The Unified Communications Essentials Series: Phones and Equipment

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Windstream’s UC solutions feature phones and equipment by Allworx.

Welcome back to our UC Essentials series!

When determining which unified communications (UC) provider is best for your business, there are several considerations. We’ve already talked about one of the less obvious (but most important!) factors—a robust, reliable network. But to bring the benefits of unified communications to the desktop, of course you can’t work without equipment—so that’s today’s topic: equipment.

With many communications providers, you’ll find that on the surface, a lot of products look very similar. However, when you look more closely at the nuts and bolts of each solution, you’re able to identify the differences and make informed decisions based on how well a provider can meet the unique needs of your business. To help with this process, ask these questions:

  • Which UC option will be a better fit for my company—on-premises or a managed solution? On-premises unified communications solutions require support from your internal IT department, with the equipment residing at your business site. Managed unified communications solutions are, well, “managed” by the provider, so less of the responsibility is on your IT team. In addition, a managed option is typically less costly. In the past, unified communications was only attainable for very large enterprises because historically, these enterprise-class systems were far too expensive and complex for smaller businesses. With managed UC solutions, this is no longer the case.

    Managed unified communications solutions—such as Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS)—have lower CapEx costs as there’s little to no investment in equipment. Instead, ownership of all of these elements is retained by the provider, and you simply pay a per-user licensing fee.

    For more details on the differences between on-premises and managed unified communications solutions, check out this comparison chart from TechTarget.
  • What happens with my existing equipment? Depending on the age and condition of your existing equipment, some phones and software licenses may be re-useable with upgraded or newer technology. Windstream understands the importance of preserving your sunken investment and, when possible, can design a solution to meet current business requirements and future growth needs with that in mind.
  • What guarantees come with the equipment? In most managed UC solutions in which the equipment is provided on a monthly, subscription basis, non-functioning equipment will generally be replaced at no cost to you. More responsibility for upgrading and maintaining is placed on you with on-premises equipment. Most manufacturers offer a one-year warranty, but past that, upgrades and replacements become the expense of the business. Windstream offers a suite of maintenance and service plans to help mitigate those expenses.
  • Can the provider tie all my locations together? Of course it’s critical that your provider’s network offers adequate redundancy so that if a connection is cut, your company’s communications are kept up and running. But it’s also vital that they’re able to identify the needs of each of your locations, to ensure that the UC design meets those needs. For example, if your primary location is a hospital, you may have satellite clinics. But the day-to-day operations of each clinic may differ vastly, not only from the hospital hub, but also from each other. Make sure the equipment deployed can accommodate the various functions of each location.
  • What about Mobility and BYOD?  A majority of enterprises either already allow BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or are developing policies to allow it.  Whether your employees are "road warriors", teleworkers or simply finishing work at home, a modern UC solution allows them to be productive anytime and anywhere. Make sure your provider has the expertise to design and manage the right BYOD solution to meet your unique business needs.

There are several flavors of UC solutions available today; choices can be overwhelming if you aren’t sure exactly what you need. Windstream begins by gaining an understanding of the needs and goals of your employees and your business. Then, we team up with you to design and implement a complete, end-to-end unified communications solution that integrates people, information and teams—anytime, anywhere—with the goal of optimizing communications and collaboration. And we do it over a network that offers the consistency, reliability and speed you need for your business.

For more information on Windstream’s Unified Communications Solutions, contact one of our experts.

And, if you haven’t already, check out the first installment in this “The Unified Communications Essentials” series, in which we examined the importance of a nationwide network. And, of course, stay tuned for Part 3 in our series—we’ll dive into the heart of unified communications: features and functionality.