An ever-increasing number of company leaders are making the decision to embrace unified communications, and with good reason. With UC, firms can become more collaborative, improve their external communication and save a tremendous amount of money. However, to maximize these benefits, organizations need to choose the right business communications technology for their specific needs and goals.
With that in mind, here are four of the most important factors to take into account when evaluating potential UC options.
1. Cloud, on-premise or hybrid
The single most important and base-level decision that a company leader needs to make in this area is what type of UC platform to pursue: cloud, on-premise or hybrid. Each has its own advantages, although in recent years it's become clear that many companies are moving toward cloud and away from on-premise. The cloud offers superior cost-savings, accessibility, scalability and more, while on-premise is often the more reliable and secure option. A firm that prioritizes the end-user experience should therefore choose a cloud UC solution, while a company that cannot accept any downtime should go for an on-premise deployment.
"Hybrid UC is likely to become more widespread in the coming years."
While not yet as popular as the other two options, hybrid UC is quickly gaining adherents. With a hybrid approach, businesses can take advantage of all the cloud's benefits without sacrificing reliability or security, simply by keeping the more sensitive aspects of their UC systems in an on-premise configuration. Much like many companies are now pursuing hybrid public-private cloud solutions for their broader operations, hybrid UC is likely to become more widespread in the coming years.
Cost will inevitably play a role in the UC decision-making process. This is particularly relevant when it comes to cloud-based service providers – a recent Nemertes study found that cost-savings is the single biggest driver of cloud-based UC adoption, TechTarget reported. These organizations determined that researching, building and maintaining on-premise UC solutions was far more expensive than procuring cloud UC alternatives.
However, regardless of whether the company pursues cloud, on-premise or hybrid UC, cost will vary from vendor to vendor. This doesn't mean decision-makers should choose the most affordable option automatically. However, business leaders should thoroughly understand a potential system's pricing schemes. Knowing the cost of adding a user to a cloud UC solution, for example, will help companies choose the system that will be the most cost-effective in both the short and long term.
One of the most obvious benefits of any UC offering is that it provides a range of communication channels in a single system. The most basic offerings will typically include voice, email and presence, but more advanced solutions can also feature voicemail to email, video conferencing, instant messaging, find me follow me and more.
Each of these features offers value, but not every business will actually benefit from all of these capabilities. It is therefore imperative for business leaders to thoroughly evaluate their employees' needs to determine which UC features to prioritize and which are less important.
4. Reputation and references
Finally, business leaders need to make sure that whichever UC solution they choose performs as advertised. To achieve this level of certainty, decision-makers should look for providers that can provide plenty of references, as PC World contributor Paul Desmond recently asserted. A strong vendor will be eager to put potential customers in contact with existing clients. When this happens, the prospective business leader should try to determine the vendor's typical response times, flexibility and overall support.
By following these steps, companies will be be well-positioned to choose the best possible UC platform for their specific needs and goals.