic phone solution is appropriate. So these companies need yet another approach to VoIP.

Not surprisingly, what many enterprises are discovering is that the road to next-generation voice isn’t traveled overnight. Instead, it is a journey – one that businesses can start by matching different VoIP solutions to different circumstances. For sites with older PBXs, PRI trunks can provide the link between their PBX and IP-based phone services. For sites with newer IP-PBXs, SIP trunking solutions can do the same. And for those sites without a PBX, fully hosted, cloud-based voice will often be a preferable choice. In this way, every site gets the solution that lets it realize maximum value from VoIP – while realizing maximum value from any existing investments.

Mixed voice solutions aren’t a new phenomena for
today’s enterprises. In a 2014 survey conducted by the market research firm IDC*, 36 percent of responding
large businesses (those with 1,000 to 4,999 employees) said they implemented a hybrid approach to VoIP, using on-premises managed solutions in some locations and off-site, hosted services at others. At the same time, the survey revealed that older telephone solutions are still
in place within many enterprises: 34 percent of large businesses said they still used Centrex, a PBX-like service where the switching equipment is located at, and operated by, the phone company’s central office. No doubt, then, many enterprises will soon be thinking about how they, too, can best make the transition to VoIP. And for a great number of them, a mixed approach will indeed fit best.

So what do businesses need to know about mixed solutions before they can start their journey to next- generation phone service? Two things in particular: what their options are and how they fit different circumstances; and how to ensure optimal reliability and support for the full portfolio of solutions they implement.

* Source: IDC’s SMB Survey, 2014

Read Part 2

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