More and more organizations are moving to upgrade their legacy phone systems, which in many cases have been in place for decades. Consulting firm Frost & Sullivan says the hosted IP telephony and unified communications and collaboration market has reached mass adoption, and predicts the North American market for these services will reach 41.9 million users by 2021.
Companies just starting to research phone systems are likely to face a confusing alphabet of acronyms including VoIP, PBX UC, UCaas, CCaas and Cloud. What do these terms mean and, more to the point, how would adopting these technologies make your business more competitive? Let’s cut through the noise and define a few terms to help you understand the technologies underlying the modern phone system:
VoIP – Voice over IP (VoIP) is a methodology and group of technologies for the delivery of voice communications and multimedia sessions over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, such as the Internet. A common misconception is that the voice traffic must actually traverse the public Internet, but this is not so.
Although many VoIP systems do utilize the internet (referred to as the “Cloud” or “Hosted), many VoIP systems are self-contained within a premise (“Private Cloud”) with the VoIP system connected to local area data network (LAN). This type of phone system can reduce costs by eliminating long distance calls amongst sites, providing station to station dialing, centralized automated attendant and centralized management and often the need for multiple carriers. It also enables access to applications and services delivered through the Internet or private cloud connection.
PBX and IP PBX – A PBX – or “Private Branch Exchange” – is a telephone switching system within an enterprise, where users share a limited number of outside lines to make external phone calls.
Calls can easily be routed internally, by dialing a three or four-digit “extension” number. A traditional hard-wired PBX separates voice and data, while an IP PBX uses VoIP technology to combine voice and data networks. In short, the IP PBX sits on your data network and the IP phones are connected as endpoints on the network, much like a PC or network printer. Typically, an IP phone can share a single data cable drop with a desktop PC, each device with its own IP address.
Cloud Phone System – Also known as “Hosted”, “Software as a Service” (SaaS), or Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), a cloud phone system opens up a wide range of possibilities. By having communications platform hosted in the cloud, a business reduces its cost and IT expenses.
The hosted system suppliers take responsibility for owning, configuring and managing applications and hardware. In addition, such systems allow companies to leverage technology and telephony across many locations and to keep current with software upgrades and technology advances.
UC –Unified Communications integrates voice and data with mission critical business process applications, such as CRM, ERP and ATS.
And, of course, communication features such as audio and video conferencing, instant messaging (IM), mobility and online collaboration can be integrated into a single easy-to-use IP PBX solution. For example, the IP PBX manufacturer ShoreTel became a leader in UC by integrating their IP PBX with popular applications like Microsoft Outlook to receive voice mail messages attached as .wav file in user’s inbox, desktop call control, quick dialing, visual voicemail, automatic conference scheduling, and phone meeting invitation wizards.
By streamlining communications and enabling better collaboration, these technologies boost productivity and reduce costs, while helping businesses create competitive advantages. No wonder so many organizations are choosing to upgrade!
UCaaS— Unified Communications as a Service is the method whereby an organization utilizes hosted “cloud” voice services rather than an on site solution. This practice serves to reduce the organization’s capital expenditures in favour of operating expenses and also reduces in house IT support costs because the UC Cloud supplier performs management and upgrades.
CCaaS— Contact Centre as a Service is the method whereby an organization leverages hosted “cloud” services for just their enterprise contact centre, while retaining core voice services on site at their premises. We could call this a “Hybrid” deployment — some services on site and others in the cloud.
This is particularly attractive to organization which has a small contact centre, but needs to take advantage of the features and benefits of a larger call centre without a large expenditure and advanced support skillset. CCaaS offers the flexibility to choose the right customer engagement experience that best fits the organization’s requirements. For example, in addition to basic queuing and reporting functions, the organization might wish to leverage skills-based routing, text chat, email queuing and fax queuing — all available on larger, very robust enterprise contact centres.
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