Unified Communication with Hosted VoIP

The concept of housing all communications under one roof feels warm and fuzzy for IT managers, but then again so does the idea of a hosted hands-off IP-telephony solution.

Many IT managers are avoiding hosted VoIP solutions due to the fact that it could disrupt their unified communications solution. The ease of management and centralized consoles from unified solution make managing communications simple. When you remove the single element of telephony you may have increased savings, and reduced administration costs but it does un-unify your solution.

The disadvantages of using hosted VoIP with an existing unified communications strategy include:

  • Creates two management consoles, one for the hosted VoIP and another for the UC.
  • Interoperability issues between the two solutions.
  • Possible bandwidth limitations.
  • Reduced possibility of collaboration over cell phones, email, voicemail and phones.
  • Decreased remote access.
  • Reduced functionality of operating multiple locations via UC.
  • Reduced business program integration as telephony and other communications remain on separate platforms.
  • Possible disconnect between telephone and cell phone use, including call forwarding.

Solutions

The problems listed above are real and valid concerns, but most can be overcome with add-ons to the hosted VoIP telephony solution. For example:

Voicemail, Recording and Fax Messaging
With this add-on you can integrate voicemail and fax into your hosted VoIP solution, which can increase collaboration between departments. This can either connect to your UC solution console or the hosted console.

VPN
Installing a VPN will allow your users to connect remotely even with the hosted solution.

Wireless IP Phones
There are mobile VoIP phones available that can unify your landlines and cell phones together into one solution.

1-800 Numbers
Many hosted VoIP solutions negate the possibility of using 1-800 numbers—but this can be solved with a simple add-on that is available with most hosted VoIP solutions.

CRM integration
There are add-ons/plugins available that allow you to integrate your VoIP solution into your existing CRM tool. This means that you can still keep things unified as far as your employees are concerned.

Costs

The costs will vary depending on your provider and depending on which add-on functionality you require. Average costs range from $5 to $10 for each additional function.

Conclusion

While you may experience some differences when de-unifying your UC solution, you do not necessarily have to lose any functionality. Advanced users may be able to customize their own controls and create a central console. If you are truly bent on keeping a unified solution then you could consider an entirely hosted UC solution, once again retaining one central console.