For IT managers staying in tune and preferably staying ahead of the business needs is required when preparing for the communication needs of the business. Fundamental decisions on the platform and infrastructure are the foundation level for solutions that will reside either on premise, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment that set the table for growth potential and interoperability. The good news is there are some definitive factors that will help guide you to the right platform before you get too far down the evaluation path. Let’s start with the basics such as services and functionality that is fundamentally better served by premised based environments. For businesses that require complex paging and intercom functionality such as distributed customer service oriented environments are better served by a premise based system. Don’t get me wrong, hosted environments offer some degree of functionality for these functions but it is limited. As you move up the unified communication scale services such as outlook integration and interoperability with mobile networks and devices can be served by either hosted or premise based solutions.
In the case of premise based systems the NEC UC platform offers some particularly fluid interoperability between client based software applications, hardware and the network. That said, hosted environments have come a long way in this regard and are at par, if not above par, with the premise based solutions and do not require the same level of integration with local systems, PC’s and mobile devices as most of the hosted applications are web based and most of the integration is managed in the “cloud”. This also offers a higher level of redundancy and accessibility for the applications. For example, accessing many of the UC applications on a premise based system means connecting back to the corporate network via a VPN client and sharing the same bandwidth as everyone else in the corp. network whereas the hosted solutions offer easier access to distributed networks over the public internet. When all is said and done you can get the same web based control for call control and mobility from a system based approach but it will require more effort to get there utilizing your own network.
For the IT manager faced with integration with CRM or IVR tools like sales force.com, MS Dynamics or a custom CRM premise based solutions have a leg up on the hosted environments. For starters most major IP PBX manufacturers have already gone down the path of integration with the API’s for most of the major CRM environments and built standard API code for the custom integration. If the system is already built into your LAN then response time for screen POP’s and contact screens will inevitably be faster with a premise based IP PBX. Also the PC based applications will have more snap and zing in the local LAN environment than a hosted solution. One note, there are hosted companies making traction on CRM integration so depending on which CRM/IVR platform you are utilizing there may be options for utilizing either a hosted or premise based solution. Just do your homework ahead of time to determine compatibility. ACD (Automated Call Distribution) is also a big factor and should be evaluated in conjunction with your platform decision. As a rule of thumb premise based systems offer the most robust feature sets and integration for ACD platforms but network based service providers have made great strides in this regard and should not be ruled out. Click HERE to learn more about the contact center functionality available with EarthLink’s solution. Finally, presence management and messaging are services that can be supported best by a premise based software solution if you have users on many different operating environments, clients and mobile networks. One important note on this last point is that the software can be tied to either a network based platform or premised based. So with all the pros and cons of each solution how do you make the final decision. From this authors standpoint it comes down to determining which areas are most critical to the business and making your selection based on the vendor or platform that matches most closely with your current and future needs. EarthLink Business is unique in that it offers both solutions: a network-based hosted environment and a premise-based environment. Make your decision wisely with all these things in mind.