Choosing a Unified Communications Service Provider: Considerations & Options
Unified communications services have been making headway in the business world for several years, but with the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a unified system of communication is more important for your enterprise than ever before.
If your organization is looking to adopt Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) after learning all the valuable business benefits associated with this move, you may be looking for a foolproof key to selecting the right unified communications service provider. You’ve come to the right place.
Should you call the UCaaS vendor whom you think has the best price deal?
Should you opt for a provider who has been touted as the best vendor in your area?
As we’ve written before in this quick list of pitfalls in choosing the wrong Unified Communications provider— there are good UCaaS vendors, and there are also good vendors who just aren't the right fit for your company.
Make the wrong choice, and your entire project could fall apart.
Choose the right provider, and you get all the benefits of UCaaS, and a partner you can rely on when troubles arise.
So, how do you choose the right provider? In this article, we break down five things you should review before choosing a Unified Communications as a Service provider.
Choosing a Unified Communications Service Provider
What is a unified communications service provider? This provider offers a suite of unified tools to your business, allowing you to access tools like instant messaging, voice calling, video conferencing, and more all in a single application.
So, how do you choose a unified communications service provider? Making this choice is going to be a challenge.
The market offers many choices for UCaaS providers—and the number continues to grow.
At first glance, most of these vendors have offerings that appear very similar. It’s not until after careful research and evaluation that you’ll discover subtle, yet critical, differences.
Secondly, it can be difficult to recognize the real quality of a prospective UCaaS provider. Especially, if your organization is adopting Unified Communications for the first time because you have nothing to compare them to.
To help you make the successful switch to Unified Communications, here are five essential questions that you and your team can use to carefully evaluate UCaaS vendors. These questions are a result of Atlantech's ample experience in rolling out major UCaaS implementations seamlessly across organizations of all sizes.
1. Do they keep their call media local and do they own their SBCs?
Ask a prospective vendor if they keep their call media local, and whether or not they own their Session Border Controllers (SBC).
SBCs are like voice data traffic cops. They act as routers between your business and the vendor, allowing only authorized sessions to pass through the connection points. SBCs also play an important role in defining the quality of service (QoS) status for all sessions, ensuring smooth communication within the organization and with customers as well.
By having local SBCs, all call media is kept in the same geographic area. Besides improving overall call quality, your organization's communications and data are also more secured because SBCs help protect your network from data loss, toll fraud, and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.
Steer clear of vendors whose SBCS are in locations outside your region or even country. Or, the SBCs actually belong to another vendor and YOUR vendor doesn't have the ability to control them. Out of region SBCs means every call is bounced back and forth across the country or the globe, likely resulting in poor call quality issues.
2. Are they a facilities-based vendor or a reseller?
It’s worth noting that some providers who claim to be unified communications service providers are actually resellers. Some are brand new companies using a leased network. You may get quality service from one of these providers - but if anything happens to the network, you won't be dealing with the company that can solve the problem. You'll be dealing with a 3rd party who is powerless to support you.
For these reasons, it makes sense to find out how a prospective vendor sources their connection:
- Are they leasing from larger vendors?
- Do they use access that shares the public internet?
You might not realize that your provider is reselling someone else's UCaaS service until staff from a company you've never heard of shows up claiming they’re the installation team.
Facilities-based providers own and operate their own telco switches in their own certified data centers. This adds an extra layer of security and reliability; two significant benefits that you can't afford to miss. As these providers also manage and own their data centers, you can expect lower downtimes and fewer problems with call quality.
Finally, not all UCaaS vendors offer their own fiber-optic internet solution. Opting for a vendor who also offers dedicated data connectivity, including direct peering to a cloud exchange, guarantees that your communication tools aren’t affected by your ISP’s shared resources.
3. Do they have a track record of reliability and success?
In a world where almost every UCaaS vendor claims that they have years of experience, it can be more confusing to find a reliable one.
How do you spot the real ones from the inauthentic? Ask and research about a prospective vendor’s track record.
- How long have they been in business?
- Can they provide a list of organizations that they have helped in the past that have similar needs as yours?
- What is their experience with call centers and conferencing requirements? Will everything you need be new to them or have they been through it all before?
By partnering with an experienced vendor, you gain the benefits of a one-stop-shop.
Experienced providers offer high-quality resources to their clients, and they're likely to keep services like installations in-house. On the other hand, challenges with less-than-experienced vendors can begin at day one, like struggling to even port your phone numbers from your old service provider.
In the worst-case scenario, these issues will continue indefinitely.
4. Are they using an open source, public platform?
While open-source-based Unified Communications may be inexpensive in contrast to its proprietary counterparts, your organization may have to wrestle with the following downsides if you opt for a vendor using open-source solutions:
- The systems can be difficult to learn and manage, as open-source requires a significant amount of technical know-how by the user.
- Your business could be more vulnerable to malicious attackers because more people have access to the source code.
- Your system may be unnecessarily difficult to customize.
- Your provider may not be able to provide the level of customer support you will require.
The more direct and private data service you get from enterprise/carrier-grade UCaaS, the more you can be assured that your company’s communications and sensitive data are secure. This also means that you’ll have more control of your network in terms of both quality and uptime.
5. What is their customer support really like?
One of the biggest differentiators among UCaaS vendors is the way they treat their customers.
A highly responsive sales team when you make an inquiry is not always an indicator of excellent customer service. Dig a little below the surface, and you might realize that some vendors are merely good at faking passion during the customer acquisition phase. Often, you will come to terms with their customer support’s true colors during and after the deployment phase.
Vendors with top-notch customer support will steer clear of cookie-cutter approaches. Instead, they will spend time understanding your unique business requirements and design a system that provides maximum value for your unified communication needs. They will have a dedicated team of experts covering service delivery and technical issues.
Ultimately, it's a passion for supporting a growing customer base that drives a vendor to go above and beyond for clients—even when it’s not the cheapest or easiest thing for them to do.
Choosing a Unified Communications Provider: 3 Top Options
RingCentral offers standard UCaaS features like messaging, video calls, phone service, and contact center. RingCentral offers webinar-specific features meant to simplify and streamline the process of hosting and sharing webinars.
According to one reviewer:
“I love that there's both an internal messaging center and it has a number of integrations that we get to take advantage of in terms of getting in contact with our customers…Ring Central can be a bit glitchy. There are times it will disconnect mid-call with a customer and not allow us to call them back until we reset the app.” -G2 Reviewer
Dialpad Talk’s unified communications service is geared toward remote workers. They boast quick and easy setup times for a remote workforce. Like RingCentral and Atlantech, they offer general UCaaS features including voicemail transcription, custom IVR, and more.
According to one reviewer:
“We use Dialpad for all our Business telephone needs. Having the automated attendant directing calls to specific employees has been very helpful—now the team can focus more on their work rather than keep getting distracted by hearing all the phones continuously ringing.” -G2 Reviewer
Atlantech’s unified communications service offers all the same features as RingCentral and Dialpad Talk, Additionally, Atlantech gives you the ability to optimize your operations and customer experience. Atlantech’s service is completely customizable to your specific needs, integrates easily with major CRMs including SalesForce, Zendesk, Oracle Sales Cloud, and more.
According to one reviewer:
"With Atlantech Online's cloud-based communications solution...we've been able to make a smooth transition from a legacy, premises-based PBX and establish a next-generation campus." -Carl Whitman, CIO & VP of Instructional and Information Technology, Montgomery College
Make the Move to Unified Communications Now
With the explosive growth of the virtual workforce, the need for enhanced collaboration and a Unified Communications system has never been greater than right now. Businesses, including government agencies, are turning to UCaaS for its simplicity, flexibility, reduced cost, and a bevy of other benefits that address the most common communication woes that businesses face today.
With decades of telecommunications experience, Atlantech Online is committed to providing direct access to leading UCaaS services. We recommend speaking to one of our customer success experts for a detailed assessment of your specific Unified Communications needs before getting too far into your decision-making process.