26 August 2016

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7 Risks of a Multi-Vendor Business Communications Network

Insider by Tom Collins

You're in business. But you're not in the business of managing communications vendors or dealing with technical problems when they arise.

More importantly, your prospects, clients, and employees expect their communications to work flawlessly; they only notice it when something goes wrong.

Every additional vendor you use to manage your Internet, phone, and data introduces complexities above and beyond the daily demands of your business—and that means more potential problems.

How More Communications Vendors Increase Business Risks

1. Setup Costs


From the simple matter of learning and using a variety of user interfaces, to understanding different pricing structures, to scheduling multiple service visits, setting up multiple vendors to work together seamlessly could require more than extra hours from your team. It might require expensive consultants or fixes to a botched implementation.

Now, multiply all that extra effort by the hourly rate of anyone in your company working on the setup. The potential cost savings soon evaporate. Instead of appearing on a bill, they're appearing on a paycheck.

2. Potential for Down Time

Consumers demand consistency and when they can't reach you, the cost is real. The more vendors you have involved, the more factors you introduce. Each vendor doesn't just increase your downtime potential by a factor of one. Rather, every different piece of hardware, software, and network employed across vendors add to your risk, especially because of interoperability issues (how well they work together).

In a multi-vendor situation, every vendor simply accounts for its own system and isn't really responsible for how well others work with it. With consolidated services, one vendor is responsible for every piece, creating bespoke solutions that are more likely to perform reliably. You get a holistic solution from a provider who understands, and perhaps helped draw, the big picture.

3. Degraded Call Quality

Voice transmission requires perfect transmission which is not the case with other types of data, which results in call quality being susceptible to disruption.

Here's why: When you transmit anything over the internet, it gets chopped up into "packets." Those packets can be sent via different paths, which means they arrive at slightly different times and even out of order. If they don't get through the first time, they can get re-sent. That's not a big deal if you're receiving an email or loading a web page—the data packets fall into line usually faster than the receiver notices.

However, if voice packets arrive on a delay or out of order, the listener experiences that as a garbled or echo-y call. The real-time nature of voice calls makes them susceptible to data transfer issues. So, when you send a voice call from one provider over the internet connection of your other provider, then to the phone switch and on to your customer, the result often doesn't sound very good.

A dedicated service that does not pass your voice through another network, and applies priority tagging to voice data packets is the best way to ensure your voice sounds the way it was meant to be heard.

4. Slower Data Speeds

Your fast fiber is only as good as the weakest link. Slower data can affect everything from website page load speeds, which hurts your standing with Google and causes visitors to leave, to employee productivity as they wait for file downloads and so on.

Data is the lifeblood of most businesses these days since data is often how transactions are processed and services are delivered. While you might feel the pain of waiting on a slow day and chalk it up to "one of those things," consider the wasted hours across employees and the frustration customers feel when your business makes them wait.

To them, it's not just one of those things: it's your business failing to meet their needs.

5. Diagnostic Challenges & Customer Service

When your internet provider diagnoses that you have a router problem, it's on you to fix your router or find someone who can—assuming your router actually is the problem. Then, once you've fixed (or learned you don't have to fix) your router, how about getting your internet provider back on the phone or out for a service visit? You're back to square one, probably hours into the problem, having made no progress.

No one intends to give terrible service, but when diagnosing a problem, it's easy for one company to point a finger at another and send you in circles, burning daylight just to fix a problem. All the while, your site is slow (or down), your phone quality sounds terrible, your team can't take calls, or your data isn't getting backed up.

Most businesses know 24/7/365 customer support isn't a nice-to-have, it's a necessity.

6. Wasted Accounting and Management Resources

If you've ever had to sit with bookkeeping to clarify confusing expenses or try to figure out what business operations are really costing you, then you know what a black hole it can be. All that effort is a drain on your bottom line and better spent in other ways to grow your business, not just keep it afloat.

In fact, accurate billing is such a big issue, there is a cottage industry of companies that exist solely to help decipher phone bills. In addition to that, they're tasked with insuring that billed services are actually in use or have not been added back onto your bill after it was cancelled. Of course, these companies wouldn't exist if the challenges they solve weren't real. Getting all of your services on one invoice that is easy to read and audit is a real benefit—one you get by consolidating services from the start.

7. Future Adjustments

As your business grows and technology changes, using many vendors introduces the risk that one or more of them are no longer able to meet your needs. Or, they go out of business and aren't there to serve you any longer. Then you're facing change costs all over again.

Suppose your business moves locations or you need to scale up or downsize rapidly. Will your communications vendors help or will they introduce burdens that do not allow you to move at the speed your business needs?

Is a Multi-Vendor Setup Really Worth It?

You know what you want from your communications tools, so it's understandable if you feel like the only way you're going to get it is to assemble your own phone, internet, and data system from scratch. You are not in the communications business, however, which means you and your team are going to have a tough time finding the right combination of features, at the right price, with the ease that consolidated services provide.

The people who depend on your business, customers and employees alike, don't care either way. All they care about is what they need. And they need your business communications to work.

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t-tom-collins

About the author:

Tom Collins (Twitter, LinkedIn) - is the Director of Enterprise Sales & Marketing for Atlantech Online. He has over 20 years of professional experience in the Internet Service Provider industry and is known for translating technology into positive results for business. A native of Washington, DC, a graduate from University of Maryland (degrees in Government & Politics and Secondary Education), Tom is also a five-time Ironman finisher.

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