How to Successfully Move Your Office’s IT Infrastructure
Businesses of all shapes and sizes are jumping on board with cloud communications. The industry is expected to reach a market size of 167.1 billion by 2025, with a compounded annual growth rate of 16.8 percent. Moving data to the cloud offers myriad benefits — chief among them lower costs, greater ease of access, and a 21st-century approach to flexibility. It allows companies to be where their clients are, with more versatile use and security features that help keep customers and the business safe. Cloud services can be particularly valuable for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), which have unique needs. Cloud communications can help offset IT and onsite management costs and provide more options for small operations that may not have the budget yet for enterprise-level communications services in-house.
We’ll explore all of these benefits and more in this post, while shedding some light on what cloud communications means for an SMB.
What Is Unified Cloud Communications?
Unified communications (UC) is what allows a business to put its communication methods under one integrated framework. A good UC provider helps the company by building the framework off the existing infrastructure and network. The UC provider takes control of facilitating phone calls, instant messaging, video conferencing, and more. UC refers to a collection of tools and services designed to increase productivity, cut costs, and adjust to the needs of the business. These tools integrate:
When you opt for a unified approach, you are choosing a seamless method of communication that links your staff, clients, and partners together in an easy-to-use platform and helps maintain a professional business identity. Putting your unified communications in the cloud offers a variety of advantages for almost any business.
What Are the Benefits of Unified Cloud Communications?
Cloud communication is growing in popularity for many reasons. It can offer improvements across several functional areas of a company, especially in SMBs. Some of the features that you get when you move to the cloud include the following:
Cloud communication makes scaling your business needs easier. Adding and removing employees can be a hassle with in-house systems, especially if all of your communication methods are independent of each other. With unified communication as a service (UCaaS), you can add or remove staff members as needed. This scalability can reduce the time it takes to onboard a new employee, and is especially useful for businesses that are growing quickly or have seasonal spikes in staffing, such as retailers and tax firms. UCaaS also reduces the money you’ll need to spend on extra hardware you would otherwise need to support these employees. It also can eliminate stacks of servers that take up valuable space.
2. Ease of Budgeting
One of the primary benefits of unified cloud communications services for SMBs is the mitigation of capital expenses. Extensive hardware can be a steep cost for SMBs to deal with. By offsetting these costs via a subscription service with a third-party UCaaS provider, SMBs can minimize upfront expenses, making the cloud more manageable. Another component that helps in this regard is the predictable pricing model of cloud services. You don’t need to suddenly pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for new hardware if your on-site equipment fails. Instead, a UC provider takes care of these problems on their end. Hardware is typically located in their data centers, and maintained or updated as needed by the UCaaS providers.
Many cloud service providers also can take care of IT needs. This approach allows you to save on costs associated with support and maintenance, staffing, and software and hardware updates. When you have a dedicated team as part of your service, you don’t need as many in-house resources. Your IT staff can stay small and focus on more mission critical tasks.
3. Cutting-Edge Solutions
In the technology world, things change fast. Just think about how much your business operations have evolved in the past five years. Have you considered how many new tools have been added, and how you have adapted to evolving media landscapes? A third-party cloud provider keeps you up-to-date with automatic updates to both hardware and software. You don’t need to spend hours trying to follow the newest trends and best practices — as soon as your UC provider supports them, you can too. They can usually perform these updates with minimal disruptions to your workflow.
4. More Resources for SMBs
Cloud services tend to offer SMBs resources that would otherwise cost a fortune and would be well out of reach for businesses of their size. The tools alone that come with a UCaaS provider would add up significantly in an individual, third-party approach. In addition to these features, SMBs also benefit from a flexible and seamless experience. Without a UCaaS provider, navigating multiple communications tools can be clunky and frustrating, especially without a robust IT team to keep things running smoothly.
One kind of resource that some unified cloud communications companies offer is training. They may assist in teaching employees and system administrators about the platform. The training could occur onsite or remotely, depending on the provider and the company’s needs.
We’ve mentioned the ability to add and remove people from your software as needed, but UCaaS can also offer flexibility in a few other ways. You can often integrate UCaaS tools with application programming interfaces (APIs) that you may already use in your workflow. APIs allow employees to use the features of your UCaaS in conjunction with other programs they may use, simplifying usage, and streamlining the process.
Another part of flexibility within UCaaS is the level of mobility that it offers your employees. They may need to spend some time working from home for a variety of reasons, like a sick child or recovery from an injury. A cloud communication platform can make it easy for them to access everything they need from their home computers. Most of the features they need will be web-based, so as long as they have an internet connection, they can accomplish their job.
Phone calls and mobile device usage also become more manageable. Employees can make calls that display their business numbers and connect to other employees through their extensions, rather than memorizing their numbers. Best of all? UCaaS can help you develop a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy that keeps data safe and offers your employees a wide range of access options.
6. Better Customer and Employee Experience
It’s important to remember the “unified” aspect of unified communications. UCaaS helps your business maintain a cohesive, professional image whenever your customers need to reach you. Whether they are chatting online or over the phone, they can expect to get to the right person quickly and not have problems getting through to your staff.
As for the employees? Reducing the amount of time they spend fighting with uncooperative programs or inefficient processes can improve their job satisfaction and help boost their productivity. They can share documents and collaborate and communicate with their coworkers as needed, making the workday as smooth as possible.
How Can I Use Cloud Communication?
Now that you know what UCaaS providers and programs can offer your business, let’s take a look at how they do these things. Cloud communications has a variety of applications, tools and features that make it an exceptional addition to an SMB.
Some of the core functions of UCaaS programs include:
- Video calls and conferences
- Instant messaging
- File sharing
- Screen sharing
- Presence information about employee status and location
Other ways to use UCaaS include:
- Remote work: We mentioned the flexibility offered by cloud services — making them a no-brainer for remote workers. They can access communication methods through a web portal and quickly reach their coworkers from wherever they are. You can integrate your phone service with any internet-connected computer with the help of the web portal. With this approach, workers can make and receive calls with people in the office without memorizing all of their numbers. They can also use their business number in communications with clients. UCaaS offers helpful features for remote workers, whether they permanently work from home, are temporarily working from home, or are traveling for business.
- Call management: Simply reaching the person you need can be a significant struggle in most workplaces. By optimizing your phone system with a cloud-based business phone, you can ensure that communication is smooth and straightforward, offering more productivity for employees and a pleasant experience for clients. Employees can specify which device their calls will go to based on factors like their schedule, location, and who the caller is. They can ensure that if they are away from their desk, calls will still reach them or the next-best associate to answer the phone. Clients and employees can say goodbye to playing phone tag with busy people and contact them wherever they are.
- Collaboration: With versatile, streamlined communication options, employees can discuss projects across platforms and share files and screens. They can work together in a more connected way, making the job easier and collecting input from everyone.
- Centralization: With the help of a web portal, you can bring multiple work practices under one umbrella. Employees can access a variety of tools from any web-enabled device, making it easy for them to work on the go. Whether they want to do some work at a coffee shop or are going on a business trip, this centralized workflow allows for much greater flexibility than a standard workstation can offer.
What Are the Steps for Integration?
Integration is a significant reason for many people to be hesitant about migrating their business to the cloud. Cloud migration was cited by 68 percent of business owners as a challenge to deploying cloud computing in their business. It can take time out of your regular work operations while requiring you to make substantial updates. Though it requires a little effort, you can make it a smooth process, especially if you take the right steps.
One way to make the transition easier is to spend time preparing for it.
- Back up your data to multiple places, and try to clear out any excess. Delete any duplicate, out-of-date, or unneeded information to speed up the process. You won’t have to spend time transferring data that isn’t there if it isn’t necessary.
- Try to implement some kind of training measures with your employees. If they know what to expect when new systems are deployed, it can make the transfer smoother.
- Have the UCaaS provider and IT department work together to identify and help implement measures that will contribute to a smooth integration.
- Ensure that you have experienced developers on your team, whether in your IT department or through the provider, that are familiar with the process and can help you through it.
- Consider assigning a specialist or unified communications manager to oversee the project. This person should serve as a dedicated liaison with the UCaaS provider and manage the migration process.
2. Integrate in Phases
Again, work with the UCaaS provider and your IT department to develop a plan. The plan should be broken down into phases that help you ensure business procedures stay uninterrupted. It also allows for a slight learning curve for employees to adjust to new software and explore the features. Many components of your communications system can be isolated, offering independent migration that won’t affect other parts. This process will not happen overnight, and you should plan to work with integration for some time in a structured, tiered approach.
As you move your systems over, do so one at a time, ensuring that each one is fully operational before you move on. Doing this will help you keep them isolated and reduce the damage if an outage occurs. If you can limit outages to just one system or program, you can limit their impact on business operations.
The actual integration shouldn’t take too long — if you’ve planned accordingly.
Consider your business processes. Some work practices may not fit in as well with a cloud approach, and may need adapting. See if adoption of the cloud can help you make your operational procedures more efficient or effective. As you adjust to the cloud, think about how your business, with its unique needs and characteristics, can use UCaaS platforms to their greatest potential.
Partner With Consolidated Technologies, Inc. for Trusted Cloud Services
Businesses across industries are realizing the value of cloud communications and switching to unified communications solutions. If your company wants to experience the benefits of cloud-based unified communications services, Consolidated Technologies, Inc. is there with reliable service. More than 2,000 companies have turned to us for help developing a unified communications system, and our Avaya customers consistently provide “excellent” ratings for our work.
If you want to make the lives of your employees and customers easier, save money across the board and improve your business’ efficiency, it may be time to turn to unified communications. Read up on our unified communications platform, or reach out to a representative today to see what a partnership with Consolidated Technologies, Inc. can do for you.