Businesses are challenged with changing, increasingly complex working environments. Regulations are changing, the way people work is changing and budgets are being squeezed for even better value for money. All this has a dramatic impact on how businesses use resources and technology to meet their objectives such as to grow revenues, maximise profitability or streamline operational costs. To meet these challenges, businesses are increasingly opting to deliver IT services over a cloud infrastructure as a cost effective, scalable and secure model to enable them to better operate in these environments, across all industries.
Telephony is a business critical communication tool relied upon by global workforces to communicate internally with employees and externally with customers. Many businesses are considering moving, or have moved, their entire voice infrastructure to the cloud. However, the term ‘cloud’ has suffered an identity crisis while the industry gets to grips with finding a clear definition. As a result, it is sometimes unclear as to whether voice services are hosted, co-located or truly cloud-based.
This article explores what true cloud voice services are and the benefits that voice, delivered on a ubiquitous cloud computing platform, offers businesses. It will explore unlimited scalability, anywhere access, business continuity and never before available features, such as voice integration with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, that will transform how your business communicates and operates. True cloud voice services offer features previously unavailable with traditional telephony that are 100% designed for the new world of work.
Whatever buyers are looking for, from CRM to business backup services, a cloud option is out there. For businesses, voice is still the preferred communication method when compared to social media, web-chat or self-service. So, why should your business move voice to the cloud? And if it has, what differences between ‘cloud’ and true cloud do you need to know?
This article discusses the industry-wide cloud definition debate with specific reference to voice. It investigates why cloud-delivered voice services were slower off the starting blocks than other business critical services, such as email or web management, and determines the challenges the new working world, such as compliance regulations and mobility expectations, are presenting for voice. Finally, it explores voice innovations which have only been made possible thanks to true cloud voice services delivered over a ubiquitous computing platform that is ultimately scalable, highly available and provided across multiple physical locations. True cloud voice services can be delivered to whichever device a user chooses to access voice from be that a mobile, iPad or landline.
“The difference between true cloud voice service and ‘cloud’ voice services can be great”
In most industries, the term cloud has been widely adopted to describe anything that is located offsite.
For any business involved with hosted technologies, one of the hardest things to do is to fully define what part of cloud they actually are. In fact, ‘cloud’ has become such a generic term that it has become less “one size fits all” and more “one size fits nothing”. Issues have arisen because there are many variations of technology that fall within this offsite category including ‘hosted’ and ‘colocation’. The generic definition associated with cloud causes confusion not only amongst the industry but, most importantly, for customers.
For businesses trying to decide if cloud technology will play a part in the total IT infrastructure of their organisation, they face an even bigger challenge by the variation in definition. This is even more critical when choosing a solution for a service as business critical as voice. As a result of this definition debate, some voice services are labelled ‘cloud’ by marketing departments but when you evaluate the technology it is in fact co-located or hosted offsite for the customer, but only in one physical location. These variations in definitions impact the buyer because they are sold a service that does not offer businesses the benefits of one that is truly cloud-based such as scalability, resilience and reliability, which can only be delivered by a ubiquitous cloud computing platform. The difference between true cloud voice service and ‘cloud’ voice services can be great, which is explored later in this article.
Cloud-delivered voice had a shaky start in life and VoIP services were quickly labelled as poor quality or an inferior service and, in the main, a consumer offering. The early benefits were believed to be simply low cost or free calls between ‘on-net locations’ which compounded the challenge of the service taking off as, for most businesses, this creates very little in terms of a compelling reason to change. Especially when the cost of fixed-line telephony services is currently in a race to zero anyway.
So why cloud? Why true cloud? Why now?
When delivering what was then termed VoIP, or Hosted VoIP in the early days, the solutions available were predominantly multi-tenanted PBX’s carved up into virtual domains and still running on PBX-style hardware.
These plugged into a number of gateways to deliver a PBX experience to clusters of small businesses over whatever connectivity they could muster. At the time, businesses were restricted to SDH-type direct internet services which were costly, took in excess of 60 days to deliver and came in 2Mbps, 34Mbps or higher ‘unaffordable’ Mbps speeds. Back then, there was little in the way of SLAs and nothing in the way of Quality of Service (QoS) to help protect the voice packets. Additionally, typical ADSL services could only manage two concurrent calls and even that was assuming that nothing else was using up bandwidth on the line. Pre-sales technical teams warned their colleagues in sales that the IP voice service was not ready, but this advice was ignored.
As a result, VoIP was “delivered” across ill-fitting ADSL services. As a result some of the key features businesses had previously taken for granted with their on-premise PBX, vanished. No receptionist console, no contact centre skills-based routing, no wallboards to display information, limited reporting and no call recording. The service was designed to get the benefits of lower call costs and increased flexibility but it wasn’t designed for anything more complex and, in most cases, even call quality for early VoIP was an issue. This meant that for a customer of any reasonable scale, additional services had to be purchased and bolted on to the Hosted VoIP solution which incurred an additional cost. In the majority, these bolt-on services also had to be deployed on-premise – destroying the benefits that came with the off-site offering in the first place. This impacted the feasibility and credibility of voice delivered anywhere but off-site, not a good start for voice delivered from the cloud.
“Pre-sales technical teams warned their colleagues that the IP voice service was not ready, but this advice was ignored”
So, how did the market move on? Admittedly, for voice, the biggest error in the early days was that the supporting connectivity infrastructure was not ready to deliver.
With the emergence of newer connectivity options, a reduction in cost and the acceleration of a cloud IT solution, voice suppliers realised that cloud voice services were actually a possibility and they were quick to jump on the bandwagon.
For many providers, however, this was simply re-positioning an existing solution. As before, it was still a PBX, located in one datacentre, delivering Hosted VoIP endpoints to soft clients or an ever increasing number of SIP capable phones. These services were not true cloud in the sense of a ubiquitous computing platform, ultimately scalable and highly available provided across a number of physical locations and delivered to whichever device a user chooses to access it from. Instead, it was simply a PBX in a datacentre, with a gateway that had many of the same risks as an on-premise solution only with the issue that it could affect a magnitude of customers at the same time.
of mobile users will take part in work calls after their working hours, even while on annual leave.
Since the emergence of cloud voice services, the way we work continues to change beyond recognition. In reality, the shift has occurred in less than a decade but it’s the cloud, as a platform to deliver IT services and applications, industrywide, that has enabled this dramatic transformation.
Today, talented potential recruits count work flexibility in the top ten things that they look for when assessing a new career position. According to Ofcom, over 70% of mobile users will take part in work calls after their working hours, even while on annual leave. With customer experience management becoming an industry in its own right, it is obvious that voice services must be flexible and intelligent to support such demands. Here, we outline some of the challenges that the new working world presents that voice must dynamically respond to…
Employee productivity and efficiency
We are all challenged with doing more for less. Prioritisation is the new art of time management and we can’t afford for inefficient tools to waste the time we do have. Most importantly, action and performance need to be measurable.
One of the big changes to the new world of work, possibly caused by the litigious nature of the working environment, is the demand for proof. Whether it is a report for a customer demonstrating work that’s been completed in the legal sector or mobile call recordings for compliance in financial institutions, evidence is now the norm.
Businesses are no longer constrained geographically. It has become so normal to work internationally that a consistent user experience, despite international boundaries, is a necessity. Voice communications must deliver internationally two-fold, to localise a global business and unite a disjointed workforce as one.
Customer experience management
Customers demand a personalised experience. Their tolerance of a poor telephone experience has seriously diminished with 6 in 10 ditching a company in response to bad telephone service.
Business growth is the No.1 concern for business leaders according to Gartner in its Top 10 CIO Business and Technology Priorities report. Although some days, simply getting the day job done and staying in business seems like the challenge. Over 60% rate telephony as their preferred communication channel and speaking with customers remains one of the most successful ways to improve business revenues.
These are just some examples which demonstrate why, like many other IT services, there is a firm business case to only ever deliver from the cloud. Traditional telephony services cannot keep up with the pace of the new world of work.
Just like cloud-based storage or computing, voice services, delivered using a cloud platform, deliver businesses scalable, resilient, highly available services. True cloud voice services, rather than hosted or co-located varieties branded ‘cloud’, provide all the benefits of the cloud’s original intention ellipsis.
Business continuity and disaster recovery
Speed of response
Total cost of ownership
Voice services delivered from the cloud also offer a range of never-before-available-benefits.
For example, a Voice Platform as a Service (PaaS), built in a highly available, load balanced, instantly scalable environment with no dependency on a physical location or datacentre, makes voice services, for the first time ever, available on any device with complete flexibility of access. By integrating IP cloud environments with mobile voice and data networks, capabilities extend beyond IP devices and applications and into the GSM networks. Voice becomes an on network service that is device agnostic and controlled through an online, management portal. With this flexibility, comes new possibilities…
Integrate voice with your Customer Relationship Management system
Now your business can seamlessly integrate mobile and landline telephony with salesforce.com, both Service Cloud and Sales Cloud, to enable an advanced Customer Experience Management capability. Intelligently route calls based on customer information or make employees more productive with CTI, it’s all possible.
Genuine Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC)
True cloud voice services make this a reality. It completely removes the barriers between office phones and mobile devices. Single number routing and caller number presentation, a standardised feature set, access to a unified voicemail platform and mobile twinning are just some of the ways true cloud voice service can deliver on the promises of fixed mobile convergence that have been promised by the industry for years, but are only in practice now.
On-demand call recording
Cloud call recording that can be delivered to home, office and mobile devices from a single platform and managed by a single online portal. You can customise control and user rights for individuals, groups or departments and set recording to be always-on so all calls are recorded, for compliance purposes, or let users decide when to record calls on-demand.
“True cloud voice services are designed for the new world of work and they’ll transform how your business communicates and workforce operates”
Delivered on a ubiquitous computing platform, cloud voice services are ultimately scalable, highly available and load balanced across multiple physical locations, delivered to whichever device a user chooses to access it from.
They make the impossible, possible. You can integrate call activity with CRM systems to personalise the caller experience, send missed call alerts to emails while you’re on the go, prioritise VIP callers, or make updates to your telephony configuration, online, anywhere in the world, in the click of a button. True cloud voice services are designed for the new world of work and they’ll transform how your business communicates and workforce operates so that you are totally in control of voice, just like email, social sites, or the web. True cloud voice services offer control at your fingertips, on-demand so your business can be productive without boundaries and concentrate on the real task at hand, generating growth.
In 2010, Natterbox launched to defy traditional expectations of telephone experiences in businesses on a global scale. Not in terms of how your business uses voice to communicate, but instead how it can be used to liberate you to do what you do best, so that your business can truly reach its potential.
Natterbox’s True Cloud Voice Services are made possible thanks to a custom developed Voice Platform as a Service. Before it, and without it, a better way to use and control voice didn’t exist. The platform is built in a highly available, load balanced, instantly scalable environment that has no dependency on a physical location or datacentre. It has infinite integration possibilities including with mobile and data networks so voice capabilities are extended beyond IP devices and applications and into the GSM networks making services device agnostic and enabling the ability to control voice, in real-time through a secure web management portal.
Traditional telecoms can be expensive, restrictive and cumbersome. Natterbox completely removes the need for you to manage or maintain onsite PBX hardware. We let you concentrate on using voice as a tool to enable better business performance. We’ll take care of the secure datacentres, powerful and intuitive online management portal and, of course, uncompromised scalability and disaster recovery.