Guide to Preparing Your Network for Hosted PBX Solutions

Guide to Preparing Your Network for Hosted PBX Solutions

Hosted PBX (Private Branch Exchange) has proven its worth, presenting the perfect brew of cost effectiveness and business-driven solutions. Making this transition to the cloud communication platform is somewhat of a paradox. Despite business owners realizing that Hosted PBX provides a unified communication system, they often struggle to fully integrate it as a part of their existing IT and communications infrastructure. Ensuring easy adoption and interoperability of Hosted PBX is critical to realizing actual ROI on your cloud communications investment. This means some degree of preparedness. We term is as “cloud readiness” but don’t be apprehensive about it since it does not present any significant costing. This discussion combines a small checklist, resolving some queries and providing tips for ensuring you are ready to comprehensively adopt and use Hosted PBX.

Step 1: Acknowledge the Truth, You Need PBX Hosting Guidance

Transitioning to the cloud communications platforms comes with a small learning and adoption curve. Unless you have an in-house team with real expertise in integrating PBX Hosting solutions in your IT setup, it is better to employ a Voice-over-IP service provider. This is perhaps the most critical aspect since it underlines your psychological approach. You need professional help in measuring your degree of cloud readiness and recommending changes in the existing infrastructure and the proposed hosted public exchange network to create the perfect communication platform. This might include designing a unique cloud communication ecosystem for your business. Packaged solutions seldom fit well in every workplace scenario. The technology solutions provider should have answers for quick provisioning and have experts onboard who understand the unique dynamics of your business niche. Again, these are the fundamentals of a successful PBX implementation…

Step 2: Introspect In-house IT Tele-Communication Infrastructure

The fact that you are seeking a better, more efficient communication platform suggests that there are flaws in the existing infrastructure. However, industry trends indicate a diabolical trend—many organizations, particularly those with long hierarchical structures have a sense of apprehension in being honest about their telecommunication challenges. The Hosted Private Branch Exchange Cloud is essentially a customized solution. If the challenges are not shared, the solutions will never deliver the expected results. The introspection should be executed at the time of site survey itself. Your service provider should have absolute clarity regarding legacy challenges or your fears about imminent increase in communication volumes and the inability to handle the increasing load. This is the best way to brainstorm different implementation scenarios.

Step 3: Benchmark QoS (Quality of service)

This is perhaps the most overlooked aspect among PBX cloud implementation. For starters, you should insist on adopting QoS (Quality of service). If the current infrastructure does not prove QoS, demand it from your service provider. The provider should clearly define Quality of Service benchmarks. What is regarded as “average” voice quality for another business setup might seem unacceptable to you. Insist on getting very clear guidelines on what qualifies as QoS for internal and external network. Ideally, there should be a back-up plan for QoS failure. Similarly, QoS configuration needs expertise.

Step 4: Understand Traffic Protocols

Before installing a Hosted PBX solution using the cloud network, define different traffic protocols. Your network and firewall restrictions will follow these rules, so be very clear if you prefer ICMP or want HTTPS web access. Hosted call processing works better when there is a clearly defined list of what type of voice data should be a part of your network and the traffic volumes allowed in different scenarios. Even simple communication efficiencies like Call Forwarding need to be configured at the very beginning. Your cloud might be easy to access from the web browser but during extremely high traffic moments, protocols should define which calls to be processed immediately based on their degree of criticality. Your service provider should help you define and create such settings across the cloud and on-premise (if any) network.

Step 5: Make Your Hardware Work Hard

Better ROI in your hosted PBX environment will be realized if you are ready to optimize basic Voice-over-IP hardware. This means the basics—cabling and switches, that can create unwarranted downtimes if not checked and replaced regularly. Think of long-term returns by investing in the best hardware for your VoIP infrastructure. For instance, your provider should know how to separate networked voice and data cables or how to combine the two via a single wire.

Step 6: Get Remote Service Readiness

Even if you don’t have too many disparate work locations, ensure your service provider has the scalability tools to incorporate remotely located offices within the Hosted PBX solution. If you are already operating nationwide, your service provider should be omnipresent in metropolitan markets, local metro locations—such providers present a greater chance of created remote area PBX hosted solutions.
Besides these fundamentals of creating “Readiness” for hosted PBX there is a short CHECKLIST we insist you should share with your IT service provider:

1. Handling SIP based Devices

SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) based devices might present a problem. Discuss with your Hosted PBX solutions provider about SIP endpoints and if there is room for supporting these devices. There have been instances of hosted PBX vendors insisting on very specific SIP. This means additional costing.

2. Optimizing DHCP Configurations

Public internet connectivity across newly connected devices invariably uses DHCP. If your IT system already has a configured Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol on LAN, discuss with your service provider if there is a need to configure the server. There might be a scenario of reevaluating different DHCP configurations for the most optimized Hosted PBX solutions.

3. Managing Power-over-Ethernet Switches

PoE (Power-over-Ethernet) prove to be more efficient over standard Ethernet cables. If your service provider proposes PoE switches in your network, ensure the hosted PBX network creates maximum room for compatibility for Power-over-Ethernet switches.

4. Compatibility with Fax Machines

Cloud-based solutions for fax machines might not be a contemporary trend but if you insist on it, the hosted cloud network can be fashioned to incorporate and support fax machines. Some add-ons in this niche include adding an email feature to fax machined communication—fax communicated as emails. Be vigilant about incorporating analog devices since many cloud solutions providers don’t offer this. Some businesses use additional translation devices while some invest in analog lines to manage both incoming/outgoing faxes outside the realm of hosted public exchange network.

As a concluding thought, we propose keeping things transparent with your Hosted PBX provider. Don’t think of any doubt as being trivial. From managing conference calls among decision-makers to inter-departmental calls, discuss every doubt to gain clarity!

Our Predictions for Big Data Analytics for Telecoms in 2016

Our Predictions for Big Data Analytics for Telecoms in 2016

In the present business scenario, Big Data is a reality and is turning out to be a big opportunity for telecom companies. Equipped with silos of information about customer behaviors and preferences, telecommunication companies need to orient themselves towards the actual needs of the consumers by analyzing the data properly. Telecoms can find their gold mine by digging deep into the high-volumes of varied information and high-velocity data streams, now available at their disposal. All they need to do is analyze this data in the right manner for delivering optimized internet, phone and television services. In the past few years, telecoms have started to rely heavily on Big Data and invest a major share of their time and money in qualitative data analysis programs.

Both structured and unstructured data is being analyzed at a rapid pace to gain deeper insights into the service usage pattern of their patrons along with their preferences and behavior. This will in turn help the telecos in targeting the customers more efficiently and differentiating their offerings from the rivals. Partnerships with third-party providers relating to Big Data analysis are turning out to be profit makers, also providing invaluable assistance in generating greater customer loyalty. In-depth analysis of Big Data can render unparalleled marketing power to a telecom company by combining business insight with demographic knowledge.

A recent report, “Global Big Data Analytics Market in Telecom Industry 2014-2018” discovered that the telecom sector’s use of data analytics tools is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 28.28 percent over the next four years.

A ‘Small’ Glimpse into Big Data Analytics

Big Data analytics is the process of gaining insight from a vast pool of data to discover hidden patterns and unknown correlations. High-performance analytics help in figuring out what holds importance and what does not from rows of data available in multiple formats. With Big Data, data scientists can analyze huge volumes of data that cannot be accessed via conventional business intelligence. Fruitful Big Data analytics can churn out some real-time results like- reduction in data packet loss which occurs when networks are overloaded and help in exact measurement of jitter in mobile networks so that they can correct this and improve customer experience.

3 Ways to Maximize Value of Your Enterprise Big Data

Operators can maximize value of Big Data by targeting, optimizing and innovating. Let us provide a brief insight into all three:
Value Maximization by Targeting- Telecoms can target marketing offers to increase customer loyalty and personalize customer experience by using Big Data analytics.
Value Maximization through Optimizing- Operational efficiencies can be improved substantially by using IT and network data. Whenever an enterprise plans to invest in new capacity or make traffic-increasing offers, optimized data comes in handy.
Value Maximization by Innovating- Information about the customers helps operators and over-the-top service providers to develop new business models. Any telecom company wishing to be more than a network infrastructure provider needs to know its subscribers better and make itself a part of the digital value chain by constantly innovating.

Addressing the Issue: Complexity of Big Data Analytics for Telecoms

It would not be incorrect to say that Big Data is much more profound within the telecommunications industry because the volume of data involved is way too large. Operators need to perform analytics and drive the data to derive profits. However, since unstructured data is complicated and a new topography for operators, they might face challenges in dealing with their Big Data analytics. Since, data is pouring in from varied sources ranging from survey responses to call center operations and in-house documents, segregating it into proper channels is the toughest part. Operator’s plan is to generate revenue and differentiation from Big Data. Telecos can solve this complexity by developing a proactive strategy and through network experience optimization. Right in the initial months of 2016, we would like to make the most likely Big Data analytics predictions for telecom, latest trends and areas of movement in Big Data included:

Trend 1: Big Data is set to become a Crucial Part of 3rd Platform

As per the prediction by IDC, the relevance of Big Data in third platform is likely to rise in the upcoming year bringing it at par with mobile, cloud, social media and the ‘Internet of Things’. All these technologies along with Big Data will swiftly move to the innovation stage, adding more value on top of the third platform’s foundation. Rich media analytics which is a crucial part of Big Data analysis will come out as a key driver for big data supply chains. Moreover, data as a service will grow in relevance as analytics vendors offer value-added information from both open and commercial data sets.

IDC’s predictions for big data in 2015-16 include a total market for software, hardware and services growing to $125 billion.

Trend 2: IoT is emerging as the Primary Driver for Analytics

IoT, whether used as an opportunity to define customer experience or as a source of data, is going to be the primary driver for Big Data analytics. This is quite evident from the surveys conducted by highly trusted names like Accenture that state- 66% of IT and business leaders felt that “smart objects” would have a “high” or “very high” impact in helping their companies gain competitive advantage or improve their market position. By 2016, customer experience is going to be the primary basis for competition, a situation accepted by most business leaders.

According to Gartner, more than 20% of customer-facing analytics deployments will provide product tracking information that leverages IoT by 2017.

Trend 3: Need for Analytics for ‘Voice over LTE’ is Fueling Subscriber Data Management

By 2019, subscriber data management for mobile operators is expected to reach a $2 billion market.

Since operators need to manage subscriber data over various network domains, SDM spending is majorly getting driven by Voice over LTE. But it is important to note that the momentum around big data and analytics can impact subscriber data management to an even greater extent because Telecom operators need to better leverage subscriber data to improve the customer experience. This has to be done while making optimum use of the data silos that exists within the organization.

SNS Research estimates that VoLTE service revenue will grow at a CAGR of 36% between 2015 and 2020. By the end of 2020, VoLTE subscribers will account for nearly $120 Billion in revenue.

Trend 4: Big Data Analytics will Play a Pivotal Role in the Emerging Digital Workplace

Businesses across various verticals are entering a new digital workplace where employees are working from anytime, anywhere. Big Data analytics is playing a pivotal role in helping the companies develop new business models and operational processes. Digitization trends governed by insight gained from Big Data help in improving the revenue margins and optimize operational flows.

According to Frost & Sullivan, Big Data analytics can help retailers increase margins by more than 60%.

Trend 5: Advanced analytics & IoT to Ride High Throughout 2016

Big Data analytics has been a highly talked about topic in 2015, but after a point, skeptics started questioning if advanced analytics and machine learning are in a stage of hype that can lead to misinterpretations & disillusionment? Gartner’s 2015 Hype Cycle examination, which charts the predicted peaks and valleys for a number of emerging technologies, however states that Big Data analytics and IoT along with machine learning are still riding high and are most likely to do so in the upcoming year.

Concluding Thoughts: the Security Aspect and More…

Owing to sensitivity of information, maintaining subscriber’s privacy is a major concern with any MSP managing Big Data. While Big Data analytics brings high ROIs for telecom companies, they need to warrant that the private data of their subscribers is handled with the appropriate level of confidentiality. Telecoms need Big Data analytics partners that can help them identify what a customer is doing along with demographic information about the subscribers. Keeping a tab on social media information of the patterns can help in understanding their needs better and then provide customized services to enhance user experience. As the latest trends indicate, the relevance of Big Data is going to increase with time and telecom companies that can make most out of the silos of data and use it for providing better services to their customers are likely to be the big winners.

Keeping a Tab on US Telecom Trends that Made a Splash in 2015

Keeping a Tab on US Telecom Trends that Made a Splash in 2015

The emerging digital approach to conducting business made its presence felt in 2015, particularly in IT-driven businesses and the telecom industry. As we step into 2016, we are trying to present an overall view about what transpired in the telecom ecosystem with an emphasis on new product releases, emerging growth options, penetration into unexposed markets, and extracting more productivity from telecom sub-sectors. Spending patterns underline the shift towards becoming more virtual with big data and cloud computing emerging as the preferred solutions. Our discussion is not about regional or native telecom trends but bigger telecom niche changes such as market movements or in-house transition towards BYOD.

The Most Emphatic Trend – Putting the Highlight Back on Variable Costs

From corporate liable invoices to employee-owned device invoices, a detailed analysis of the cost breakdowns has highlighted how variable costs are burning business dollars. As the volume of data downloads increases, the average cost of data handling also rises. According to industry statistics, average consumption of data downloads per user almost doubled for voice devices. Telecom companies need to realize that the threat here is not the cost, but volumes.

On comparing corporate-liable device downloads to employee-owned falls, the dip comes at around 47%, substantial by any standards. Businesses that wish to curb these variable costs need to draw the line between valid software download and abuse of download privileges on employee owned devices like using company data for downloading content that is not work-related.

Careful management of device upgrades and replacements just for the sake of obtaining insurance claims too emerged as a challenge. As the option to ‘buy down’ their upgrade eligibility date is kept open for the employees, they are ready to grab the latest phones and that too at the employer’s cost. With migration of users from feature phones to smartphones, there has been a considerable rise in the data costs as compared to voice costs.

Although costs for both corporate-liable and employee-owned device invoices have been on the rise, increase for employee-owned devices was higher than those owned by the company. Any prudent business manager looking for a cost-cutting opportunity should aim for reducing variable costs.

Disruptive, Emerging Brands

The telecom sector witnessed the emergence of disruptive brands in the niche of wireless services. No more limited to Verizon and AT&T, emerging solutions providers with a global presence are now challenging. This includes Google that seems determined to offer wireless service for developed markets. Google’s entry into this competitive space will prove disruptive for the more established telecom majors.

IoT is Here to Stay

Internet of Things (IoT) emerged as the most talked about telecom trend in 2015. The curiosity is bound to sustain in 2016. A promising development, this should help nascent markets engage more consumers and smaller telecom players take firm steps towards becoming mainstream brands. Telecom businesses are realizing the potential of IoT to derive higher value from their current IT infrastructure. The economic value associated with this move towards virtual data includes more everyday workplace efficiencies, product development cost reduction and faster-to-customer services.

Entering Under-cooked Markets with Promise of Digital Data Security

With telecom companies moving into the wireless zone, they are facing a problem of perception, i.e. is a virtual data center safe for their sacred data? Virtual data specialists like cloud computing vendors are trying to reinforce the idea that they are committed to bringing digital connectivity without compromising on the security aspect. This is also helping telecoms explore emerging markets with more confidence.

Getting the Data Perspective Right

User behavior clearly suggests that the demand for more and cheaper data is endless. Every time a company seems to have grabbed attention with unbelievably reduced data charges, a competitor comes to the fore with a more discounted offering. The smartphone culture means sustained and increasing consumption of data. Until now, the emphasis was on creating structured, packaged deals with text and voice call being billed with data plans.

Now, the emphasis seems to be on nominally priced data plans—perhaps, the emerging differentiating factor for consumers. In 2016, we are betting on unlimited data plans. Mobile voice minutes are clearly losing to data bytes. Telecoms should expect growth fueled by ongoing consumer preference for carrying and using their devices through the day. With rising consumption of video-audio content, average per-user data consumption is on the rise.

Tablets for Consumers & Mobile Surfing for Businesses

Emerging trends clearly underline the preference for tablets and bigger screen smartphones as visual data gains prominence. Research firms like Dimension Data state that tablets have resulted in a 75% upswing from 2010 to 2012—driven mainly by individuals rather than employers. In fact, tablets have registered a much lower average annual growth rate of 38% in terms of corporate purchases. There is an increase in BYOD tablet adoption, which is not funded by the employers.

Considered among the most secure devices available, iPhones have always been the preferred choice of business owners. Even as choose your own device or CYOD trend is shaping-up, tablets among BYOD employees are here to trend throughout 2016 too. It is incorrect to assume that web surfing via mobile is only for personal consumption. Employee surfing statistics in 2015 clearly indicate the need to surf heavily to collect relevant business data.

What should Telecoms should be aware about when planning for growth?

Telecommunications organizations should be mindful of one fact—Big Data is no longer an option. The emerging business sphere is very collaborative, more along the lines of an interconnected ecosystem. Telecoms need to accept this doing-it-together reality to meet quickly changing consumer mindsets. Forming alliances might be the best way to survive and thrive in 2016. More industry-wide collaborations mean that individual telecoms can maintain their bottom-lines, build their business and reach out to a wider consumer demographic. If 2015 was the year of streaming, 2016 might be the year of automated apps with more discerning consumers. The emerging US mobile broadband ecosystem is channelizing mutual efforts to meet and surpass consumer expectations.

What is the Next Big, Telecom Thing?

Traction will continue as consumers explore more digital wearables, from exercise bands to smart eyewear. IoT is most likely to help telecoms explore new consumer demographics. With more privacy and security solutions, with consumer data secured, companies should look upon 2016 as a year of some serious gains. They also get to gather valuable customer data that often holds the key to create a strategic framework that can handle innovation and rising market disruptive practices. Analysis might emerge as the big winner with companies getting more curious and hyper-selective, trying to create solutions that appeal to under-served prospective consumers. Demand for more mobile solutions, such as car-connected automotive features, is likely to boost revenue potential. More earning possibilities include the re-emergence of NFC (near-field communications).

So what is the Telecom ‘Cloud Computing’ Opportunity?

Telecom operators are well positioned to leverage the unique advantages of the cloud as consumers of the technology and its providers. Cloud computing, boosted by mobility and an expanding broadband & Wi-Fi networked environment means that telecom businesses should remain optimistic in 2016…

Erik Stonesifer

Comcast Strategic Enterprise Account Executive
As an Enterprise Sales Manager, Nick got the best from each and every one of his Account Executives. Demonstrating skill and knowledge in every aspect of the business, Nick was even able to make improvements

Rick Corduck

Regional Sales Manager at Integra
I had the pleasure of working with Nick. He is dedicated to his job and always strived to over achieve. He was always energetic and maintained a positive attitude in everything he was involved in. He would be an asset to any team. Great team player.