27 September 2017

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The 10 Biggest Unified Communications Risks (And What to Do About It)

Unified Communications by Tom Collins

Every technology carries some risks. Communications technology are inherently high-risk because of how critical they are to your businesses operations. Organizations with better internal communications are 50% less likely than their competitors to experience high employee turnover. 28% of work projects that aren’t delivered on-time are doomed by poor communication between team members. Your organization can’t deliver high-quality customer service or great products if your employees struggle to relay information and understand each other.

Any communication technology your organization chooses to adopt is going to offer both risks and rewards to your business. Compared to alternative tools for businesses, cloud-based Unified Communications as a Service offers much lower risks of failure. Built-in advantages of UCaaS compared to other options include:

  • Superior Reliability
  • Mobility
  • Integrated Data
  • Improved Information Security
  • On-Demand Collaboration Tools
  • Data Integrations
  • Affordable, On-Demand Scalability

Ultimately, most organizations find that UCaaS has much lower business-critical risks than alternative types of communication technology. However, by understanding the most common pitfalls that organizations encounter when selecting a UC vendor and implementing their new unified tools, you can appreciate the maximum business benefits of UCaaS.

To learn more, we recommend 11 Valuable Business Benefits of Unified Communications as a Service.

The 10 Biggest Unified Communications as a Service Risks

There are certain areas where alternative methods of business communication simply can’t touch UCaaS. You won’t get very far trying to integrate your traditional cable-based telephone lines with your customer relationship management (CRM) apps. Team collaboration is much simpler with options like Broadsoft’s Team-One, an all-in-one portal for group chats, live meetings, file sharing, and app integration.

However, there are areas where picking the best UCaaS vendor for your organization can help you reap rewards or introduce risk. Some of these factors are related to how the UCaaS vendor runs their business, and some are related to the platform they use (such as Broadsoft vs. Metaswitch). Knowing these factors in advance can help you understand the right questions to ask when you’re interviewing vendors and planning for a seamless transition to cloud-based, unified communication tools.

1. Minimal Data Center Security

Ideally, your Unified Communications vendor should have their own data center facilities where they host their own instance of the UC platform with built-in redundancy. They should protect their customers against failures with secured entry, 24/7 staffing, redundant power and cooling, and remote backups for disaster recovery.

Not all vendors offer strictly-controlled data center environments with multiple power sources and remote backups. Some choose to cut costs, while passing on the risks of cut-rate data center quality to their customers in the form of business risks. Not only is this dangerous to your business continuity if they experience equipment failure or natural disaster, but it could also put your organization out of compliance with HIPAA, PCI, SOX, or other regulatory requirements. In other cases, UC vendors are simply reselling services that are hosted in a third-party data center, which may or may not offer adequate security.

For a deep dive into how your Unified Communication vendor’s facilities can impact your business and regulatory risks, check out How to Evaluate a Data Center or Colocation Center.

2. Poor Response to Demand

Every organization experiences fluctuation in their voice call volume and demand for data services. For your business, the holiday season could mark a massive spike in inbound customer service calls that require hiring temporary customer service representatives (CSRs). Regardless of whether you’re anticipating similar variation in your demand for UC services, understanding how well your UC provider can scale to meet demands is important.

One important way to determine whether your organization is at-risk of poor voice call quality or service unavailability is to inquire whether your vendor has their own instance of the UC platform they use. Vendors with their own instance of Broadsoft, Metaswitch, and ShoreTel are better prepared to scale their service availability up or down according to client demands.

Discover more about why a UC vendor who owns their own equipment and keeps media local matters in 5 Crucial Things to Consider Before Choosing a Unified Communications Provider.

3. Inadequate Data Encryption

There are security and cost-savings advantages to treating voice calls as a form of data, especially with fiber-optic internet connectivity. Thanks to features like automatic mobile failover, your organization can appreciate better business continuity planning and lower risks if you experience a significant event. However, the vendor’s approach to protecting your data can either reduce or increase your risks.

All of your organization’s data that is transmitted through your UC vendor’s network should be encrypted--be sure this includes encryption in-transit and when data is at rest. In addition to adequate encryption, you can assess a vendor’s commitment to client security by evaluating whether their UCaaS administration tools internally have extremely restricted access controls.

More insights on encryption and UC implementation are found in 4 Cloud-Based Phone Implementation Errors that Lead to Security Risks.

4. Public Internet Connectivity

Many UCaaS vendors promise to offer all of the services their clients need, but they’re missing one very important factor; data connectivity. These UC companies don’t have fiber-optic internet connectivity as a service, which means their clients’ data transmissions are required to travel over commodity internet resources. Not only does trying to use UC without a dedicated circuit result in voice quality risks and downtime, it means you’re competing for resources with public internet users.

Public internet providers’ resources are split over their commercial and private internet customers. During periods of peak demand for data transmissions, bandwidth is in limited supply, and businesses may notice their voice calls sound jittery or delayed. This jitter comes voice packets not having priority over the data carrying funny cat pictures the CEO is viewing on Facebook.

To unlock the security advantages of UCaaS, a vendor who offers direct CloudConnect via a dedicated circuit is crucial. By finding a vendor who offers data connectivity among their UC offerings, you can reduce the reliability and security risks associated with doing UC on a public internet connection.

To learn more, we recommend 7 Reasons Unified Communications as a Service on the Public Internet is a Mistake.

5. Poor Security and Access Controls

With the help of a strong, security-focused UC platform, your vendor should help your organization ensure that employees have access to the minimum amount of data necessary to do their jobs. This should include strong passwords, automated password change policies, and two-factor authentication.

Depending on your organization’s regulatory requirements and information security policy, you may need a vendor who can help you hit specific security requirements. You may need policies that verify multiple aspects of a user’s identity--including device, location, and credentials--before they can gain access to their UC tools. The right UC vendor should help you meet your security and compliance requirements and reduce your risks with the right security policies.

6. No On-Demand Account Management

Provisioning access control via UCaaS is much simpler than alternative business communication tools. However, some of the UC platforms are stronger than others in helping organizations automate and remotely manage user access. Your company needs the ability to delete user accounts at a moment’s notice, to prevent risks to sensitive that can occur if disgruntled employees are terminated or quit.

Ensure your UC platform offers full access management capabilities for your on-site IT administrator, including remote and mobile management so they can add and remove accounts off-site. Common capabilities you may need include the ability to add extensions, change user permissions, manage user PINs, disabling or enabling international calling, and cloud network access.

7. Minimal Barriers to VoIP Toll Fraud

If you build a technology, the hackers will come. Any form of business communication tool has some security risks, and hosted voice-over-IP telephones are no exception. While fun-loving hackers and criminals have been hacking or “phreaking” phone lines for decades, one specific area that businesses should evaluate as a risk is VoIP toll fraud.

VoIP toll fraud occurs when a third-party hacks into your phone system, and proceeds to place a series of costly calls, usually to international numbers. The costs that can be incurred by your firm with toll fraud can hit the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While no vendor can protect their clients from the financial risks of toll fraud, they should have experience helping your organization fight VoIP hacking crime. This may include blocking outbound international calling or 24/7/365 customer service to help you take immediate action if you suspect your phone system has been compromised.

Learn more about how Atlantech works to protect their clients against VoIP toll fraud and other security risks in Why High-Quality Unified Communications as a Service isn’t Always Guaranteed.

8. Vendor Experience

Some UCaaS vendors understand business communications and traditional telephony. Others understand cloud computing. Some may have really relevant experience helping organizations that resemble your own in some way, including multi-site enterprises or firms in highly-regulated industries like finance or education. Still, other Unified Communications vendors have none of these important experiences, while a select few have all the right types of experience.

Avoiding the risks that come with being a new UC vendor’s first customer can be avoided by asking about their experience within their industry and customer success stories. Verify their testimonials by doing online research for customer reviews, interviewing their client references, and checking out their vendor certifications.

Specific areas of UC vendor experience that can have a dramatic impact on your experience include:

  1. Telecommunications Industry Experience
  2. Experience Serving Customers in Your Industry or Vertical
  3. Platform-Specific Experience and Certifications

For Montgomery College, one of the largest community colleges in North America, smart vendor selection allowed a seamless UCaaS transition to a connected campus. Click here to download the Montgomery College Case Study!

9. Poor Data Integrations

Switching to UC offers organizations the opportunity to streamline their data, achieving better visibility and productivity. However, what if your vendor’s UC platform doesn’t integrate with your organization’s project management app? You’re forced to choose between making your coworkers switch apps, performing a costly custom integration, or continuing to use disparate systems and tools. There’s just no easy choice.

Understanding how your new UC tool will integrate with your apps is important to a seamless implementation and happy users once you go live. Leading UC platform options like Broadsoft’s UC-One and Team-One offer built-in integrations with many of the most common business apps, including Google Drive, Microsoft 365, Jira, Zendesk, and much more. With plug-and-play data integrations, your organization can begin appreciating the benefits of UCaaS from day one.

10. Nightmare Implementations

There are about a million things to plan for during a Unified Communications implementation, especially if it involves multi-site organizations or complex technology requirements. An experienced vendor’s knowledge can be crucial to avoiding common UCaaS implementation pitfalls with porting numbers, training users on the new system, and setting up a hybrid environment, so your old and new phones work simultaneously during the transition.

Not only are implementations that don’t go according to plan highly-stressful, but they can also be devastatingly expensive for organizations who may lose access to their phones, emails, or other mission-critical data unexpectedly. UCaaS implementations can be surprisingly easy, or they can be massively risky to your organization’s reputation, depending on how effectively they’re planned and executed.

UCaaS implementations can be seamless, if you find an experienced Unified Communications vendor who’s prepared to do the heavy lifting. Learn more about How to Seamlessly Implement Cloud-Based Unified Communications.

Unlock the Full Rewards of Unified Communications Tools

Switching to UCaaS will most likely reduce many key business risks for your organization, including certain security risks, collaboration challenges, and end-of-lifecycle risks associated with your aging on-premises applications and hardware. Most importantly, your business can appreciate the rewards and advantage associated with adopting the leading platforms for collaborating and communicating on a global scale.

Selecting the right vendor can help you further sway your experience in favor of reward over risk, by understanding the questions to ask to ensure your data security, protection against factors like toll-fraud, and implementation process are optimized.

To learn more about Atlantech Online’s partnership with Broadsoft and commitment to delivering seamless transitions to UCaaS for businesses in the Mid-Atlantic, click here for a no-obligations price quote!





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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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