Do you want to move your telephony to the cloud? Let’s do the math
Over the last five years, there has been a gradual move toward fully hosted VoIP systems. Will the pace quicken now, with IT/communications managers realizing they cannot implement their old, digital, premise-based phone systems to allow newly quarantined employees to make and receive business calls from home?
Over the years, we have helped numerous clients ditch their key systems and PBXs for fully hosted VoIP platforms or, at the very least, upgraded IP PBX systems that can act as closed hosted VoIP systems. Once we show them the difference between the large up-front expenditure of an on-premises phone system and the relatively low up-front but higher monthly costs of hosted VoIP, the decision becomes clear. With cloud-hosted systems, there is no need to perform regular maintenance, and the self-service portals are becoming increasingly friendly.
Companies that, when faced with practically overnight the requirement to send employees home to work in bedrooms-turned-offices, was prepared – employees were easily able to make and receive business calls. The only thing these companies needed to worry about was whether their data and application platforms were similarly cloud-based.
Comparatively, organizations still use old premise-based phone systems. The shelter-in-place orders forced organizations not to use VoIP or IP PBXs to redirect their direct lines to cell phones – not a perfect solution since remote colleagues were unable to make and receive work-related calls on their phones, but better than nothing. Even worse off were companies with POTS lines; as they quickly discovered, their main number could only be forwarded to a single cell phone – even more than they’d hoped. In consequence, many quickly learned it would take four to six weeks to port numbers to host VoIP – during normal times. The company is now paying double for monthly voice services: once for the existing service they left behind at their offices, and once for the hosted VoIP platform they’ve temporarily remote-forwarded their numbers too.
Will we be smarter when we finally return to work? Is it time we did away with the reliable but old digital box stuffed in the utility closet once and for all? That depends on who does the math first. It is more economical to purchase a new IP PBX rather than move to a fully hosted VoIP platform. There are multiple variables in the equations, and the calculation is more complicated than comparing the quoted up-front cost of the IP PBX with the quoted monthly cost of the hosted VoIP service.
To begin with, let’s remind ourselves that most IP PBX and hosted VoIP platforms have nearly the same features, including smartphone apps that act as desktop phones, softphones that can be installed on your laptop or desktop computer, and a variety of call-routing options as well. The issue isn’t with features. You probably have more control over those features with your IP PBX, but at the same time, you are responsible for maintaining the system.
In addition, consider the large refurbished market for IP desk phones from vendors like Polycom and Cisco, or similar refurbished proprietary phones for your new IP PBX. Is it really necessary to replace all the phones? We’ve found like-new devices on multiple used equipment sites, as well as Amazon and eBay for a third to a fourth of the price of brand-new ones. All you need to do is download the latest firmware from your hosted VoIP provider or manufacturer. You could also go without desk phones at all example and just use USB headsets and the free softphone that comes with each hosted VoIP seat or IP PBX user license.
- Getting started with IP PBX costs, you must do the following:
First, include all of the up-front and monthly IP PBX location costs. The system can be installed on a vendor-supplied specialized server (like the box in the utility room) or as a piece of software in your office. Using this latter option, you can install the software on either your on-premises servers, on racked computers in an external data center, on a VMware or other virtual server in that data center, or in one of the big clouds like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. These calculations often fail to account for the cost of duplicate instances of these servers, as they fail more frequently than those old, but hardy, digital systems. In addition, the cost of backup storage for call logs, voicemails, and other system data is often overlooked.
Secondly, be sure to calculate the cost of both the manufacturer’s upgrades and the vendor’s professional services to maintain the newest version of the software, often released multiple times per year and essential to preserving the warranty.
Third, if you are able, get your current voice provider to perform a traffic study to determine how many SIP trunk paths you will need for unlimited local and long-distance calls. Find out what your future monthly voice service costs will be by getting quotes from multiple providers.
- Moving on to the hosted VoIP math and considerations:
First, when counting the number of seats for which you receive quotes, consider that unassigned areas, such as breakrooms and reception, may have a lower cost per seat. The reason for that is that these seats will require fewer features and a metering plan compared to desktop workers who require full-featured, unlimited domestic long-distance calling.
Second, make sure your comparison quotes contain everything you’ll need to replicate your current system, including the monthly costs and usage of toll-free and fax numbers, as well as auto-attendants, which are rarely included in seat costs.
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